Here we were thinking the main problem with the media, gender-wise, is how it treats women in negative, demeaning and stereotypical ways, when it turns out men are the ones who get rough treatment. So says Jim Macnamara in his media research PhD thesis at the University of Western Sydney, as spruiked some months ago in On Line Opinion and reported a few days ago in the Terror and today in the SMH.
So, is Doc Macnamara’s thesis right-wing post-feminist backlash, pantywaist men’s movement bollocks or a serious commentary on the terrible state of society?
The way he tells it, the situation seems pretty dire. The thesis examined stories about men in 650 newspapers, 130 magazines, 125 TV news bulletins, 147 TV current affairs programs, 125 talk show episodes, and 108 TV lifestyle program episodes over six months. They were examined “using in-depth quantitative and qualitative content analysis methodology”. As the good doctor says himself in On Line Opinion:
The research found that, by volume, 69 per cent of mass media reporting and commentary on men was unfavourable compared with just 12 per cent favourable and 19 per cent neutral or balanced. Men were predominately reported or portrayed in mass media as villains, aggressors, perverts and philanderers, with more than 75 per cent of all mass media representations of men and male identities showing men in one of these four ways. More than 80 per cent of media mentions of men, in total, were negative, compared with 18.4 per cent of mentions which showed men in a positive role.
So it seems those wicked Marxist-Feminazis who already control the agendas of the education system and government have got their talons into the media as well. Oh noes!
Now, I may not have a PhD after my name, but call me crazy if this research doesn’t omit a rather important statistic. Can you guess what it is?
How many newspaper, TV news and current affairs stories about WOMEN, using a similar in-depth quantitative and qualitative content analysis methodology and set of criteria, are negative? A similar number? A smaller one? A higher one? There’s no mention of this comparison in any of the media reporting or Doc Macnamara’s On Line Opinion article. (Having trouble accessing his thesis, but I’m willing to bet he conducted no similar research into media portrayal of women.)
Because without this comparison we have no idea if the media pick on men specifically or if they’re just generally a bunch of negative nancies.
Do the media portray men negatively? Duh! Do advertisements portray men negatively? You betcha, though you wouldn’t know it from the majority of complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau. (Dr Jim claims the number of complaints from men is increasing, which may be true, but they’re still nowhere near the number of complaints about the demeaning portrayal of women in advertising.)
Is this because the media are all gynocentric feminist misandrists (HINT: this is what Dr Jim wants you to think) or because people prefer stories about murderers and rapists and cheats to those about fluffy bunnies and firemen (or women) rescuing cats from trees?
Whether people really do prefer negative stories or whether this is just what the media gives them is a far more interesting question. Whether men are treated negatively in the media more so than women is also a worthy consideration. But Dr Jim’s PhD does not address these questions, because this would not allow Dr Jim to push his political agenda.
There are serious issues to be dealt with here: the portrayal of men as deadbeat dads, commitment phobic, paedophiles and perpetrators – but never victims – of domestic violence and child abuse; the persistent negative stereotypes of straight and gay men. To be fair, Macnamara addresses these issues in his discussion, though most of the finer points were lost in the newspaper reporting.
But trying to talk about these important issues with mickey-mouse research and right-wing feminist bashing brings it down to the monkeys-hurling-shit level of contribution to social debate.