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Mass Media, Women’s Empowerment, and Domestic Violence

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MASS MEDIA, WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT, AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

INTRODUCTION

Domestic violence (DV) has become a more serious and worldwide problem in recent decades when gender equity is broadly advocated and reinforced. Although DV addressed in media coverage is mediocre at best, mass media plays an indirect role on influencing DV by empowering women. Articles written discussing this topic have concluded some key determinants of DV against women such as education, wage, employment, son preference, geographic location, family structure, and culture (Eswaran & Malhotra, 19-21), but few studies examine the influence of mass media on DV. Even though media and women’s empowerment are positively correlated as the use of various media channels improves the status of Indian women (Ting et.al, 1525), more bargaining power surprisingly stimulates more violence; the framing of news also dramatically impacts how viewers interpret the information (Braber, 86). The focus of this paper is to demonstrate how mass media impacts DV by discussing the correlation among mass media, women’s empowerment, and DV.

The way in which mass media changes human behaviors and attitudes has been examined recently (Ting et.al, 1525), suggesting that media has a powerful role in shaping our cultural and social values (Nettleton, 5). Community radio, one of media modules, was shown to significantly improve rural women’s status by educating them with social, economic, and psychological knowledge (Sharma, 184). For women in rural areas of developing countries who are typically illiterate with low purchasing power and greater bonding with their community, TV and community radio, which require no ability to read and are “considered to provide information on modernized countries”, are entertaining, “practical[,] and creative medium[s]” (Ting et.al, 1525; Sharma, 182). By controlling third variables, Ting et.al. found that TV exposure significantly increased women’s financial independence as they were more likely to own a savings account, had greater participation in household decisions, and had less tolerance toward beating (Ting et.al, 1530). Nonetheless, higher bargaining power of women doesn’t lower beating frequency. According to Malhotra and Eswaran, improvement in women’s empowerment directly increases the occurrence of DV (2009).  Working away from home, which enriches women’s knowledge and social skills, would engage more beating toward wife because of jealousy from paternal uncertainty (Eswaran & Malhotra, 3). Moreover, wealthier wives bear more beating as the husband may use violence to signal the degree of his satisfaction with his marriage and to demand greater transfer of property from her parents (Eswaran & Malhotra, 3). As mass media facilitates the empowerment of women (Sharma, 182) and spousal violence increases the abuser’s power over the other (Eswaran & Malhotra, 4), it is predictable that women will be involved in more violence if they are more exposed to mass media.

While media increases the awareness of DV, the context in which media is portrayed shapes the seriousness of the issue. The importance of DV is undermined in cases where reporters reduce serious tragedies to comedy by focusing on unusual aspects of the case instead of DV prevention. This inhibits serious discussion about possible DV (McCarthy, 1237; Braber, 101). Journalists tend to frame stories on women survivors, using language more on blaming women for the violence but less on the real causes of DV; moreover, men are not given active roles to reduce DV, and the onus is on women to prevent DV (Braber, 88; Nettleton, 25). In usual cases which wife is the victim, women are portrayed as the cause of men’s aggressiveness and as “crazy” when standing up to DV (McCarthy, 1237). This “degendered” responsibility of domestic violence-- “the violence of men is repositioned as violence in general… [and] women victims blamed for being victims” --is one of the reasons why attempts to address “patriarchal framework” is futile (Nettleton, 10). The coverage of DV is also not evenly split; higher socioeconomic status of individuals who suffer DV, or famous cases, are given greater media coverage and serious repercussions than those with low socioeconomic status (McCarthy, 1243; Braber, 101). Although coverage of DV in mass media could increase widespread awareness of the problem, the framing and purpose of news outlets that focus only on gaining profits and report sensational stories devalue the information released. As a result, men suffer less severe punishments by the public when committing acts of DV (McCarthy, 1243).

In this paper, I aim to answer how mass media influences domestic violence on women, by research the relationship among mass media, women’s empowerment, and DV. Figure 1 and Figure 2 are two bar charts created by Stata at the beginning of my research. The graphs show that on average, women who are currently working are less exposed to all three types of mass media but experience more DV than women who do not work. However, this result contradicts with Sharma and Ting’s result that watching television and listening to radio give women more autonomy. According to Roy’s research paper, direct indicators of women’s empowerment include “decision-making, mobility and access to economic resources”, and indirect indicators can be work participation and education (38). Thus, I would use work as a measurement of women’s empowerment in regressions, then analyze and discuss the results to give an answer to the question.

DATA AND METHODOLOGY

Women’s empowerment is measured by work, and DV is measured by domestic violence. Each is conducted to separate regressions with independent variables. Regressions will be run for “women_complete 3 states” data, with functions as the following:

Work = f (newspaper and magazine, television, radio, education, partner’s education, total child, age, partner’s age, Hindu, Muslim, wealth index, urban, rural, marriage status, partner’s occupation, domestic violence, bargaining power)

Domestic violence = f (work, media, education, partner’s education, total child, age, partner’s age, Hindu, Muslim, wealth index, urban, rural, marriage status, partner’s occupation, bargaining power)

First regression determines how each type of media influences work, a social form of women’s empowerment, while the second regression reflects how work correlates with domestic violence. With work as a mediator, a clear relationship between mass media and DV is built.

Outcome variables and created exposure variables are listed below:

Domestic violence = emotional violence + severe violence + sexual violence, each representing experienced any emotional, severe, or sexual violence

Work (v714) – is measured as a binary variable

Bargaining_power — final say on making large household purchases (v743b) measured as

  • 1 = respondent alone + respondent and husband/partner
  • 0 = husband/partner alone + someone else + other

1 and 2 says that respondent can make her own decision (value 1), while the others take value 0

Type of place of residence (v025) — measured as urban and rural

Religion (v130) — Hindu and Muslim will be included in the regression according to the number of respondents in the data

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