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Woman Image in the Arab Media Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 8th, 2020

Humanity’s quest for knowledge and understanding of the phenomena that surround it is unprecedented. Since time immemorial, accounts of people researching and engaging in other activities that help them to understand their environment better have been recorded. In this quest, phenomena that are not expressly definable are explained by the use of theories.

Consequently, numerous theories exist across all the established fields of study. The field of communication is not an exception to this trend. Numerous theories that attempt to explain various concepts that pertain to communication have been postulated. There is, however, one theory that features prominently in many aspects of the process of communication. It is referred to as the Gatekeeping Theory.

Synopsis of the Gatekeeping Theory

Kurt Lewin, a renowned German psychologist, postulated this theory in 1951 (Gatekeeping Theory, n.d.). He argued that with regards to the mass media, the information that reaches the audience is a remnant a rigorous culling and crafting process that eliminates all the bits of information that are perceived to be inappropriate.

Although he initially used the analogy of food by describing its transit from either the grocery store or the garden to the table, his theory found more relevance in the field of communication than other fields (Gatekeeping Theory, n.d.).

According to the theory, the process by which countless bits of information that reach media houses are sieved to leave only palatable and plausible bits for the public ear is called gatekeeping (Gatekeeping Theory, n.d.). The entity that bears the responsibility of choosing the information that gets to the public and the information that does not is, therefore, the gatekeeper.

Gatekeeping in Mass Media

The concept of gatekeeping in mass media has been riddled with controversy. Gatekeeping leads to biased coverage of news items. As such, some sections of the society may not receive the media attention they deserve due to prevailing social or cultural stereotypes and stigmatization.

In the Arab world, for instance, the media give women minimal coverage even if they engage in newsworthy activities. This paper is an investigation into the role played by the gatekeeping theory in influencing the media to perpetuate the prevailing negative perception of women in the Arab world.

The Arab world is notorious for being skewed towards women in all aspects of life. A superficial consideration of the political, economic, and social realms in any Arab country reveals right away that women are on the receiving end of everything. Arab societies are male-dominated in all aspects. Odine (2013) observes that, despite women doing the bulk of the work in the region, their income represents a mere ten percent of the total earnings.

Intriguingly, the media are supposed to advocate the rights of any section of the society that is oppressed, yet the media in the Arab world do the opposite. Instead of covering women’s achievements so that the idea that they are incapable of anything meaningful can be curbed, the media give minimal attention to such. Odine (2013) argues that instead of alleviating the woes of Arab women, the media facilities have compounded them. Several examples that support this assertion have been noted across the Arab region.

First, Arab nations are predominantly Islamic, and according to the teachings of Islam, a woman can be virtuous and knowledgeable. According to Odine (2013), Aisha’s interaction with her husband, Prophet Mohammed, shows that women can be quite knowledgeable. Nonetheless, Arab media continue to sideline the achievements of women from mainstream news. The Arab woman is given a distorted image that projects her as docile and subversive (Newsom & Lengel, 2012).

Arguably, this is an example of using the gatekeeping theory to propagate the notion that Arab women are better off in the background. The authorities that assume the role of the gatekeeper are conscious of the fact that if the media portray women positively, they will rise to demand equality with men. As such, their negative portrayal or the non-coverage of their activities help keep them out of the limelight.

Second, in Bahrain, Women’s representative bodies have succeeded in persuading women to become active participants in mainstream decision-making processes. The result of these endeavors was the unopposed election of Latifa Al-Gaoud in the 2006 Bahraini elections as the first female Member of Parliament in the history of the country (Odine, 2013). In a separate example, Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan single-handedly initiated the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) back in 1992 (Odine, 2013).

These are landmark achievements made by Arab women. Unfortunately, Odine (2013) observes that the Arab media either casually covered such events or did not cover them at all. It defies reason to assume that detailed information about these events did not make its way to the media. It did but was eliminated through the application of gatekeeping since, in the Arab context, issues concerning women are not considered newsworthy.

Third, most mainstream newspaper publishers in the Arab world discredit the importance of women’s sections in their newspapers. For example, in Egypt, the inclusion of issues concerning women in elaborate daily and weekly newspapers is optional (Odine, 2013). Some newspapers do not include women’s sections at all. Additionally, in cases where women’s sections are included, the message revolves around conventional women’s roles, such as how to be good homemakers (Odine, 2013).

With these issues in mind, it is evident that some influential forces in the background handpick what is to be published about women and what remains in the gutters. Therefore, the images of women that emerge in the media are only those that are deemed consistent with their prevailing negative image.

Fourth, in a country such as Saudi Arabia, women are forbidden from training to become journalists. Those who want to do so travel to other parts of the world, such as Europe, America, or Australia (Newsom & Lengel, 2012). Intriguingly, even in Arab countries that allow women to study journalism, the public frowns at the idea of a female journalist (Newsom & Lengel, 2012). Assuming that the involvement of women in journalism would be a potent way of reducing the influence of the gatekeeping theory on the perception of women in the Arab world, the public’s reception of the idea seems to suggest otherwise.


The gatekeeping theory plays a significant role in propagating the negative image that characterizes Arab women. Influential forces act from the background to ensure that nothing meaningful about women makes it through the media.

It is illogical to claim that the information never reaches the media houses. It only fails to reach the media in cases where women’s issues are given a complete media blackout. In such cases, the media are still responsible for choosing to close their eyes to the good attributes of Arab women. In so doing, it is already filtering the information that gets to the audience.


– Home. Web.

Newsom, V. A., & Lengel, L. (2012). Arab women, social media, and the Arab spring: Applying the framework of digital reflexivity to analyze gender and online activism. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 13(5), 31-45.

Odine, M. (2013). . Web.

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