Representation in Media and Arts

In Work Package 5, we are interested in the means by which the media discursively construct gender binaries and norms, identities, relations, practices, values and attitudes and their intersection with other forms of difference and inequality. We examine how these constructions influence the implicit and explicit rationales or explanatory frames that determine and are determined by social practices and imperatives and, therefore, the individual decisions they make and practices they engage in as members of organisations and institutions. We are particularly concerned with how symbolic, or meaning-making systems are organised and generated by media practitioners to produce particular meaning for various audiences and towards particular political and ideological objectives and the (un)intended effects of these processes in consolidating or resisting stereotypical and binary understandings of gender. Our position is that representational practices go beyond description to impose normativity and order onto the unfolding chaos of experiences, thereby shaping, constructing and regulating dominant gendered practices. Additionally, intersectional and neocolonial relations of power are implicated in the production and distribution of media artefacts, impacting decisions about who or what is represented, how and towards what ends.
Because advertising is one of the most pervasive forms of media communication, explicitly aimed at influencing social and individual practices, it plays a significant role in shaping societal norms and expectations on various social identities, including gender. Any advertising campaign aims primarily to persuade and influence large audiences, often by relying on established, usually stereotypical and binary, cultural symbols and narratives. At the same time, advertising has significant potential to create images and generate representations that inspire people to re-imagine alternative, more just ways of thinking and being – to conceive of a more inclusive and cohesive society.
Against this backdrop, we aim to perform a systematic literature review of existing research on the representation of gender in the media, specifically advertising, and a corpus analysis of online promotional material. We explore gender representations in relation to leadership, the workplace and socialisation to ascertain why stereotypical gender representations persist in these domains and the opportunities and avenues present for cultural and financial returns if institutions take up the call for counter-normative, non-binary, inclusive and emancipatory gender representations. We engaged this objective across this work package’s four deliverables as outlined below.
D5.1 Working Paper: Representations of gendered leadership, employeeship and socialisation
Based on Task T5.1, this working paper will outline the specific narrative and visual structures that underpin the reiteration and consolidation of stereotypical representations in the media. This task will provide solid empirical evidence about the role of the media in perpetuating and rationalising whilst also breaking and resisting harmful binary and regulatory gender stereotypes. It includes a systematic literature review and the analysis of a corpus of online advertisements from the six consortium member countries. These will allow us to study how gender stereotypes, norms, and binaries are (re)produced through online promotional content about leadership, the workplace, and socialisation broadly.
D5.2 Toolkits for creating inclusive representations
Building on D5.1, this deliverable will develop toolkits for creating inclusive representations, including a video/TED Talk on YouTube. The set of toolkits, which can be used in advertising but also beyond, e.g., education, journalism, and communication, will include best practices with narratological and visual techniques, strategies, and scenarios to counteract the stereotypical configurations, both empirically and symbolically. Committed stakeholders: Regenerart, Women Inc., Moed (online), the ICA podcast (SA), Emakunde.
D5.3 Launch of online and on-site exhibitions about Unstereotyping Gender
In collaboration with institutional stakeholders, including museums, artists and art spaces, we will co-curate several exhibitions on unstereotyping gender. We will curate a series of online and offline exhibitions in five of the six participant countries. These exhibitions will highlight the inclusive and non-binary representation of gender, femininity, and masculinity to showcase artistic work that raises critical consciousness and offers alternative imaginaries of gender and how it intersects with other forms of identity.  The exhibitions will be launched with concomitant scholarly and art events, including online and material catalogues in cooperation with Centraal Museum (Utrecht), Moed (online), Iyatsiba Lab Gallery(Cape Town, SA), European Solidarity Centre (Gdańsk), San Telmo Museum (San Sebastián), Museum M (Leuven). Based on our findings, we will thus co-create a checklist with both media and policymakers in cooperation with our stakeholders, UN Unstereotyping Alliance and Women Inc.
D5.4 Working Paper: (Counter-)narratives in advertisement in Europe and Africa
This working paper will map out counter-narratives that question the normalisation of stereotypes/cliché images that dominate media and advertising. It will be informed by the literature review, data analysis, and exhibition and will attempt to synthesise the research findings in this work package.