More than a Matter of Sex:
Gender Differences in Support for Various Media Rights in Four Cultures
Julie L. Andsager & Robert O. Wyatt
Office of Communication Research
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
Correspondence should be addressed to Andsager at the above address,
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Paper submitted to the International Communication Division, for the annual
convention of AEJMC,
More than a Matter of Sex: Gender Differences in Support for Various Media
Rights in Four Cultures
Julie L. Andsager & Robert O. Wyatt
We examined support for journalism, entertainment and advertising media rights
among Americans, Israeli Arabs, Israeli Jews and Russians. Women were less
likely to support the three media functions regardless of culture; they were
most supportive of journalism and least of advertising, while men were the
opposite. Population interacted with type of right, as Russians were most
supportive of journalism and the others most supportive of advertising. Gender
differences were lower among more egalitarian cultures.
More than a Matter of Sex:
Gender Differences in Support for Various Media Rights in Four Cultures
In the 1990s, American women's groups have decried the way news media portray
Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as the late Nicole Brown Simpson's treatment
during the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Women were outraged over the coverage of
the William Kennedy Smith rape trial and the press's identification of his
accuser. Meanwhile, in Israel, the widow of assassinated Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin blamed the media for their alleged promulgation of hate speech as
a factor in his death. Although media coverage in each case was within the law,
media actions seem to have alienated portions of the public, and a lack of
public support for media rights can have as much chilling effect as any libel
law (Lofton, 1980).
Much attention in recent decades has focused on the possible harm that sexually
explicit communication may do to women (Dworkin, 1981; MacKinnon, 1993) and the
fact that the media are male-dominated (Rush, 1989). In the years since Tuchman
(1978) charged the media with symbolic annihilation of women, studies continue
to find that men outnumber women in both news (e.g., Brown, Bybee, Wearden &
Straughan, 1987; McShane, 1995) and entertainment media. Advertising perhaps
allows women to be portrayed in the public sphere more than it did in the past,
but it also aims more ads for beauty and harmful products such as alcohol and
cigarettes at women (Busby & Leichty, 1993).
Although these studies are informed by the U.S. media, international research
suggests that their findings are not necessarily particular to this country.
Advertising around the world reflects images of women primarily as consumers,
reinforcing a Western capitalist orientation that can reinforce poor women's
oppression (Steeves, 1993). A study of news coverage in several countries found
that none devoted more than 20 percent of the news to women or women's issues
(Gallagher, 1981). In her comprehensive study of international media, Gallagher
especially noted the overall consistency of women's portrayal, or lack thereof,
across cultures. More recent analyses support Gallager's findings, leading
French (1992) to charge the media with promoting a "cultural war against women"
that reinforces vastly unequal societal structures.
Despite the anecdotal evidence of individual women and women's groups protesting
against various media practices, little previous research has addressed what
women think about the media. The vast majority of gender-oriented research to
date has focused on content analyses of images and issues. Given Dyer's (1993)
assertion that "[e]ven where women fill many lower ranking positions in which
they create the messages that are printed or broadcast, the media remain male
institutions with male definitions of what news is and what is entertaining" (p.
320), it is likely that women feel more disenfranchised than men and thus less
supportive of the media's rights. If, cross-culturally, women are not as
willing as men to protect the media, such a finding might lend support to the
content studies discussed above, suggesting that media's devaluation of women is
The purpose of this study is to examine men and women's support for the media's
advertising, entertainment and journalism rights in four cultures ( the United
States, Russia and Israel among Jews and Arab. This information will allow us
to better understand how men and women differ both within their cultural
boundaries and also cross-culturally; it will increase our knowledge of
practices bound by, as well as those transcending, culture.
Numerous studies in communication have found disparities in the attitudes of men
and women toward various elements of the media. American men and women seem to
evaluate news stories differently (Burkhart & Sigelman, 1990), as well as
syndicated political columns (White & Andsager, 1991) and the credibility of
Army spokespersons (Brame, 1977). In these studies, for the most part, the
greatest differences seemed to occur because men have tended to be more extreme
in their evaluations than women. But other studies have not reported a
divergence between the sexes in evaluating news stories (Espitia, 1983) or
student editorials (Noel & Allen, 1976).
Whether disparities exist between men and women across cultures in attitudes
toward the media themselves apply to media practices is the question of interest
here, however. Previous research suggests that fairly consistent differences
emerge, at least in the United States, in support for media rights and for free
expression in general.
