Turkish top business body’s research finds TV series reinforce gender stereotypes
Turkey’s top business body has initiated a project that aims to encourage shareholders to promote gender equality in TV series, a tool considered effective in reaching the society, amid a research finding that most television shows reinforce gender stereotypes.
“Many think it is education, yet research has found that it is actually prejudices that are the main barriers to establishing gender equality,” said Oya Ünlü Kızıl, the head of the gender equality working group of the Turkish Industrialists and Businesspeople Association (TÜSİAD).
Television is considered to be a powerful tool in Turkey to reach people, as the average time an individual spends watching television is 4.5 hours, a rate higher than the world average. The time Turkish youth and children spend watching TV is 1.5 hours longer than the world average.
Turkey’s top business group, which changed its Turkish name last month from the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen Association to the Turkish Industrialists and Businesspeople Association, decided first to tackle the issue via commercials, said Ünlü Kızıl, adding that the normalized gender norms, for instance, are directly reflected on commercials “as we rarely see men washing the dishes.”
A guide urging brands to look at their commercials through a gender-equal lens has been prepared and shared among all public relations companies which are members of TÜSİAD.
They then initiated a project whose first leg consists of a research on the positioning of men and women in TV series.
Conducted by İrem İnceoğlu and Elif Akçalı from Istanbul’s Kadir Has University, the research revealed that the visibility of women in business environments in TV shows is very limited, as 80 percent of female characters are seen in places other than workplaces. The research which analyzed 12 TV series with high ratings showed that one in three women are housewives and 92 percent of scenes taking place in houses were written for women characters, whereas 82 percent of business-related discourse or action were written for male characters.
According to the research, men are not portrayed as fathers, but 79 percent of the parenthood is done by women. In addition, women are portrayed as emotional characters and dreamers, while men are portrayed as aggressive and rude characters.
Following a workshop with shareholders in the sector, which also included writers and advertisers, key principles were endorsed to render TV series more gender equal. Increasing the diversity in professions, being more careful on the emotions of male and female characters, creating a more balanced division of responsibilities among men and women in workplaces and household work, avoiding normalizing violence, using a gender-equal language and increasing the visibility of characters that can be role models were among the principles to be adopted.