Journalism, Communications Science
Group of courses: Law, Economics and Social Sciences
Students should gain a basic understanding of the category of gender (and other forms of social differentiation, such as ethnicity, sexuality, age, and class) in all areas of public communication, mass media communication, digital and interpersonal communication. Moreover, they should be enabled to analyse the relevance of this category for societal developments by becoming familiar with theories, methods, and the current state of gender research in the fields of journalism and communication studies. In addition, since most graduates in these subjects go on to work in communications-related professions, they should develop gender competence and the ability to observe the media with an eye on gender-related questions. Furthermore, they should be taught to apply their knowledge in professional practice and to develop mediating strategies for countering gender-based discrimination in the media.
Gender researchers in communication studies view gender as a central social category that is inscribed into all the processes and institutions of media, digital, interpersonal and mass media communication. Gender, in other words, is understood as a category that constitutes processes and structures. On the one hand, social relations are reflected in the media; on the other hand, the media also serve as important agents. In today's societies, the media play a significant role in the construction of identities and interpretations of events. Gender researchers in communication studies describe the relationship between gender and media as a relationship between symbolic orders, representations, communicative processes, and the actions of individual agents and institutions. The media is where gender is constructed and redefined, and where opportunities for placing and positioning oneself (or for being positioned by others) are provided. At the same time, there is room for intervention and reinterpretation of prevailing gender orders.
Gender studies therefore play an important role in media-related disciplines, a role that is reflected in theory building as well as in empirical research and practical implementation.
Feminist theorizing has found its way into journalism/communication studies primarily in the area of audience, media content, and communicator studies. Here, we must make an analytical distinction between the egalitarian approach, the difference approach, and the de/constructivist approaches. The egalitarian approach focuses on the discrimination of women, arguing for an equal treatment of men and women, both with regard to how they are portrayed in the media and with regard to the work environment in the media professions. By contrast, the difference approach concentrates on the differences in communication and lifestyles of men and women, arguing for the recognition of genuinely female ways of life and forms of expression. The de/constructivist approaches in gender studies represent a further development, which, in the final analysis, is a paradigm shift. These approaches stress the fact that the category of gender is a social construct and examine how men* and women*, in their media-related activities, position themselves in a social world defined by a bipolar gender structure (the idea of ‘doing gender’), how gender positionings are adopted, modified and/or rejected, and how gender identities are created in and by the media.
The further evolution of de/constructivist approaches – especially as part of queer theory and intersectional concepts – has contributed to a critical discussion about seemingly ‘natural’ categories. Queer theory, for example, focuses on the body, identities, and sexual policies – in terms of how individuals themselves experience them and how they are represented. As a result, this demands critical discussions of social practices and institutions, of heteronormativity, and of bi-genderism as a norm. The concept of intersectionality re-raises issues addressed by gender studies since the 1980s: in addition to gender, other categories (such as ethnicity, class or sexual orientation) are essential for the construction of differences and may be studied in their interrelations (e.g. the ethnicisation of gender).
In content and audience studies, feminist studies from the egalitarian school have shown that the media's portrayals of men and women follow whatever the current stereotypes are. Research following the difference approach has pointed out the different ways in which media use is embedded in the day-to-day lives of men and women. Studies from the de/contructivist school have shown how identities connoted as female and male are constructed (and lived) in the way media content is dealt with.
In the area of communicator studies, research has indicated the marginal position of women in the media system (egalitarian approach), investigated the various ways of production employed by men and women (difference approach), and looked into the construction of professional roles in a male-dominated or male-connoted field of activity and the actions by which men* and women* define themselves or are being defined in this field (de/constructivism).
However, gender studies in communication studies have also made it clear that the strict division of the subject into different disciplines (communicator studies, content studies, audience and impact studies, media research) is often misleading: The media's production of meaning is embedded in social and cultural contexts in which media production, content, and use are deeply interwoven, with gendering, for example, being included in the evaluation of the media on offer. In terms of theory building, feminist research has made a key contribution to the reformulation of theories of the public sphere. Important aspects in this regard are the renegotiation of the relationship between public and private, the importance of a politically informed public, and the alleged opposition between information and entertainment.
Gender researchers in communication studies have contributed to essential empirical findings. By way of example, the following research areas need to be mentioned:
Gender studies in the area of communications should not only discuss the above-mentioned areas, but also their relevance for professional practice after graduation. Journalism/communication studies are social sciences, which, among other tasks, observe social processes, draw attention to social evils, and suggest how they can be remedied. Gender studies in the area of communications therefore seek to raise students’ awareness of the various forms of discrimination against women* (taking other categories of difference into account as well) in the media and media-related professions, and to provide them with gender competence. This includes discussing concrete options for taking action and aids to decision-making that graduates can employ in their own professional practice. (Training in this area can take the form of special courses for media professionals as well as regular classes for students.) This should take account of various theories and other research in the field, for example in the areas of news value research and agenda setting. Content includes:
Gender studies have found their way into all areas of research within the fields of journalism and communications studies. This means that special modules could be created for each area (communicator, media, content, reception and impact research). In any case, gender studies should be integrated into basic courses and not be treated as a "special topic" as it is often the case today. It is rather a fundamental area within media-related studies and professional practice and can be applied in practice as follows:
The basic course content outlined above should be integrated primarily into the introductory classes within the Bachelor's degree (first to third semester). It would be possible to construct a "compendium" offering a review/overview of the subject in the first semester of the Master's degree. This could take the form of a content block within an introductory class to the Master's, that would introduce students to more complex theories and research projects.
The content of the special in-depth modules should be part of what is taught in later semesters in the Bachelor's degree (third to sixth semester) and the Master's degree.