Media and Masculinities: The role of key media outlets in Nigeria in shaping perceptions of masculinities
Media and Masculinities, a Voices 4 Change report, sets out to explore the influence of Nigeria’s blossoming media on the perceptions and behaviours of boys, men, women and girls around masculinity, and assess the media’s impact on the continuing gender divisions in the country. The study uses the conceptual framework of hegemonic masculinity, differentiating between gender-equitable and non-gender-equitable masculinities, to explore the findings of focus group discussions and individual in-depth interviews with representatives of major media outlets (including print, radio, film and broadcast media), unions, regulators, and other key stakeholders.
The report examines the links between the media’s promotion of unequal gender power relations based on stereotypical images of men and women, as well as men’s expressions of dominance, control and violence in their everyday relationships with women and girls. This includes discussion on the objectification of women, the elevation and validation of dominant, negative masculinities, and how violence against women and girls (VAWG) is reported in discriminatory and inconsistent ways,.The report goes on to explore media representations of men and women in decision-making and leadership roles, before identifying the factors that support or constrain media professionals in promoting gender equitable masculine images. Finally, the reports profiles some mass media programmes that endeavour to reflect and promote gender equality, and discusses regulation and legislation of media products, including film.
Key findings highlighted by the study include that:
Some media programmes in Nigeria mirror, or have the potential to mirror, gender equitable images of men, women and gender relations.
Gender equitable images of men and women in the media impact audiences by providing positive role models, inspiration to overcome gender-related challenges, and inculcating equitable gender values, attitudes and behaviours.
Nigeria’s local media news and entertainment outlets promote stereotypical and non-gender equitable images and messages about men and masculinities through: the use of double standards when reporting on the gender of victims and perpetrators of VAWG; the promotion of dominant masculinities in advertisements; and conveying male dominance in leadership by restricting women’s roles in decision-making and reporting.
Local media and entertainment portray masculinity in a way that reflects and promotes unequal power relations by presenting VAWG as isolated incidents, equating masculinity with the need for dominance, and the use of stereotypical images and framing regarding stories on leadership.
Media professionals are constrained from promoting gender-equitable masculinities by a range of factors that include prevailing social norms, professional hierarchies, and media-based political economy.
Drawing from the findings, the authors conclude that the media has a powerful influence on the way Nigerians think, but can become an equally powerful agent of change in challenging gender divisions within the country. Existing legislation and regulation frameworks can support the media to make the most of opportunities to shape pro-gender equality content, but these alone are not enough. In light of this, the report closes with recommendations for how best to fulfill the potential for the media to have a positive, lasting change on perceptions of equitable gender attitudes and behaviours, and transform both the media and the entire landscape of traditional gender relations in Nigeria;
Strong internal gender equality policies must be developed and adequately enforced, supported by strong media professional bodies and regulators.
The government must ensure that National Gender Policy is adopted by all state media.
Civil society must play its part in pushing the media to engage with stories about more positive gender roles.
International development agencies should support and invest in building the capacity of Nigerian media to integrate gender equality into their content, institutional structures and organisational cultures.
Further research is required to better understand the role that the media play in shaping perceptions of gender equitable attitudes, and to inform the implementation of these recommendations.