Bu Wei. Meijie yu xingbie (Media and Gender). Nanjing: Jiangsu renmin chubanshe, 2001. 350pp. ISBN 7 – 214 – 03030 – 6 (paperback).

 

This book investigates the relationship between media and gender on a theoretical as well as on a practical level. It aims to integrate women’s issues into research on the media in order to promote equality between men and women within the practice of the media world.

Bu Wei bases her research on a traditional media theory constructed around five core principles. Unfortunately she provides no further details on the creator or the origin of that theory. Regarding gender, she makes two fundamental assumptions: firstly, from her point of view, male and female gender roles are culturally acquired rather than biologically determined; secondly, true equality between the sexes has not yet been realized in China. These two presuppositions explain the current state of inequality between the sexes within the media, as well as the author’s interest in promoting equality.

Bu Wei is Professor at the Institute of Journalism and Communication and Director of the Research Center for Media and Adolescents, both at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS; Zhongguo shehui kexueyuan wenxian xinxi zhongxin). Her main research fields are media use, the media’s impact on marginalized groups, especially groups such as youth and women, and, since 1995, questions relating to media and gender. She also works as an expert for the Evaluating Committee of the National Program for Children’s Development (2001-2010) and the State Council Committee for Women’s and Children’s Work, and as a consultant for the China Youth Computer Information Service Network.

This publication consists of three major parts; the first part introduces major Western as well as Chinese media theories and policies executed within the media; the second part reports diverse aspects of the media world in practice; finally, the third part compiles articles written by the author criticizing various aspects of the media.

The first part is subdivided into five chapters: a general introduction on research within the field of communication from the perspective of gender, on research about stereotypical images of the two sexes within the media, on the environment, policies and actions of non-governmental organizations related to gender and communication, on the mission of Chinese women in the media, and on recent debates about how to integrate gender issues into media education.

The second part also consists of five chapters: a comparison between male and female journalists on their current professional development and career opportunities within the media profession, a 1998 report on the relation between new media techniques and gender, e.g. the different ways male and female journalists use the internet, an investigation on television programs made by women and/or made for female viewers, e.g. what kind of programs exist, what do they aim to achieve, what kind of audience do they want to reach etc., a debate of the magazine Female Friend (Nü you), and a discussion of the media presentation of male and female children.

The third part, too, has five chapters: discussions on the unique viewpoint and style of journalistic writing; on sex, gender and media critics; on how long the traditional responsibilities of men and women will possibly last; on why women do not watch the television program “Women Hold Up Half the Sky”, and on what aspects related to girls’ rights particular attention should be paid to.

Each chapter contains a bibliography of the Chinese and extensive Western scholarship that the author employed.

Quite a few statistical tables complement the publication.  Most contain data that compare men and women involved in the media – e.g. tables about the age and educational background of journalists, income, working areas, career level, female and male journalists’ opinion on their working and living conditions and career chances and their judgement on the equality of those conditions and chances, and a broad variety of tables on work-related habits of internet usage. Unfortunately the data are from 1995 to 1997, so that they do not completely reflect the current state.

On the whole, Bu Wei’s publication serves as a useful introduction to gender issues related to media. Touching on a broad range of issues, her book offers valuable information for scholars from many different fields.

 

(Carola Krüger, Berlin)