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Political and legal attitudes toward gender images in media

Conference contribution
Authors Eva-Maria Svensson
Maria Edström
Published in NORA conference: Voices in Nordic Gender Research, 5-7 Nov 2014, Roskilde, Stream: The power of gender imaginaries
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Department of Law
Language en
Subject categories Law, Media and Communications

Abstract

Women and men are often portrayed stereotypically in media, despite explicit political and legal ambitions to promote non stereotype images. Imaginaries of gender are considered to have great impact on both individual and structural levels. Gender stereotypes in advertising is a highly topical issue. In 2015, the twentieth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action will be celebrated. All State parties are called upon to undertake comprehensive national-level reviews of the progress made and challenges encountered in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.1 One of the critical areas of concern pointed out in the Declaration and Platform was Women and the media (area J). One of two strategic objectives in this area was to promote balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media (J.2.). The focus of this paper is on a specific section of media where stereotyped portrayals of women and men are common, namely adverts. Adverts are not only something exposed in media, but is also an important income source for media. The mutual dependency between media and advertisement forms the context for this paper, focusing on stereotypes in adverts and the political and legal measures undertaken by the Nordic countries. Whereas Sweden has been reluctant to legislate in this matter, the other countries have done so. The main reason for Sweden’s hesitation is the perception that a law against gender stereotypes in adverts is in conflict with freedom of speech. With the notions market-driven and democracy-driven freedom of expression, respectively, and by developing and expanding a theoretical framework on normative patterns to encompass gender (in)equality as a noramtive pattern, two conflicting and contradictory interests are analysed. 2 Gender stereotypes in adverts highlight the political and legal tension between freedom of expression and gender equality. First, restrictions of commercial communication are considered to be in conflict with freedom of expression. Second, gender stereotypes in adverts are considered to be in conflict with the value of gender equality.

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