(This is a Research Essay written for a paper in Political Science at Victoria University of Wellington)
Introduction: The Media-University Complex and the Nation-State
In this essay, I ask whether the Media-University Complex (MUC) promotes the ideology of feminism. Then I go on to examine the question of whether this constitutes a challenge to the nation-state. The focus is on English-speaking countries.
The Media-University Complex
The term Media-University Complex (MUC) simply refers to the education systems and media – principally in western countries . The term complex refers to the fact that the education systems and media interact: the education systems train future journalists and other students and possibly inculcate in them the beliefs and values associated with feminism. The media, having internalised these beliefs and values, may disseminate them among the population at large. Typically, the media call on workers in the tertiary education sector (i.e. lecturers) to play the role of experts, when journalists seek authoritative knowledge on feminism-related and other topics. The population may thereby be led to expect all its institutions – including the education sector – to reflect these beliefs and values, which provides a feedback-loop or vicious cycle to the complex..
Zohrab (2000) points out that: "Feminists seem to have some difficulty in defining Feminism – mostly because Feminists have conquered western societies so thoroughly that there are few non-Feminists left for Feminists to contrast themselves with." Zohrab (2006) also states:
Feminists themselves, having had very little opposition, and usually not being very intellectual, have very little concept of the essential unity of Feminism. Since most of the discussion about Feminism has been amongst Feminists themselves, they have concentrated on the differences between various tendencies within Feminism, and have been unable to see the wood for the trees.
In view of the above, I will use the term feminism according to the definition in Zohrab (2000), i.e. "the application of the victims of oppression model to the situation of women in society"
Many feminists would disagree with this, defining feminism as being the search for "equality for women" or for "equity". For example, according to Wikipedia, the original statement of purpose of the US National Organisation for Women in 1966 was "To take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities (emphasis added) thereof in truly equal (emphasis added) partnership with men."
However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Unless all relevant issues are systematically brought before an unbiased court of law, they are decided by a political, rather than a legal process. In a political process, what matters is what issues are pushed by the pressure-groups and adopted by the politicians. Feminists asked for the vote for women, and they got it. They did not ask for the draft for women, so they did not get it. If women, alongside men, were subject to the draft, then they would be equal with men, in that respect. However, being subject to the draft is not something that a pressure-group is likely to see as beneficial to its members .
This distortion of society's attitudes by one-sided, feminist pressure-groups is alluded to in Nathanson & Young (2002):
We agree that the worldview of our society was androcentric until recently.... But conditions have changed, partly as a result of feminism. By the 1990s, androcentrism was increasingly being replaced by gynocentrism in popular culture and much of elite culture.
Does the Education Sector Promote Feminism?
When asking whether the education sector promotes feminism, what I mean to ask is whether feminist issues are embedded in the subject-matter that is taught at various levels and whether these issues are consistently dealt with from a feminist perspective. Feminist theory is particularly evident in Women's Studies courses. It is obvious how much more common Women's Studies courses are than Men's Studies courses. Moreover, Men's Studies courses are usually just offshoots of Women's Studies courses, in the sense that they share a belief in feminism. This has led to the emergence of Male Studies – a self-consciously pro-male discipline that sets itself apart from Men's Studies .
The education sector, being totalitarian as regards the teacher-student relationship, has been able to be much more direct than the media in its enforcement of belief in feminist theories – as if the education sector was teaching a state religion.
Nathanson & Young (2002) has this to say:
By the 1990s, popular culture both reflected and propagated the conspiracy theory of history – a theory that had been adapted for feminism by academics, it is worth pointing out, operating within what many still assume is the "ivory tower" of elite culture. Like all other myths, this one tries to explain the way things are in terms of how things came to be that way. Given its importance, the "plot" is worth repeating once more: all of human history can be reduced to a titanic conspiracy of men usurping power from women, oppressing them, and – this is where popular culture comes in – covering up the ugly truth. In short, men are collectively or vicariously responsible for most or all of human suffering.
