Imagine a world without direction or knowledge; Life on earth would be spineless. From the time kings began to send messages to far off places, information has become a part and parcel of everyday life. Alexander was known to have used the service of pigeons to send message for backups and draw battle plans. Without proper information, the world that we live in today would be nonsensical and devoid of meaning. How would one be able to gauge or judge the importance of business in a relatively unknown world of blankness? Information is what drives the world today. Thanks to the development of science and technology, one doesn’t have to bank on a pigeon to deliver news or information. While communication is what drives the world, it is the media that brings it to them.
Right at the start of their essay, a serious concern regarding the paucity of sexual dominance and differences are brought to the fore, when Barnett and Rivers shoots the question directly at their readers by asking, “Are American college professors unwittingly misleading their students by teaching widely accepted ideas about men and women that are scientifically unsubstantiated? Now, this is a serious question that has to get a serious response, and considering the context in which it is implied, it does show that the seed of inequality has seeped into the education system too.
Despite a number of peer-reviewed scholarly articles supporting the view that men and women are equal, it still has not dawned on a majority of people that both, men and women, are equal despite their physical differences. There is still a lot of talk about the male dominance over their opposite sex. Let’s face it; the media has a big role in influencing people, and it comes as no surprise that they are right there to capture any ‘sensationalized ‘ news that emanates from places. As Barnett and Rivers says, “One reason for this is that a handful of small studies with non-representative samples, which are wildly over-generalized but headline-grabbing, find their way into the news media, and return to the academy.” At the same time, some of the genuine and popular beliefs and ideas are ignored by them.
Why is it that men still look at women as being the weaker sex? History showed the root to this cause. During the ancient Roman Empire, women were not allowed to play any role in public life. They had to remain at home and look after the children, and tend to their husbands when they got back home. In ancient India, Sati was a ritual where a woman would jump into the funeral pyre of her husband, as she had no more reason to live after her husband died. Today, women are subjected to all forms of discrimination. Whether at their workplace, or in public places, women continue to be the target of certain male chauvinists. While the media can be pointed at for propagating such unsubstantiated views, the attitudes of a few researchers who have diligently used untested and unscrupulous hypotheses at face value, to develop their own studies come as a shock. The trouble with all this is that, there are far too many assumptions and methodological flaws. This is precisely why, the American Psychological Association asks researchers to consider and report any or all degree of overlap in statistical studies. In addition to this, such claims only add fuel to the fire to just about every study that claims to show a ‘hardwired’ explanation why men and women behave differently.
Journalists in pursuit of truth, think that the end does justify their means. Because of the pressures of the job, it is difficult to define the parameters journalists subscribe to. Their job has far too many gray areas to define clearly a mode of action in specific situations. What is important for journalists to do is to consider the best ethical code to follow while reporting. The consequences, effects, and implications of their actions should always be remembered in their pursuit for truth. Ethics is far too complicated for journalism, but contrary to expectations, journalism can go far by following certain ethics that builds it credibility and trustworthiness in society. It can help journalism strive for excellence in serving the public with authentic information.
The media continue to showcase women to be sex symbols. Advertisements show young women in skimpy-clad dresses posing for a car manufacturer. What does such women got to do with influencing a buyer? The media has continuously used a woman’s body to attract attention, and when there is something about women that is sure to grab the headlines, they splash it all over the newspapers, magazines, television, hoardings and other mediums. This is why Barnett and Rivers believe that because of such serious and pervasive problems, “college students end up getting influenced by distorted pictures that overstates differences, and minimize the more accurate picture.” Their belief was substantiated by Martha T. Mednick, an emerita professor of psychology at Howard University, who pointed out that bandwagon concepts “that have become unhitched from research moorings are rampant in academe, particularly in the classroom.”
Carol Gilligan, once a Harvard University psychologist, wrote a narrative that exemplified women as having a unique, caring nature unparalleled by men. This narrative won her the unfailing support of women, and helped revamp curricula to an unprecedented degree. However, many scholars believe that Gilligan’s research does not back up her claims, and “she simply created an intriguing hypothesis that requires testing.” Anne Alonso, a Harvard psychology professor and director of the Center for Psychoanalytic Studies at Massachusetts General Hospital, reacted to Gilligan’s research, saying that she was dismayed by the speed at which “Gilligan’s ideas, based on slender evidence, was absorbed into psychotherapy.” Unless her theory had gone through a rigorous process of publication in peer-reviewed journals, and was accepted by all, it should not have been taken seriously. In an article, The Myth of Gender Cultures: Similarities Outweigh Differences in Men’s and Women’s Provision of and Responses to Supportive Communication, Erina L. MacGeorge, of Purdue University, and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania found no support for the idea that women and men constitute different ‘communication cultures.’ The article, based on the results of a qualitative research, had interviewed four hundred and seventeen women, and three hundred and twenty-one men. They drew the conclusion that both sexes are very much alike “in the way they communicate, view the provision of support, and value the supportive communication skills of their near and dear ones, and make similar judgments on sensitivity, helpfulness, and support.” The topics of Gender differences in mate selection are pervasive and well established, For girls, “self-esteem plummets at early adolescence, and Boys have a mathematics gene, or at least a biological tendency to excel in math, that girls do not possess,” are media hype, and scientifically unsubstantiated.
The role of media must be to consider and deliberate what they ought not to and must do to ensure that discrepancies between sexes are not propagated. The consequences, effects, and implications of their actions should always be remembered in their pursuit for truth, and instead of playing with the sentiments of the fairer sex, should indulge in constructive learning. As mentioned earlier, ethics is far too complicated in journalism, but with a little conviction, can build on trust and credibility. It can, and should, help journalism achieve its very purpose of both serving the public and finding the truth.
Barnett, R, C, and Rivers, C, Men Are From Earth, and So Are Women. It's Faulty Research That Sets Them Apart.