Arab women in visual media: Television

Arab women in visual media: Television

3.2 Arab women in visual media

3.2.1 Television

Television is one of media types that is worth studying as a result of its style, scope and insights. It is a part of our everyday life, a very important tool that is growing in importance every single day.

Television is considered as a danger by Pierre Bourdieu in his book On Television when he says: al think that television poses a serious danger for all the various areas of cultural production- for art, for literature, for science, for philosophy, and for lawa (Bourdieu, 1998 p.ll). This means that television may be a bless and a curse in the same time; it helps the same way it harms individuals.

Television has come out when it was needed, when it was a necessity in a time social as well as political changes have taken place. It was then a means through which news are transmitted to people.

Raymond Williams writes in his Television: Technology and Cultural reform concerning the advent of television aTelevision emerged, as the telegraph, the telephone and radio had before it, as a technologically synthetic response to a set of newly emergent and radical social, political, and economic needsa (Williams, 1974, p.viii). It has been invented then as a powerful medium of communication as well as entertainment.

Rushkoff has his own view when it comes to the danger of television in the sense that people do not know anymore whether they are shaped by the television or vice versa. He is then talking about the effect of television on the viewer which is a held that has been studied by many media scholars and has been tackled in the first chapter as well. He considered television to be a means through which media viruses find a way out to the audience. (Rushkoff, 1996)

Like the majority of media types, television has its own share of the construction or reality; it dramatizes the events by putting them first publicly, before the viewersa eyes and then putting them into images. In fact, the news transmitted by television can be loaded with political or even ethnic ideologies which might lead to negative feelings by some people. This is shown clearly in the following quote: aThe simple report, the very fact of reporting, of putting on records as a reporter, always implies a social construction of reality that can mobilize (or demobilize) individuals or groupsa (Bourdieu, 1998, p.21).

Following the above statement, one can say that television is more than just a means of transforming; it is a mixture of ideologies, it can bring news as they happened the same way that it can bring stereotypes and prejudices.

Like all media types, whether print or visual, television has a commercial purpose and the use of advertisements explains so. They are to yield money for satellite channels since the majority of TV channels are commercial media.

Television can be considered as a combination of all the medium of media, newspapers, magazines and even billboards. As it is argued, television is essentially a mo- saique; it covers theatre, cinema, sports, education as well as advertisements. Hence, whoever watches television needs to have in the back of his or her mind that he or she is in front of a very complicated mediated tool that gathers all of these factors together.

The content of television is similar to the content of the other media types concerning the bad image of women in general and Arab women in particular. According to Byerley and Ross (2006) aTelevision programming in some nations, particularly in the late- night zone- features overtly sexual content, including graphic sexual assaulta (Byerly Ross, 2006, p. 38). Here not only the programme is negative, but also the woman is used as a sexual vehicle; she is used and abused as well.

Television then is contributing to the way women are viewed in society as inferior thanks to the passive images it transmits about them. It can be an empowering tool for women since it is directed to all groups with their diversities.

It can thus help women by showing their own positive side, that is to say by showing them as engineers, university teachers and directors instead of showing them abused, submissive and illiterate. Television can bring womenas achievements under a full light to the public. The same view is expressed in the book Women and Media: A Critical Introduction:

If television fail to report the views of women judges, women parliamentarians, or women business leaders, but always report the views on violent crimes against women, then it is hardly surprising that the public fail to realise that women do in fact occupy significant roles in society or, equally, that men are much more likely to be victims of serious crime than women. (Byerly Ross, 2006, p. 40).

The Arab media is no more than an imitation of the Western media, in content as well as in style. Arab TV channels copy the western TV programmes such as aKalam Nawaima which is the Arabic version of aThe Viewa, aStar Academya which is the Arabic version of aAmerican Idola and also aX Factora which is the Arabic version of the American aX factora. All of which show that the Arab media is poor; there are no programmes of their own that take into consideration certain specificities such as culture and norms. This has made the Arab youth lost, with no fixed identities whatsoever since they do not know with whom they should identify.

