Call for Papers. Revista Redes.com. N. 11
Coordinator: Dr. Amparo Huertas Bailén (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona
GENDER AND/IN COMMUNICATION
Almost twenty years have passed since Gender und Medien (Wien: Braunmuller) was published. Coordinated by Marie-Luise Angerer and Johanna Dorer in 1994, the book is useful mainly as a compilation of different lines of thought defined from a feminist perspective along the 20th century (or, at least, until the 1980s).The articles focus mostly on women and on the feminine as a category and can be ascribed to two different fields of study: socialization and reception. On the one hand, we find reflections on the ways media reinforce imaginaries already pervaded by the domination of "patriarchal sexual relations" and by the stereotype of the ideal woman as a mother and wife. With regard to reception, it examines the effects of radio-novels and TV soap-operas among female audiences, underlining the negative effects of stories based on the idea of romantic love. In summary, and quoting Ien Ang and Joke Hermes’ chapter in the book, it puts forward the argument that these stories project an unreal idea of women, based on conservative values. However, does this affirmation still hold true? Or in a more direct way... to what extent and in which way does this image still correspond to women’s representation in today´s media?
Taking into account the book’s general tone, it is clear that the text is a direct offspring of the time in which it was written: a post-modern book; advocating the need for a critical self-revision of academic work done up until that point was by then customary. However, as it was too soon to assess changes bound to happen in the immediate future (both from a technological and a social perspective; socio-technological changes if we follow Pierre Lévy), this approach did never actually consolidate. Recognizing the influence of the post-modern trend, it was rather the unstoppable arrival to the so-called "global society" that forced a change in the way these phenomena are analyzed. Even so, Gender und Medium is useful in its ability to reveal the seed of the theoretical and methodological difficulties this research field was to face and it represents one of the first solid academic contributions to it. Have these difficulties been overcome? Do they still represent a challenge for the field?
Using the contributions sent in response to this call, our intention is to answer not only the set of questions brought about by a current re-reading of Gender und Medium, but also to pose new questions and academic reflections. To open fire, we offer the following ideas:
1. Considering the media behavior of a defined group homogeneously, attending only to gender, reveals in itself certain reductionism and essentialism. To solve this problem, concepts such as "intersectionality" (coined by Kimberlee Crenshaw) usefully suggest the idea of crossed oppositions. The notion appeals to the impossibility of analyzing each category (gender, race, age, education, etc.) independently and in parallel to the observation of social context, life stories and the emotions of the subjects taking part on a study. To what extent does "intersectionality" solve therefore the issue of reductionism/essentialism? And methodologically... how can we apply this theoretical perspective?
2. The notion of the ideal reader or model reader promoted from semiotic quarters (Umberto Eco) ends up bringing up stereotyped imaginaries when it lacks a gender perspective in the making of the message. Nonetheless, it is not only about in-depth content analysis; it is necessary to go further, delving into the way in which content is interpreted, assumed and questioned by audiences (sensemaking). Certain sectors within the cultural industries are indeed defined by gender: leisure and fashion magazines, pornography, videogames, etc. It is worrying that their status is inherently linked to such a definition, as is the case, for instance, with the scarce recognition given to romantic novels within the literary establishment. Marketing strategies designate targets according to gender, which begs the question of the role played by media in the construction of cultural tastes.
3. The idea that incorporating women professionals (journalists, executives, screenwriters, etc.) would naturally imply a gender view with regard to content has reappeared consistently in essays and theoretical work. However, the field has hardly been examined empirically and, in our view, is in need of a more clearly defined qualitative approach.
4. In the 1980s, following the work of Stuart Hall (coding/decoding), the task of curtailing mass media power (persuasion) was advanced by taking into account the ability to interpret messages critically and in a negotiated manner. Although naive from today´s perspective (accepting the polysemy of the message does not automatically mean that a critical decoding is present), the idea of critical decoding in itself reinforces the notion of an active audience and, in the case of women, is linked to empowerment (see, for instance, Mary Ellen Brown´s 1990 text on the subject). Today, the term empowerment is being widely used in relation to women’s access to new communication technology, although often from a reductionist perspective which does not question qualitative issues such as self-confidence or the presence of the necessary ability/skills. Sherry Turkle already spoke in 1988 of the "masculinization" of the computer. More recently, Judy Wajcman (2006) introduces the term techno-feminism pointing towards the masculinization of technology in general.
5. Although less developed in the context of the book, Gender and Medium is also a precursor in its analysis of the ways in which gender identity is shaped. It develops a widely consolidated idea today, that is, the conception of identity as a dynamic and flexible process; however, it only focuses on masculine and feminine categories. The apparition of LGTB movement, for instance, reveals the need to bring in more far-reaching research perspectives.
This CFP is developed along certain lines of work which are considered paramount in the current social context. These include, among others.
- Advertising and gender stereotypes
- Gender and fiction narratives
- The informative treatment (representation and positioning) of current issues which demand a gender perspective: feminism and Islam, equality and marriage, abortion rights, child adoption by same sex couples, etc.
- Family roles, gender and communication (power hierarchies within the family nucleus)
- Fandom and gender
- Representation of gender violence in the media
- Social movements from a gender perspective in digital environments
- Political communication and gender
- Health, communication and gender
- Construction and representation of the body (desire)
- Gender identities on the Internet (sociability and socialization)
- Non-sexist communication (inclusive language)
In the field of feminist theory, certain perspectives have heralded an overcoming of the Second Wave, characterized by the recognition of women rights. The current situation is placed within a Third Wave where the struggle focuses on the definitive recognition of diversity. If we take into account the socio-technological media environment in which we live, it is hard to accept a vision of history based on contiguous cycles which imply the automatic accumulation of knowledge and social achievements. Rather, our environment seems to reveal a number of contradictions, accompanied by setbacks. To explore this view is one of the main aims of this monographic issue of Redes.com.
In the last few years, media products such as the TV series Sex and the City have unleashed a number of interesting reflections on the sexing-up of culture (Adriaens and Van Bauwel, 2011). Nowadays, the spread of erotic videos online recorded by teenagers on private spaces (the famous room mentioned by Virginia Woolf) make it urgent to continue working on a critical feminist gaze (Jessica Ringrose et al. 2012). In a closer context, this line of work is currently being consolidated. As examples of recent projects, we can mention a study from Yolanda Tortajada and Nuria Arauna (2010) about the representation of gender violence on TV series and music clips, Juana Gallego´s (2012) analysis of prostitution in film or the examination of sexism in advertising by Marián Navarro and Marta Martín (2011). Therefore, there are some initial answers to the questions we plan to deal with in this issue of Redes.com, although there is still extensive ground to cover.
Call for paper opens on October 22nd 2013
Call for papers deadline: November 1st 2014
Guidelines for submission and reception of articles: http://revista-redes.com/index.php/revista-redes/about/submissions