Donne in quota

4 Novembre 2014

Pubblichiamo l'intervento che Donatella Martini, presidente di DonneinQuota e fondatrice di WECAMS, la coalizione europea contro il sessismo nei media, ha tenuto il 4 novembre 2014 all'Onu di Ginevra. Dal 3 al 5 novembre 2014 si è tenuto l'NGO Forum - Pechino + 20 e WECAMS è stata chiamata come speaker all'interno della sezione "Donne e i Media".

Women’s European Coalition Against Media Sexism

UN ECE Regional Review

Interactive Roundtable on “Women and the Media”

It is long established that the frequent and unrelenting portrayal of women as sexual objects plays a key role in maintaining gender inequality.

The CEDAW Committee (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) has repeatedly called on governments to take action against the stereotyping of women, arguing that such representations contribute to women’s disadvantaged position in a number of areas including in the labour market and in access to decision-making positions, and affect women’s choices in their studies and professions.

The European Parliament has also voted in favour of several gender equality resolutions, including the adoption of a report which calls on both advertisers to stop using sexist stereotypes and member states to monitor how gender is portrayed in advertising. Sexual objectification has a negative impact on both the aspirations and self-esteem of women and girls and promotes attitudes and behaviours associated with discrimination and violence against women.

But till now nothing happens. Governments are not working seriously to change culture (with only France as an exception), advertisers continue to use sexist stereotypes and member states are not monitoring anything.

That’s why one year and a half ago, three feminist groups - DonneinQuota for Italy, Chiennes de garde for France and Object for U.K. – founded WECAMS (Women’s Coalition against Media Sexism) with the specific aim to bring an end to sexism in the media in all Europe.

All three groups campaigned against sexist, objectifying and dehumanising representations of women in their own countries for many years.

As a result, we increased public awareness on this problem but we couldn’t draw any politicians’ attention.

We need politicians because we cannot wait any longer for a specific law regarding the portrayal of women in advertising as in Italy, in the UK and in France we still don’t have it.
In this void of rules, more than 60 years ago, private SROs (Self-Regulatory Organizations) were founded in all Europe and gathered in a federation called EASA (European Advertising Standards Alliance).

Each local SRO – Self-Regulatory Organization - has its own code and organization and is considered like a public authority on sexism as they are the only one who seems to care about it.

We do not agree on this opinion for two simple reasons:

SROs do not respect European Resolutions even if DonneinQuota, Chiennes de garde and Object tried to push local SROs (IAP for Italy, ARPP for France and ASA for U.K.) to do it - without gender experts in their juries, they are not in the position to judge sexism.

Last but not the least, in our opinion, only National Women’s Rights Ministers - in accordance with feminist groups - have the right to issue precise guidelines regarding women’s representation in the media.

When WECAMS started to work, we had clear in our minds we need:

1. to oblige SROs to respect European Resolutions with MEPs’ support
2. to convince MEPs about the necessity to have a Directive on this matter, while we continue to ask to our National Governments to issue a specific law

With strong support from MEPs Silvia Costa (Italy), Sylvie Guillaume (France) and Mary Honeyball (U.K.), we met twice (November 2013 and February 2014 ) in Brussels with EASA (European Advertising Standards Alliance), the network of advertising self-regulation bodies.

We presented them our positions: we explained why sexual objectification and sexual stereotyping of women and girls constitutes discrimination, and emphasized that objective criteria exist to assess whether the content of an advert is discriminatory. We pointed out the inconsistencies in ads being judged as sexist and banned in one European country but not in others. We called for tighter guidelines to regulate advertising, in line with European Parliament resolutions on ending discrimination and in consultation with women’s rights organizations across Europe. We argued that standard-setting would be positive for the advertising agencies themselves; people who work in the industry have told us of the pressure from corporate clients to develop sexually objectifying advertising campaigns, and they would no longer be forced to participate in this.

Yet despite countless studies that demonstrate the discriminatory nature and harmful effects of such advertising, many advertising regulatory bodies still consider sexism an issue of ‘taste and decency’, rather than one of discrimination. Complaints against sexist portrayals of women and girls in adverts are upheld only if they are likely to cause ‘serious or widespread offence’, and a great deal of sexist advertising is judged inoffensive. For example, if demeaning portrayals of women are placed in men’s magazines, they are likely to be deemed ‘humorous’ and unlikely to cause offence to the target audience. And the content is only judged according to ‘prevailing social standards’ – so if discrimination against women is commonplace, sexist advertising won’t stand out as tasteless or indecent.

As a result of our meetings, EASA has promised to consider how it could use its standard-setting role to help ending sexism in advertising but till today we haven’t heard any news from them yet.

Our action had to stop in spring because of European Parliament election but we are already organizing a third meeting with EASA, even if only one of our MEPs is still in the FEMM Committee: Mary Honeyball (U.K.).

As you can see, we are pursuing the first point of our action, that is to oblige SROs to respect European Resolutions. What about the second point, that is to convince MEPs that a Directive is absolutely necessary?

We are almost ready.

Our new campaign will be launched in Europe before the end of November.
We prefer not to disclose it today but if you follow us, both in our countries and also in Europe, you soon will know about it. Please do it as we need also your help to spread it.

Presented by Donatella Martini





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