Dr. Carolina Matos Senior lecturer, researcher and journalist. Research on international communications, journalism, and gender, democracy and development

Globalization, gender politics and the media

Introduction – Women and globalization: equality and emancipation

   “I shall not go back to the remote annals of antiquity to trace the history of woman; it is sufficient to allow that she has always been either a slave, or a despot, and to remark, that each of these situations equally retards the progress of reason. The grand source of female folly and vice has ever appeared to me to arise from narrowness of mind; and the very constitution of civil governments has put almost insuperable obstacles in the way to prevent the cultivation of female understanding – yet virtue can be built on no other foundation!”

Wollstonecraft, M. (1792, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)


General perspectives

        Feminist theory, with its emphasis on multidisciplinarity, and through a combination of theoretical perspectives with practice and even activism, has been extremenly influential in providing frameworks for combating forms of oppression in its multiple forms, in thinking critically about power relations between men and women in various disciplines in the Social Science and Humanities, and in articulating agendas of change that can strengthen democracy in many countries throughout the world. In a context following the decline of the European colonial powers after the Second World War, the world since mainly the 2008 economic crash has seen the rise of other global players in the geopolitical sphere, including the growth of countries such as China, Russia and India, and to some extent also Brazil, and the expansion in the number of people joining the global economy. Thus the debate on women’s oppression today is one which has become increasingly more of a global concern, and is inserted within the benefits, as well as the contradictions, of globalization. Gender inequality today is juxtaposed to various other layers, including race, class, nationality and ethnicity, and can only be fully understood by taking into consideration historical, political, local as well as socio-economic circumstances and contexts.

The quest for civil and political rights has very much occurred parallel to the formation and development of modern Western democratic nation-states. Arguably, the search for emancipation has been present in women’s movements in their search for civil and politic rights since the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe. These have been part of the very struggles for worker’s rights and universal suffrage in England during and after the Industrial Revolution, and in the battles for the abolition of slavery both in the West as well as in other parts of the world. Similarly to the struggles that African-American civil rights movements experienced in the US in the 1960’s, voting rights were only conceded to women with a lot of reluctance in the first half of the 20th century, and in some countries as late as 1960s, with Switzerland granting this right only in 1971 (Philips, 1999; Lovenduski, J. and Norris, 1993). Thus the mistake has been to assume that struggles for political equality and civil rights have been a thing of the past. As Philips (1999) stated in Why Equalities Matter, many assumed wrongly that rights were fully conquered in the 1960s and 1970s, provoking a retreat from pursing wider economic equality in the aftermath of the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980’s.

Democracies in contemporary societies today are being challenged again in a context of discussions, within political communications, of suffering from a “democratic deficit”, and thus holding a thin promise of democracy, political equality and popular participation (Scammell and Semetko, 2007). The relationship between equality and democracy has been, and continues to be,  one of very close affinity, having marked the very development of European modern nation-states to the stage that they are in today. It is even more important at a moment when market dynamics have taken hold of many spheres of political, economic and social life and pervaded most institutions throughout the world, having for many caused the undermining of politics and provoking a growth of disillusionment and apathy between significant sectors of the population, culminating in the retreat from the public sphere into the private realm (Habermas, 1989). At a time when many argue that democracy is being hijacked by corporate power and undermined by the supremacy of the market, with political disenfranchisement having caused the rise of nationalist and extreme right wing movements throughout Europe, the persistence still of the underrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities in various spheres of society threatens the very vitality and decision-making capacity of democratic societies. In the case of emerging and weak democracies like Brazil, the problem is significantly heightened and threats the very future of the development of the nation.

Thus democratic struggles have undoubtedly been throughout history about expanding the space for the inclusion of a wider citizen body, avoiding exclusions based on property, gender, race, nationality or ethnicity. Despite the “cultural turn” and the shift towards a wider concern with discourses, language and representation as the space where possibilities for resistance are articulated and celebrated, feminism still has a lot to offer in terms of theories and thinking about democracy, as well as its relationship to women and other social movements groups. Notably, the feminist struggles involved in the fight for rights has returned in full force in different aspects throughout the world, from the UK, countries in the former Eastern Europe bloc to Brazil, and have been expressed in not just the growth in the representation of women political leaders to the debates on the reduction of the gender pay gap and the increase in grassroots transnational feminist activism, to name a few.

To read more, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Globalization-Gender-Politics-Media-America/dp/1498512445



Dr. Carolina Matos
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Dr. Carolina Matos

Lecturer in Sociology at City, University of London
Carolina Matos is a Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, City University London. She was previously a part-time lecturer at the Government Department at Essex University. Former Fellow in Political Communications at the LSE, Matos obtained her PhD in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths College and has taught and researched in the UK in political communications, media and politics at the University of East London (UEL), St. Mary’s College and Goldsmiths.

Matos is the author of Journalism and political democracy in Brazil (Lexington Books, 2008) and Media and politics in Latin America: globalization, democracy and identity (I.B. Tauris, 2012), which won the Premio Jabuti 2014 prize, first category in communications. She is also Director of the Jeremy Tunstall Global Media Research Centre at the Department of Sociology, City University London, and also teaches on gender and development at the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS), a think thank in London.
Dr. Carolina Matos
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