Barbra Bearden (Kosovo)

Barbra Bearden (Kosova Women’s Network – KWN): Barbra Bearden graduated in 2004 with a BA in Communications from Centenary College of Louisiana. She then worked in non-profit development and external communications; corporate public relations and marketing; and website design. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Louisiana Chapter), Sigma Tau Delta honors society, and the Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority. At the time of her fellowship, Barbra was pursuing her Masters in International Communications at American University in Washington, DC.

Women and The Media in Kosova

16 Jun

This is one of my favorite topics. A few days ago I saw a movie, made by a local NGO, called Mirror, Mirror. If you took an educated guess, I imagine you’d get the gist of the film. Images of women in the media are over sexualized; women in positions of power are under represented, and the media is, generally, oppressive towards women.

As ever aspect of my academic and professional career deals with the media – I have discussed these points ad-nauseam. For the most part, my argument is that there are few cases of ‘negative imagines’ in the media. Except in extreme cases, where ultra-violent images are presented without context; I don’t think you can have a negative image. More to the point, I don’t believe that anyone should prohibit the creation, transmission, or reception of any image. In my school of thought, the problem is not the image itself – but the lack of alterative images. Speaking specifically about women in the media (and the influence of that media on children); I believe that most of the people who complain about Britney Spears gyrating in a provocative outfits are prudes with nothing better to do.

This movie did not change my mind. I still believe that the primary influencers on children are their peers and their parents. As ultimate authority figures, parents are responsible for monitoring the influences their children are exposed to; both in life and on TV. I understand that life prohibits parents from constantly watching over their children; but, through open discussion, well articulated rules, and lots of love parents can exert their influence even when they are not psychically there.

Discussing this with Nicole, she mentioned that the issues of women in the media might be more prominent in Kosova because kids here watch more TV (about 8 hours a day). I sincerely disagree. I don’t know the exact numbers, but experience tells me that most American children are watching at least 8 hours a day, if not more. Last night I thought about why, in Kosova, these issues might be direr.

Here’s my hypothesis, take it however you like. The importance of media (Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, most notably) during the war; as an escape, a source of information, and a harbinger of hope has bolstered the positive perception of media, in general, to Kosovar society. The parents of today’s Kosovar children have come to trust the media in those terms; and, most have yet to become too cynical. They precieve media today, in the same ways they used during the war and they pass those perceptions onto their children. Today, there are a lot more channel choices (satellites in almost every window) but not a lot of choices in content. Now, as opposed to hoping the international community would save them from genocide, they hope their children become famous singers or beauty queens. The result is: TV shows where 8-year-olds dance around like Britney Spears while their parents clap.

Again, the problem is not the image; but, the lack of alternative images and especially the lack of interest in the alternative. The movie touched one aspect of this – to its detriment. It claimed that there were no positive images of women on TV. Given what little I know about women’s civil society here – I know this cannot be entirely true. Igo is on TV, at least once a month, as a prolific female figure.

It is the choice, of every parent, to watch Igo making her speeches about UNMIK or to watch the soap opera from Italy. That choice gives weight to one image over the other in the child’s mind. Subsequently, the children emulate the soap star over a figure of an empowered woman. This is true all over the world – the sensational seems more interesting than reality.

Civil society struggles, here and everywhere, to maintain a presence in the mass media; but, to blame station managers for not allotting time to them is ludicrous. The people who work in mass media have one job, to make money. The bottom-line is what matters most. If, as individuals, we chose to inform ourselves with mass media then the content will self regulate – because providing what viewers want to watch is how a station makes money. I would add that, the state must play a role in providing initial exposure to thought provoking media; through public access, where civil society can produce its own shows.

Just some thoughts for you to chew on; and, now that I know everyone at KWN is reading my blog, this may provide for some boisterous coffee break conversation.

Posted By Barbra Bearden (Kosovo)

Posted Jun 16th, 2006

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