Language is the basis of most human communication. The words, expressions and ideas give many cues to the ways we think and the attitudes which inform our thinking.
All languages have gender-specific terms which people working in broadcasting also use. Recognising the power of words and images, spoken and visual language to label and represent, to include or exclude, to celebrate or commiserate, to please or to offend is key to becoming better communicators.
“In August 2009 AIBD/FES carried out a five day workshop with program producers from the Region. The focus was on activating the participants to notice the lack of gender balance in TV- programmes and to seek out practical means to improve the quality of the TV-programmes and working routines. The workshop used practical examples to help participants to learn how to analyze TV-programmes from the gender point of view. Important hereby was also the discussion on the characteristics of male and female stereotypes in the societies as well as how stereotypes are created in the cultures of the participants.”
Plan a policy, act on it: Have an editorial policy that promotes gender sensitivity and the use of gender-inclusive language.
Newsroom and on-air language guide: Develop a newsroom-specific handbook for journalists and on-air presenters who are the frontline of inclusive language. The handbook should focus on alternatives to the conventional words used in perpetuating gender relations in societies and should strive to help users to:
• Promote women as people rather than possessions, e.g. use their own names, not their husband’s or father’s.
• Avoid gender stereotyping and patronising language, e.g. don’t use ‘girls’ when speaking about professional women, unless quoting someone.
• Use gender-neutral terms for professions, e.g. ‘fire fighters’ not ‘firemen’.
• Avoid using ‘man’ as a generic noun or ‘he’ as a generic pronoun.
Train staff: At all levels provide learning opportunities on how staff can avoid using judgmental language in their work and conduct non-confronting events where gender self-awareness can be fostered as part of team-building and corporate responsibility. In organisations with editorial hierarchies, ensure those at the top of the process – such as editors and sub-editors – understand and apply language rules and educate those further down the editorial and production chain.
Develop what works for you and your community: Develop your own organisation’s country or region-specific language and communication guides to take into account your unique situations.
GENDER SMART BROADCASTERS CAN:
• BECOME MORE FAIR AND EFFECTIVE IN THE CHOICE OF EVENTS AND ISSUES YOU COVER.
• EXPAND CONTACTS, SOURCES AND TALENT TO ENSURE A BROAD GENDER MIX IN STORIES AND PROGRAMS.
• PARTICIPATE IN FORMAL AND INFORMAL GENDER AUDITS OF MEDIA CONTENT.
• DEVELOP RESOURCES AND EDITORIAL GUIDELINES ON INCLUSIVE GENDER CONTENT AND LANGUAGE.
• DEVELOP EXTERNAL NETWORKS OF GENDER-POSITIVE CONTACTS AND INTERNAL NETWORKS TO SUPPORT GENDER INITIATIVES.
• REWARD GOOD PRACTICE.
• USE THE RESOURCES AND NETWORKS TO SUPPORT TRAINING PROGRAMMES AND SEMINARS TO BROADEN THE UNDERSTANDING AND HELP TO EMBED A FOCUS ON GENDER.