When Samuel Stouffer (1955) conducted his pioneering study of tolerance for free
expression in the United States during the Red Scare, some of the results he
obtained surprised him. Until that time, many people assumed that women were
more tolerant than men and were more supportive of the rights of others (Nunn,
Crockett, & Williams, 1978). Stouffer's data, however, showed the opposite.
Stouffer pointed out that the difference between the sexes was small but
"remarkable in its consistency" and then attempted to explain the findings by
arguing that his data also show that women were more anxiety-prone than men and
that they reported attending church more, which was also correlated with
intolerance. Even when he controlled for differing interest in news about
nonconformists among men and women, however, or for whether women were employed
outside the house, Stouffer found that women were more intolerant than
Stouffer reminded readers in his concluding comments that "few results in this
book are more susceptible of easy misinterpretation" than the gender difference
in tolerance. While he noted that previous studies by the National Opinion
Research Center and the Gallup and Roper organizations produced similar
findings, he observed that women were less likely than men to agree with
statements such as "If a child is unusual in any way, his parents should get him
to be more like other children." Stouffer suggested this finding indicated that
"women may not be more intolerant in general than men."
When Nunn and his colleagues (1978) replicated Stouffer's study during the
ferment of the 1970s, they found that gender differences had, to their surprise,
increased despite the emergence of the women's movement. Reflecting on Stouffer,
Certainly in 1954 there was no body of evidence or belief, whether scientific or
humanistic, from which to expect greater tolerance among American men than among
American women. On the contrary, men were considered more contentious, more
striving, more interested in power and especially in exercising power.
Still, they found that differences in tolerance between the sexes had increased
in every group except the youngest. Nunn's findings, like Stouffer's, mainly
reflected attitudes toward "deviant" groups rather than broader measures of
support for free expression, including rights of the press, the entertainment
media, advertisers, individuals engaged in political speech, and sexually
explicit communication. Another, slightly wider-ranging study conducted during
the 1970s also found that men were somewhat more likely to support free
expression than women (Wilson, 1975).
In a far broader study of support for civic liberties, McClosky and Brill (1983)
also found small but significant gender differences on their Omnibus Civil
Liberties Scale. That scale measured support for free speech, press freedoms,
and symbolic speech in addition to a wide variety of other civil liberties
items. In each of three surveys of the mass public, men were more supportive of
civil liberties than females.
McClosky and Brill attributed the observed gender differences mainly to the
higher status and greater power males continued to enjoy in the 1980s. The
finding that female community and opinion leaders exhibited higher support for
civil liberties they attributed to a screening process which guarantees that
females in positions of responsibility will exhibit "higher public sensibility."
Gender differences, they concluded, would disappear as society evolved.
Other studies conducted during the same period as those discussed above have
found only negligible differences between males and females, however
(Christenson & Dunlap, 1984; McLeod, Steele, Chi, & Huang, 1991; Prothro &
Grigg, 1960). This inconsistency suggests that sex as a predictor of support
for expression rights has yet to be fully explained, although the studies that
have not produced gender differences have been conducted with smaller or more
When a survey sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (Wyatt,
1991) produced another "gender gap" on a far wider range of free expression
issues, it became apparent that differences between the sexes in regard to
support for free expression were more than a one-generation or one-era
phenomenon. Gender differences, it appeared, could represent a deeply seated
fixture of American culture.
The ASNE study found that men were not only more protective of sexually explicit
communication than women but were also more supportive of the individual right
to political speech and many advertising and journalistic rights. Indeed, though
men were more supportive of media rights than women in three areas-media
practices related to morality issues; routine journalism practices; and
identification of rape victims and juveniles accused of crime-the greatest
disparity between the sexes occurred for routine journalism, such as newspapers
taking sides in an election on the editorial page or refusing to print certain
ads (Andsager, 1992). In terms of individual rights, for example, men were
significantly more willing to protect legally the right to disagree with the
boss about politics, to speak out in favor of a Communist country, to buy
magazines featuring nudes and to use slang sexual terms. Overall, men were
significantly more likely to support both individual and media rights than
Differences in the sexes, the study found, though again relatively small, were
consistent - and were more than a matter of sex. Education and age were related
to support in predictable ways in the ASNE study, according to the results of
previous research. During the fifty years of free expression research,
education has been the most consistently related to support for expressive
rights, in a direct relationship (Bobo & Licari, 1989; McLeod, Steele, Chi, &
Huang, 1991; Prothro & Grigg, 1960; von Elten & Rimmer, 1992; Wilson, 1975;
Zalkind, Gaugler, & Schwartz, 1975). Age, on the other hand, is inversely
related to support (Becker, Cobbey, & Sobowale, 1978; Bobo & Licari, 1989;
Voakes, 1992; von Elten & Rimmer, 1992).
