| AWiM23 |
Media representations and story-telling frameworks inform and shape how the public engages with and responds to gender-based violence in Africa. The media’s framing of sexual violence, for example, has the ability to influence the public’s attitudes, beliefs, and attributions of responsibility with regard to gender-based violence. The media, therefore, has an immense responsibility in the fight against gender-based violence and needs to ensure that the frames and story-telling frameworks are fair and do not normalise toxic gender relations and stereotypes.
Journalists and editors should understand the context in which they are reporting and how it might influence how they tell stories about gender and violence. This means they should be aware of the history, ideology, and gender relations that potentially influence how certain kinds of violence are possible. In patriarchal societies, for example, journalists and editors should be aware of what words, pictures, voices, and representations reinforce news discourses that normalise misogyny and gender-based violence.
Understanding the power of words and representations that frame gender-based violence is, therefore an important process in eradicating dangerous gender-based violence discourses with the power to negatively impact the public’s understanding of the problem. The term “scourge”, for example, has often been used in news reports to refer to the high levels of rape, sexual assault and femicide in the African context. Gender scholars argue, however, that this term is part of a discourse that misrepresents the violence and frames gender-based violence as perpetrator-less. The discourse of “scourge” of violence condemns gendered violence but it does so while evading critique of violent masculinities and therefore does not fulfil the need to interrogate violent modes of masculinity within highly patriarchal societies.
An alternative framing of gender-based violence could alert the public to the highly gendered and patriarchal nature of rape, sexual violence and femicide in the African context. This could help the public locate the issue of violence within the everyday structures of gender relations that have been normalised in our societies. Framing gender-based violence as a result of a patriarchal structure potentially informs the public about the cultures and practices that facilitate violence of this nature and in turn creates visibility and accountability on issues of gender-based violence.
In addition to discussing the discourses that shape the public’s understanding of gender-based violence, our panel will delve into various framing techniques and story-telling frameworks used in media coverage with the following objectives and outcomes:To analyse the media’s framing and storytelling techniques concerning gender-based violence to understand their impact on public perceptions and attitudes toward this critical issue.To promote thoughtful dialogue that explores ways in which media professionals and content creators can adopt responsible and sensitive storytelling frameworks to foster awareness and empathy surrounding gender-based violence.The panel will lead to responsible storytelling that raises awareness, destigmatises survivor experiences, and mobilises collective action against gender-based violence, thus contributing to an inclusive media landscape.Media representations and frames shape the public’s responses to injustices and horrors and create a distinction between the lives that are recognised as fully human and grieve-able. Exploring media framing and story-telling techniques forms part of this panel’s critical response to the problem. If we try, in every facet of our lives, to understand how to respond to gender-based violence, then we may make some headway into creating safer societies and shaping a better future for all.