Here it is important to note that the MUC – along with the film and music industries -- is instrumental in the creation of modern popular culture.
Do the Mass Media Promote Feminism?
The mass media part of the MUC is largely in control of mass-disseminated factual information, and it has not seen fit to publicise the power it has to manipulate the ideological choice that is available to citizens. Its main method for reducing choice is to usually refrain from researching or publicising certain political and social viewpoints and phenomena.
Journalists have tended to treat feminism as being above criticism – as a sacred cow – while diverting attention to the bias imposed on certain media outlets by their private owners.
Boyce (1994) summarises its results as follows :
This thesis has examined the amount and type of headline coverage given to the violent victimization of men and women. Using conservative estimates, it suggests women receive 35 to 51 times more headline coverage than men. This is inconsistent with statistics reporting that men and women are victimized at roughly equal rates (traditionally finding that men are victimized more). The vast majority of headlines emphasizing women do not quantify their victimization and do not place it in the context of male victimization. They are qualitative headlines which cover a range of issues from personal stories of victimization to violence as a social problem as, over the four years studied, “violence against women” comes to refer to an ever-widening range of acts. I have suggested that the coverage found in these headlines may be the result of (i) a predisposition in the media, before 1989, to report domestic and sexual violence specifically in terms of women, (ii) the media’s portrayal of the Montreal murders as symbolic of violence against women and (iii) the media’s use of sources which focus on women’s issues.
One might suspect that the media have always had a tendency – caused by chivalry – to treat women with more sympathy than they treat men. However, the three factors which Boyce mentions above are modern and specifically feminist ones. Therefore, if Boyce is right, his evidence clearly shows that the media promote the feminist image of women as victims of men.
It is important to highlight the importance of the third factor above. It has been my personal experience as a media-watcher in New Zealand since 1987 that the media almost never use anti-feminist sources to balance feminist sources when reporting on so-called "women's issues" (which are inevitably men's issues, as well). The media either use feminist sources alone, or use feminist sources with a quasi-balancing establishment source, which is often a male person, but not a men's rights advocate.
This is consonant with the feminist world view, according to which the world is a man's world, with women constantly having to try to pressure the male establisment for equality. In fact, a masculist perspective on such issues is something that an establishment spokesman is usually unable or unwilling to put forward.
Challenges to the Nation-State
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines a nation state as "a sovereign state of which most of the citizens or subjects are united also by factors which define a nation, such as language or common descent." What sorts of things can challenge the nation-state? The 2011 course content statement for Victoria University of Wellington's course INTP/POLS 365 "Challenges to the Nation State" has this to say:
...we consider whether and how the nation-state is challenged by various contemporary social and political developments. For instance, are social cohesion and national identity threatened by domestic and international pressures, as some suggest? Do immigration flows and indigenous understandings of sovereignty weaken states' exercise of sovereignty over their territory and populations? ... we investigate the contemporary character of states' sovereignty, legitimacy and authority over space and people.
What emerges from the above course content statement is a set of features of the nation-state which can be examined, if one is interested in discovering any challenges to it:
Does the Media-University Complex challenge the Nation-State?
As Wallace (2005) puts it, "Governing ideas – the conventional wisdom, fashionable paradigms, and the implicit ideologies of practical policy-makers – set limits to conceivable or acceptable policy options." The issue here is whether the MUC limits conceivable or acceptable policy options – by moulding the populace's assumptions and beliefs -- in a way that challenges the nation-state.
Boyce (1994) reports the results of research on the power of the media as follows:
In discussing the media’s influence on public policy, Surette writes that researchers
"have been able to report clear, positive associations between the two.... The research indicates that among criminal justice officials, perhaps more than among the public, the media significantly influence both policy development and support for policies. Effects have been shown to range from policy crusades, shield laws, and criminal justice legislation to influences on individual discretionary decisions within the criminal justice system...."