These studies of tolerance, free expression, and other civil liberties have,
however, been conducted solely on American soil without comparison to other
cultures where attitudes toward free expression and sex roles may be radically
different. Demographics might also operate differently in other societies. Much
of the literature of political tolerance in Israel (McClosky & Zaller, 1984;
Sullivan, 1982; Sullivan, Shamir, Walsh, & Roberts, 1985) deals with support for
individual expressive rights ( the willingness to countenance the free
expression of other individuals or to support legal protection for speech one
disagrees with ( rather than with media rights. However, the fact that
suppressed groups, particularly in the United States and Israel (Caspi &
Seligson, 1983; Shamir 1991; Shamir & Sullivan, 1982, 1985; Sullivan, Shamir,
Walsh, & Roberts, 1985), have proved less than supportive of general political
liberties suggests a potential connection between advocacy of individual rights
and media rights, assuming that suppressed groups also prove more inhibited.
Recent research from Russia shows trends in tolerance of others' expression
that are consistent with the U.S. findings discussed above. A survey conducted
in March 1991 found that education was positively correlated with tolerance of
individual rights, while age was negatively related to tolerance (Popov, 1995).
Popov noted that Russians were more tolerant of political views than of moral or
ethically charged issues.
The opportunity to replicate the ASNE study in Israel among both Jews and Arabs
and in Russia provided the means to learn whether similar patterns would emerge
in three other cultures. Israeli Jews in many ways are more egalitarian than the
United States in terms of the civil and military role of women, while Israeli
Arabs are often more conservative in religious values and in sex-role
orientation. But even the Jewish population is sharply divided by religious
orientation. Russia under the Bolshevik regime in 1917 was the first country in
the world to emancipate women (Gray, 1990), but rough economic conditions and an
unsteady social climate may affect women's roles in the post-Communist era.
Newfound freedom for both citizens and the Russian media, combined with the
comparatively new industry of advertising, has transformed the public sphere
(Popov, 1995). Thus, this study provides insight into support for the functions
of journalism, entertainment and advertising media in a relatively stable
culture ( the United States ( and in two societies in a state of flux.
Hypothesis and Research Questions
Given previous studies on support for free expression and content analyses of
media around the world suggesting that women are underrepresented, we
hypothesize the following:
Women will be less likely to support media rights than men, regardless of the
culture in which they live.
We will also attempt to answer the following research questions: Do men and
women's support levels vary across media functions, such as news, entertainment
and advertising? Do cultural differences relate to women and men's support for
various media rights?
We analyzed survey data obtained from four populations (Americans, Israeli
Arabs, Israeli Jews and Russians). The U.S. data were collected through a
telephone survey conducted for the American Society of Newspaper Editors in
spring 1990 (Wyatt, 1991). This sampling method consisted of random-digit
dialing and the next-birthday method for selecting adult respondents once a
residential phone was reached. The sample totaled 1,508 respondents; the
informed refusal rate was 19 percent.1
In Israel, face-to-face interviews were conducted among a representative sample
of adults during June 1992, and included 1,187 Jews and 521 Arabs. Random
sampling was done by selecting households from street maps, then rotating the
selection of household members by age and gender. Kibbutzes were excluded.
Though Arabs comprise only about 16 percent of the Israeli population, they were
deliberately oversampled and, because of their unique cultural and political
status, were analyzed as a separate group. Israeli Arabs are, by definition,
citizens of Israel who lived within the post-1948 and pre-1968 borders of the
state. They do not include residents of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, or the
Gaza Strip. The Israeli questionnaire was translated into both Hebrew and Arabic
from the English of the ASNE study, with minor adjustments for national
differences (e.g., "prime minister" instead of "president," "Israel" instead of
The Israeli study was conducted during an election campaign and during a time of
conflict with Arab groups in Lebanon. However, unlike United State politics or
foreign policy, the notion of "normal times" has little application to anything
in the Israeli experience.
