Changing The Conversation: The Role Of Media In Ending Violence Against Women

Changing The Conversation: The Role Of Media In Ending Violence Against Women

It’s flooded our screens for weeks now, the faces and names of the countless women killed at the hands of a partner or man known to them this year alone.

Latest reports suggest a 30% spike in the rate of Australian women killed by intimate partners last year. It’s an epidemic, and despite the nearly 1 billion dollars put forward by the federal government yesterday, it’s clear that it is not a problem that funding, outrage, or mass media coverage can solve.

B&T isn’t going to pretend we have the solutions to this problem because, if we are being honest, the team here feels about as hopeless as the rest of you do. Instead, we sat down with Jasmin Bedir, prolific CEO of Innocean and creator of Fck The Cupcakes (FTC) and Yeah The Pies, on the work she has been involved in and to discuss the responsibility of the media industry to change the narrative.

What role does the media play?

The media is not a fix-all solution to this problem, but as in every facet of society, we have a role to play. There is a role for the media to collectively examine the kinds of content we are creating, what we are putting out there and the tone it is setting. Are we creating a space for people to be okay with the choice to speak up, or are we furthering the problem by prioritising engagement over humanity?

Some early work Bedir has done with 100% Project has uncovered that there has not been a lot of research done into how the media and the content we consume are perpetuating stereotypes in the context of men. “It hasn’t been popular to look at men; it was always the focus has been on women’s improvement; women need to be more resilient, women need to be strong, but we’ve completely ignored and forgotten that men also have an inclusion net. And If men don’t feel included, we’re getting to where we are now”.

“I think it’s really important that we talk more about what needs men have and what narratives we need to create through media in that space. I would encourage media organisations and male brands to look closer at that. What are you putting out there in the world that is potentially harmful? We may not have the answers yet because it’s also not that simple. But finding the answers collectively would be a really good starting point”.

Of late, there has been a shift in reporting surrounding domestic violence. Bedir puts this down to a shift in society’s perception of the media and the way social media is now holding organisations accountable for the content they are putting into the world.

For the longest time, reach, or clicks have trumped morality, leaving media organisations desperate to find another angle. Perpetrators’ backgrounds are analysed while they are portrayed as “good boys,” while women are criticised for their choices. But this is starting to shift with the latest movement. “I think, thankfully, we are starting to hold media organisations accountable,” Bedir said.

“The media narrative has changed, and it had to change because it almost always described something invisible happening to women – no one was doing it; it was just happening. A woman was murdered by something or someone, but now it’s actually ‘a man is doing something to a woman'”.

Not Just A Woman’s Problem

According to Bedir, the first and most important thing we need to change is the misconception that this is a woman’s battle or something women are accountable for solving. For too long, men have been left out of the conversation, with many feeling that they don’t have a place to speak on such matters.

“I don’t necessarily think we need more women to speak up and do things because we are already doing all of that. And then the usual narrative emerges—we’re overreacting, and now we’re emotional or angry,” Bedir told B&T.

“We need it to be okay for men to say something culturally so they don’t feel like they’ll get shut down. They need to feel that it is socially okay to do that and that they won’t be penalised. If we can’t get to that point, we won’t get anyone saying anything.”

FCK The Cupcakes X Yeah The Pies

Bedir’s work with FTC started three years ago as a bit of an outrage movement fueled by women who were fed up with the way things were, but that has now moved into a very different space with the extension into Yeah The Pies.”We’ve moved now into a very different space, where we’re just solely focusing on getting men involved in the gender equality conversation because that’s the beginning of everything, really”.

For the launch of the Yeah the Pies program, FTC invited men from the Australian marketing and media
industry to attend the inaugural event back in April – a massive afternoon of cooking, conversations, and
actual change – binning the cupcakes and baking pies instead.

“We realised that nothing will ever change unless we have men in the room. And we realised the easiest way of doing that is having men learn shoulder to shoulder because they love that, but also, you know, food always works really well. So we thought we might as well just celebrate and include an icon of masculine food, the humble meat pie,” Bedir said.

“All of a sudden, men are getting real-life experience engaging in a conversation about masculinity and their own worries about it. Gender equality, in general, doesn’t have to be scary, and we want men in the room. So it’s a little bit of an attempt to get them into the room and have a positive experience. So they might tell someone else about it. And next time, bring a mate”.

White Ribbon X Innocean

Bedir’s work with FTC led her to work with White Ribbon at Innocean. One of the most poignant pieces of work created for this client is the “no good reason” campaign, which amplified just 1% of the roughly 48,000 stories published about violence against women in 2023 alone in a special edition newspaper and OOH campaign.

“So the work that we’ve been doing there led us to work with White Ribbon as a client. I’ve got a lot of time for these guys because working in the not for profit space, in the field of domestic violence is triggering every day, these people are dealing with that 365 days a year. And the problem is also that it’s really hard to measure success. So we did some work for them, which was basically a little bit of a repositioning brand overhaul just as much as an awareness piece because people don’t necessarily want to engage with that subject matter”.

The work Innocean is doing with the charity that seeks to prevent violence against women aims to increase awareness of the enormity of the problem and generate donations in a space that people are more reluctant to open their wallets for.  “In the past, it’s all been about protecting women and women’s shelters, but people forget that it’s not an either-or conversation; it’s an and conversation. We also need organisations like white ribbon to work in the prevention space”.

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