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Decoding gender in the media

Students at the 2015 workshop

Students decoding gender in the workshop

Students presenting at the 2015 workshop

2015 workshop

13 January 2016

In November, Professor Jutta Weldes and Natalie Jester, from the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), ran their ‘Decoding gender in the media’ workshop as part of the 2015 Thinking Futures festival.

With the media pervasive and accessible 24/7, it can exert considerable influence, especially for young people. The workshop aimed to help audiences develop analytical tools to challenge sexist media representations; introducing them to concepts such as representation, intersectionality, the male gaze, heteronormativity, hegemonic masculinity and commodification.

The workshop offered an explanation of the key concepts for media analysis and showed students examples of campaigns that have successfully challenged the media, such as ‘No More Page 3’. Each group focused on a particular type of media, e.g. film, or music videos, and students presented their findings to provide an overview of the media as a whole.

Natalie said that engaging with young people is critically important:

‘They are the ones who will be producing our culture, running our government and our schools, so the way in which they make sense of the world really does matter.

‘Seeing all the groups pulling apart the media resources and then presenting their interesting findings made it all worth it. The students genuinely seemed to enjoy the workshop, too, which was also important for us as organisers.’        

Students enjoyed the chance to learn more gender in the media. One participant commented on how every sort of media has some sort of gender inequality, and another learnt that ‘research is all about teamwork’.

Running the workshop offered SPAIS the chance to make connections with other parts of the university and local schools, which open up opportunities for future projects. Natalie is already following up with a teacher from this years’ festival about speaking at their school and found that collaboration was one of the highlights of her experience.

‘I cannot stress enough the importance of working with other people, specifically a team of people you know you can rely on. Working on your own is more work, less fun and more of a risk because if you are ill on the day there is no-one else to step in; a team is always better.’

Running a recurring event also brings many benefits, including the experience to predict and overcome logistical challenges. It means that resources can be used multiple times, increasing their reach, and organisers can build relationships with partner organisations.

After creating materials for the workshop in 2014, and gaining confidence delivering it, Natalie used it to deliver a talk to Red Maids’ school conference, run a seminar for Access to Bristol and write an article for a young people’s magazine.

‘Thinking beyond the day itself makes these events more rewarding,’ she said.

Further information

www.bristol.ac.uk/fssl/festival