Boyce (op. cit.) also discusses various results of media bias against men, such as the following:
The portrayal of violence as found in this thesis has not led to calls for more accurate reporting but to calls for measures to deal with violence against women, from the funding of studies, projects and shelters to the restructuring of society. .... By keeping violence against women high on their agenda -- as one headline reads, “Violence against women is the top issue” ... -- the media set the stage for action. Here we might remember Tuchman’s point that those topics “given the most coverage by the news media are likely to be the topics audiences identify as the most pressing issues of the day” ... and, serving this function, are likely to influence public policy.
In its promotion of feminist policies and attitudes, the MUC arguably challenges all the above features of the nation-state. It challenges its social cohesion, for example, by imprisoning and otherwise alienating men from their partners and children on flimsy evidential grounds . Deprived of their natural fathers, those children are more likely than others to exhibit problem behaviours . To the extent that the nation-state views itself as homogeneous, the nation-state's national identity is challenged by the preference of many males for foreign brides, in order to avoid local women who they see as too feminist. To the extent that men become aware – through the internet and talkback radio – that they are being disadvantaged by feminist laws and policies, they may become more reluctant to sacrifice themselves in the traditional way in defence of the nation-state's sovereignty and authority. And its legitimacy may be undermined if men come to see themselves as brainwashed by the MUC.
I conclude that there is a prima facie case that the Media-University Complex promotes feminism, and that this constitutes a challenge to the nation-state. However, space contraints have not permitted this case to be fleshed out in enough detail for it to be fully convincing. One problem lies in anticipating crticisms from across the ideological divide – i.e. from feminists. This is because many such criticisms (in my experience) would probably be based on misunderstandings and on perceived facts which are actually untrue – a result of MUC brainwashing, I'm afraid!
Boyce, Jim (1994) "Manufacturing Concern: Worthy and Unworthy Victims: Headline Coverage of Male and Female Victims of Violence in Canadian Daily Newspapers, 1989 to 1992," Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, last accessed on 11 September 2011.
Florsheim, Paul, Patrick Tolan and Deborah Gorman-Smith, "Family Relationships, Parenting Practices, the Availability of Male Family Members, and the Behavior of Inner-City Boys in Single-Mother and Two-Parent Families", Child Development, October 1998, Vol. 69, No.5, pp. 1437-1447.
Nathanson, Paul and Katherine K. Young (2001) "Spreading Misandry: the Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture," Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.
Sacks, Glenn (2006): "NOW's Opposition to Shared Parenting Contradicts Its Goal of Gender Equality", <http://www.glennsacks.com/enewsletters/enews_8_1_06.htm>, last accessed on 12 September 2011.
Wallace, W. (2005) "Post-sovereign Governance: The EU as a Partial Polity", in Wallace, W, H. Wallace & M. Pollack (eds.), Policy-Making in the European Union, Oxford: OUP, pp 483-503.
Zohrab, Peter D. (2000) "Sex, Lies & Feminism," Bellevue, Washington: Backlash! Books, electronic edition, and on Google Books at <http://books.google.co.uk/books/download/Sex__lies___feminism.pdf?id=91tTMAo8Jl4C&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&hl=en&capid=AFLRE71N5K44wEbrku_rXYJxR9xIeSotKV8-q1kSBeTeOM0UjLkMSdnMYzJQyJ607Pzh1bFEyD-grhE0NEnE5GHe5eqUwj5oMg&continue=http://books.google.co.uk/books/download/Sex__lies___feminism.pdf%3Fid%3D91tTMAo8Jl4C%26output%3Dpdf%26source%3Dgbs_v2_summary_r%26hl%3Den>, last accessed on 11 September 2011.
Zohrab, Peter D. (2004) "The Influence of Non-Legal Research on Legal Approaches to Ex Parte Domestic Violence Protection Orders," last accessed on 13 September 2011.
Zohrab, Peter D. (2006) "Defining Feminism,", last accessed on 13 September 2011.