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The media’s role in preventing violence against women

4 minute read

As former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty said, ‘the media is uniquely placed to stop violence before it starts’.

What drives violence against women?

Evidence shows that violence against women is much more likely to occur when power, opportunities and resources are not shared equally between men and women in society, and when women are not valued and respected as much as men.

Research tells us that there are four key drivers of violence against women.

Driver 1: Condoning of violence against women

Attitudes, words and actions that trivialise, make light of or justify violence against women allow people to think violence is acceptable or excusable.

Driver 2: Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life

Women continue to earn less than men in the media industry. Women are also less likely to be used as authoritative sources or experts, and to hold producer or editorial roles in Australian media. At a societal level, women continue to be under-represented in political and workplace leadership roles and perform the majority of domestic labour.

When men control decisions and resources, in the home or in public, they have an opportunity to use that power to reinforce privilege, and to abuse their power, while women have less power to stop it, call it out, or leave.

Driver 3: Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity

Common ideas of how men and women ‘should’ act influence the types of roles they are expected to fulfil Gender norms can be particularly harmful for women, as traditional female roles are commonly less valued.

When male power is the norm, and stereotypes of masculinity involve an assumption that men should be in control and dominant, then men are more likely to use violence, including harassment and verbal abuse, to ‘punish’ women who step outside of their expected roles.

Driver 4: Male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control

For some men, making jokes and comments that reinforce the idea that women should be less powerful than them is a way of bonding and gaining the approval and respect of their peers. When aggression and disrespect towards women are seen as part of being ‘one of the boys’, it is more likely that violence towards women will be excused.

When the media amplifies, reinforces and normalises these ideas about masculinity and male peer relationships, it promotes and reinforces the kinds of social norms, community attitudes and individual beliefs that drive violence against women.

Find out more

To learn more about the gendered drivers of violence, read Change the story or watch the video below.

Changing the picture contains a set of clear actions that are needed to address the many drivers of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

What can the media do?

The media can change the widespread condoning of violence against women by reporting accurately, safely and respectfully on violence against women. Learn about reporting on violence against women.

The media industry can address gender inequality, challenge dominant gender stereotypes and work to end disrespect towards women, as a sector. Find out about how the media can promote gender equality through its work and as a workplace.