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Media portrays women negatively: study
By Louise Ho (HK Edition)
Updated: 2008-10-04 07:58


A woman purchases magazines at a newspaper vendor. A new study suggests women are badly portrayed in the media. Edmond Tang

A study by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has revealed that most Hongkongers have a negative perception of how women are portrayed in the local print media.

Commissioned by the EOC, the Social Sciences Research Centre of the University of Hong Kong conducted a household survey on 1,031 adults, and focus group studies on 322 adults, from June 2007 to January 2008.

When asked to comment on certain sex-related advertisements and news pictures, most respondents in the households survey said they felt uncomfortable with the pictures.

Only 5 percent found the advertisements appealing.

Most respondents said their first impressions of most female images shown in the local media were that appearance and "body figure" were prominent.

Many respondents also had negative views about how female images are portrayed in the local media, agreeing with selections such as "negative descriptions of the female image" and "treating women's bodies as objects".

Some focus-group participants had negative comments about female portrayals in body beauty advertisements and magazine covers, agreeing with selections such as "unacceptable" and "disgusting".

Commenting on the study's findings, EOC member Agnes Law said: "The results indicated a gap between the perceived female images in print media and real life".

"Even with the rise in social status of women, the media still portray women as objects," she said.

The impact of the media on young people is hard to ignore, as they try to achieve the appearance standards set by the media, she said.

"Young people will develop low self-esteem and some will try extreme ways to reduce body weight," she said.

She said they would do more public education programs and discuss the respondents' views in detail.

Au Mei-po, organizer of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism, criticized Hong Kong media, saying it always portrays women as objects and lacks a multi-dimensional portrayal of women.

For example, she said, the media always portrays middle-aged women as housewives. But women can have diversified images, she added.

She noted that the media's particular portrayal of women is related to their profit-making mentality.

"The media has been using the same way to portray women for the past 20 years because this is the most profitable formula," she said.

While she called for more media responsibility, she also urged Hong Kong readers to be smart consumers.

They should be more open to different media and not limit themselves to the best-selling papers and magazines, she said.

(HK Edition 10/04/2008 page1)