Sexism and the Stereotypical Representation of Women in the Nigerian Media
The media, most especially the entertainment industry, popularly referred to as Nollywood, still represent women as dependent individuals to the man. The woman is still viewed as incomplete or unsuccessful if she does not have a man strapped to her arm as her husband. Or if she is unable to bear children, she is commonly viewed as a broken machine who should be replaced.
An unmarried woman is represented as being unfit for life and incapable of standing on her own without a man to hold her hand. Sexism in the print media cannot be missed as well. Women who succeed and earn recognizable rewards hardly make the front-page headline as opposed to when the man does. Many feminist academics have examined that the mass media has the ability to impact people’s opinions and because of that, certain stereotypical depiction of women have the likeliness of encouraging some of the wrongful misrepresentations of women to increase in the society.
The Nigerian film industry has grown to be the largest in Africa and one of the three largest in the world. Amobi (2013) expressed concerns that in spite of the unprecedented growth and success of the industry, the content of these movies rather than reflect messages that correct societal ills appear to reinforce gender disparity in their portrayal of women. The nature of societies within Nigeria are structured along patriarchal lines where the girl child is seen as lesser than a man hence, there are certain societal roles that they are forbidden from participating in. This line of thought has reflected in the types of roles that women are given in movies in the country. “It is undoubtedly perceived that such portrayals of women in the Nigerian media automatically shape audiences’ perception of the women folk and intensifies other stereotypes that are already held. This is so as media theoretically have a powerful effect on people who subconsciously adopt and internalize attitudes, beliefs and values presented graphically or textually” (Ikuomola and Akanji 2001:32).
Now that female business owners in Nigeria have increased greatly over the last two decades, the representation of women in Nollywood productions have still not changed. It is understood that the media reflects on the society and portrays its actions and inactions in their content, but it is expected that the media will develop its narrative as the society is developing mentally and growing warmer to the eradication of sexism. It is a shame that the media has failed to note this growth. It is unfortunate that the Religious Books have been misread and misused to justify sexism in the Nigerian society and more specifically in the media’s representation of her society. Amobi (2013) brings this scenario to Nigeria by stating that even after four world conferences on women, Nigerian women continue to experience marginalization in every sphere of human endeavor.
A more promising approach to the eradication of women stereotyping and misrepresentation in the media content should therefore not only consider media’s androcentric configurations and predispositions but start from revolutionary social changes in favor of women emancipation in the other ideological state apparatuses which to a great extent control the media and determine their output.