Cartoon reprinted courtesy of The Detroit News and Larry Wright.
On Sunday, May 7, NOW members and other activists will send a message to the media that we are tired of the poor representation of women on television, on radio and in print. For one day, participants in the Watch Out Listen Up action will tune out their usual media sources in protest of programming that fails to portray the broad range of diversity of women and perpetuates negative stereotypes of women and girls.
In this new century, media activism will play a crucial role in the fight for women's rights and social justice. We rely on the media not just for information and entertainment, but also for ideas and perspective. The media influence everything from purchasing decisions to public policy.
Whether or not you personally spend a lot of time watching television, reading magazines and newspapers, listening to the radio or surfing the web, millions of people do. On Sunday nights, 59 million households tune in their TV sets. More than 4 million people read Time magazine and more than 3 million women read Elle magazine. During an average week 95 percent of U.S. teenagers and adults listen to the radio at least once. And more than 65 million adults now say they are active online users.
When we read the daily news, listen to talk radio, watch a sitcom, or even go to the movies, chances are the content is brought to us by one of seven major corporations. With fewer and fewer conglomerates controlling various outlets, the media's power is growing more concentrated. But as the consumers of the media we, too, are powerful.
For years NOW has been building the components of a far-reaching media campaign that addresses content, access, production and ownership. The NOW Foundation started the Digital Broadcast Project to broaden access to the airwaves as new technologies make the media an even more prominent part of everyday life. A NOW task force is researching the development of a Feminist Communications Network where we control our own images and information. NOW's presence on the Internet grows every day. The Feminist Image Campaign will premiere this year with advertisements designed to broaden the portrayal of feminism and NOW in the public eye.
And now, the Watch Out Listen Up campaign will encourage all feminists to become media activists and use our influence to better the media.
NOW has exciting plans leading up to the May 7 day of action. During the month of February—which is a ratings sweeps month—NOW will monitor media content. At the same time that Nielsen gathers information on people's viewing habits, NOW will be gathering information on what exactly they're seeing. The National Action Center will analyze and release the results of this survey just prior to May 7.
Our campaign will use both grassroots organizing and our web site to build for the action and set up house parties. On the day of the action—which will also take place during a ratings sweeps month—activists around the country will gather at these parties to stage a Watch-Out where we will look outside the mainstream media for information and entertainment. Participants will strategize their own answers to the state of media and send messages to the Federal Communications Commission, telling the powers that be to Listen Up to our call for improved programming.
The house parties will also help raise funds for the Feminist Image Campaign, so that we can advance positive portrayals of women in all our diversity, intelligence, humor and strength.
"NOW members have committed to creating a world where all women and girls are heard, valued and respected," said NOW Action Vice President Elizabeth Toledo. "Watch Out Listen Up is an important step in shaping the media to meet this goal."
For more information on how you can participate, check www.now.org/issues/media or call 202-628-8669 ext. 123.