Cinema is one of the carriers of the negative image of women in the Arab world as it shows them negatively and this is going to be much more elaborated in the third chapter. Rasha Allam acknowledges in her article aCountering the Negative Image of Arab women in the Arab Mediaa that movies portray women in a very denigrating way, as a body and as immoral. The article goes on to give an idea about the positive portrayal of women in movies even though it is rare, along with the negative images:

The positive images portrayed kind and affectionate images of a mother, a religious woman, and a woman punctual in her work. Yet, the negative images emphasised her body and a preference for money over morals. In 97

These portrayals affect the lives of Arab women as they contribute in the way they are perceived negatively by their male counterparts in real life. There is no surprise then that Arab women are still underestimated and hold in submissive positions thanks to television and the way it portrays them.

Media is supposed to be the mirror of societies but in this case it is not, it is rather perpetuating prejudices and stereotypes about women which cannot change overnight.

Even in their title, movies give sometimes the impression that women are horrible creators. Examples are given by Reem Obeidat in her article aContent And Representation of Women In The Arab Mediaa when she clarifies aOne must only list the titles of some contemporary Egyptian movies, such as A Dangerous Woman; The Devil is a Woman; A Woman of III Rupture: The Curse of a Woman, Torture is a Womana (Obeidat, 2002, pp2-3). No doubt, these are prejudices and value judgement. The viewer is invited through these titles to believe in them and, finally, to contribute to the reinforcement of these stereotypes.

Egyptian movies, in fact, are not the only place of the negative images of women; the Syrian soap opera are also involved as well. In aBab El haraa for example there is the image of the submissive wife who is trying by all means to suit her husband against the will of the second wife.

The mother is shown as weak, weeping who does not exist without her husband (the father). The sister, likewise, is dependent on her brother because she does not have an independent life (Youtube, 2009). In one word, women in this soap opera are shown as weak, docile and subservient to men.

In other instances images of violence are exercised against women, especially in the gulf soap opera where women are slapped, beaten and even killed by a male figure whether a father, a brother, or a husband. The woman here is shown as weak, who ignores her rights since she is abused everywhere and every time. This contributes, in fact, to violence against women in real life. As men watch such images, they become used to them and easily find themselves doing the work.

The Arab video clips that are broadcasted nowadays on the Arab channels produce a bad image of Arab girls in general by showing them as belly dancers. They focus a lot on their bodies, zooming their breasts, legs and their faces as well. This is, in fact, done on purpose, to attract the viewer in order to see the clip.

The displaying of the female body has resulted in a very low quality of the Arab music where the singers are no more than seducers. These Arab channels are giving much more attention to these singers more than professional women who have good carriers and who were able to make it through.

Al-Jazeera channel gives another image of the Arab woman as a modern woman media worker. To give an idea about the channel; it was launched in 1996 as a response to BBC when it showed documentary criticizing human rights in Saudi Arabia.

It is an independent channel based in Doha, (Qatar) that is very critical of the USA policy. Al-Jazeeraas reputation grew after its coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the attacks of Washington DC and New York City in 2001. It is perhaps one of the successful channels all over the world that is disliked by the West and whose workers were killed and offices were bombarded. (Downy, 2006).

Al-Jazeera can be considered as one of the few Arab channels perhaps that gives a positive image of the Arab woman. Through its interviews with women MPs, politicians, and chief executives, Al-Jazeera introduces not only to the Arab world but to the whole world that Arab women are capable of achievement.

Even their women workers are a striking example of modern women who are producers of media not just consumers. The Arab broadcasted television is in need of similar television channels for the Arab woman to progress in this area and to be portrayed in a positive way.

In fact, there should be real life Arab women on television; those who were lucky enough to achieve something. Even though there are active women in the field of media, still they are impeded; they are not shown at all or referred to, or if shown they are shown as the very minority.

This has attracted the attention of some people in the Arab world like for example the Jordanian Queen Rania Abdalah who produced a number of short videos showing women from all walks of life, doctors, pilots and leaders in order to counter the stereotypes about Arab women in Arab media.

The Jordanian Queen has tried to counter the negative portrayal of Arabs in general and Arab women in particular in media. She has been alarmed by the distorted and negative images they were given in media in general and the internet in particular as is the case with many Arab women and she had chosen Youtube as a base and a platform to break down all of the misconceptions about Arab women. In fact, an initiative like this is needed to give another face of Arab women that most of people do not know.

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Image of Arab women in The Eastern print And Visual media
Université 🏫: Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University - Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences Dhar Mehraz-Fez
Auteur·trice·s 🎓:
Dr. Lalla Aicha Sidi Hamou

Dr. Lalla Aicha Sidi Hamou
Année de soutenance 📅: Department of English - Master program - 2008-2016
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