Russian respondents were interviewed in Autumn 1994. The 1,000 adult
Muscovites were selected via a two-stage sampling procedure, first by district,
then for given quotas of gender, age and education, based on data provided by
the Russian State Committee on Statistics. Face-to-face interviews were
conducted by 52 interviewers hired and trained by the Sociology of
Parliamentarism Institute. Refusal rate was 30 percent. Again, minor
adjustments were made to the questionnaire to adjust for differences between
Russia and the United States. Although Russians were still adjusting to the
drastic changes brought on by the downfall of communism three years earlier, the
greatest period of metamorphosis had passed. The economy was in poor condition,
and doubts about President Yeltsin's ability to lead Russia into the post-Cold
War economy had begun to surface.
Demographic data were also collected and treated categorically for each
population. Each respondent was coded by population, such that 35.8 percent
(n=1,508) of the entire sample consisted of Americans; 28.2 percent (n=1,187)
were Israeli Jews; 23.7 percent (n=1,000) were Russians; and 12.4 percent
(n=521) were Israeli Arabs. Overall, 52 percent (n=2,193) were female and 48
percent (n=2,023) were male. To adjust for variations in demographic scales for
the three populations, education and age were broken into tertiles for each
group. Though income was collected in all three countries, it was omitted from
the current study because estimates of income in Russia are notoriously
Twenty items on the survey specifically asked respondents to gauge their support
for various media rights.2 Respondents were asked whether the media should be
"protected all the time," "protected under certain circumstances" or "not
protected at all" when they engage in common journalistic, entertainment and
advertising practices. Reporting on national security issues without government
approval, identifying rape victims, taking sides editorially in an election and
running graphic photos of violent events were some of the journalistic items.
Entertainment practices included television broadcasting pictures of nudity or
graphic sexual acts, airing music videos that seem to promote drug use or sex
and distributing recordings that promote sex. Advertising items asked whether
certain products ( illegal products, legal but harmful products or guns ( should
be advertised, along with advertising pornographic or obscene material or using
The media rights items were divided into three categories ( journalism,
entertainment and advertising ( to be summed into additive indexes for analysis.
Items for each index are displayed in Table 1. Reliability tests were conducted
for each index among each population. For the journalism index, Americans had a
coefficient alpha of .78; Russians, .70; Israeli Arabs, .64; and Israeli Jews,
.83. The entertainment index produced higher coefficient alphas: Americans,
.87; Russians, .83; Israeli Arabs, .77; and Israeli Jews, .84. Reliability was
least for the advertising index, with a coefficient alpha of .74 among
Americans; .69 among Russians; .70 among Israeli Arabs; and .66 for Israeli
Jews. Despite the marginal reliabilities of the advertising and journalism
indexes, exploratory factor analyses conducted on each population suggested some
underlying unity among the items in each index. Once we had created the
indexes, we converted them to Z-scores (M=0, variance=1) to facilitate
interpretation by eliminating within-subjects differences. Thus, any variation
in the model was clearly due to the independent variables or their interactions.
TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE
A 4 X 2 X 3 X 3 multivariate analyses of variance, using a repeated-measures
design with Type III sums of squares, was then performed on the data. The three
media-rights indexes served as the dependent variables, with population, gender,
education and age used as independent variables. The repeated-measures design
was used to test interaction of each of the media-rights indexes with
between-subjects (demographic) variables. In this analysis, discussion of the
between-subjects differences refer to the effects of the demographic variables
on the media-rights indexes, while discussion of the within-subjects differences
refers to differing levels of support for each of the three media-rights
indexes. Due to the large sample, we set our alpha level at .01.
The between-subjects effects tests produced by the MANOVA indicated support for
the hypothesis. Gender had a significant main effect (F1, 3,263=23.84; p<.001)
on support for overall media rights, such that women (M=(.22) were not as likely
as men (M=.38) to support the media. A significant two-way interaction occurred
between gender and population (F3, 3,263=4.42; p<.01), suggesting that this
disparity varies among populations. We examined the gender-by-population means
on overall media rights by summing the three indexes. While men's mean support
was higher than women's in all four populations, that difference fluctuated
dramatically. The disparity was greatest among Americans (.95) and least among
Israeli Jews (.16), with Russians (.65) and Israeli Arabs (.55) about midway
between them. Means for the summed media-rights index by gender and population
are shown in Table 2.
TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE
Age also interacted significantly with population in the between-subjects tests
(F6, 3,263=3.81; p<.01). The age-by-population means indicated great
distinctions among the groups. For Americans, Israeli Jews and Russians,
support for media declined monotonically with age, though the decrease was much
greater for Russians than the other two groups. Israeli Arabs, however, were
most supportive of media rights in the middle age group, with the youngest and
oldest groups nearly equal. Age was a significant main effect in the
between-subjects test (F2, 3,263=15.38; p<.001), with support for media highest
among the youngest respondents and lowest among the oldest.
No other interactions or main effects occurred.
The within-subjects tests produced three significant two-way interactions among
the independent and dependent variables. Gender interacted with the three
media-rights indexes (F2, 6,526=6.72; p<.01) as the differences in support
varied by index. Women's mean support was lower than men's on all three
indexes, but the difference for them was least for the journalism index (.16)
and greatest for the advertising index (.31). Men's mean score on the
entertainment index was .21 higher than women's. The mean scores for each index
by gender and by population are shown in Table 3.
TABLE 3 ABOUT HERE
Support for the media-rights indexes also differed significantly by population
(F6, 6,526=31.00; p<.001). Among three populations ( Americans, Israeli Arabs
and Israeli Jews ( support was highest on the advertising index. These three
were also relatively consistent in support for entertainment practices, though
Americans (M=(.01) were less likely than the Israeli groups (Jews M=.07; Arabs
M=.05) to protect entertainment rights. Americans (M=.07) were much more
supportive of journalism rights than the other two groups (Jews M=(.16; Arabs
M=(.06). Russians' mean scores operated in the opposite manner, with their
support for journalism (M=.22) much higher than for entertainment (M=(.12) and
for advertising (M=(.42). Russians were notably less likely to support
entertainment media than the other three populations, perhaps because of the
explicit sexuality referenced in the survey items.
Age interacted significantly with the dependent indexes in the within-subjects
test (F4, 6,526=4.73; p<.01), such that the youngest group was most likely to
support entertainment rights and least likely to support journalism rights and
the oldest group was the opposite. The middle group's means were roughly equal
on all three indexes.
No other interactions occurred in the within-subjects tests.
Our findings indicate support for the hypothesis that women are less likely than
men to support media rights across four distinct cultures. In addition to the
propositions discussed in the introduction to this study, a review of the
relevant literature produces a variety of explanations for this gender gap,
which has been observed consistently in large samples since the 1950s.
Doubtless, any explanations proposed here will likewise quickly show the effects
of time. Past explanations proposed by scholars for gender differences in the
United States include:
(1) Anxiety. Females, according to Stouffer (1955), are more anxiety-prone than
males and hence may fear disruption and uncertainty. Sarat (1975) also found
anxiety to be negatively related to support for civil liberties. The data from
the present study, however, do not address whether anxiety differences actually
exist. Of course, the operationalization of anxiety would be critical and
difficult given the history of such terminology, which has generally been
defined by men at the expense of women (Chesler, 1972).
(2) The way females are reared. Stouffer (1955) again observes that male
children are allowed considerably more freedom and thus are more likely to
encounter, and hence develop a tolerance for, "odd" characters. While this
particular phenomenon is outdated, a plethora of sociological and psychological
research indicates that girls are reared almost from birth to be more dependent
and less confident than boys, who are usually grounded in decision-making skills
(3) Religiosity. Again, Stouffer (1955) argues that religiosity and intolerance
are related and that women are more religious. Recent research has supported a
strong direct linkage between religiosity and intolerance (McLeod, Guo, Huang,
Rzeszut, & Voakes, 1992); however, recent evidence for sex differences in
religiosity is weak.
(4) Women have fewer opportunities for social learning about civil liberties
(McClosky & Brill, 1983). In a sense, this is a corollary to the way children
are reared. Although this explanation is outdated in terms of gender, given the
direct relationship in the present study for education level and support,
learning about civil liberties seems to relate to support for expressive rights.
(5) Women may be more protective of the feelings and interests of others. But,
as Andsager (1992) observed, those who would argue that females must adopt a
more protective, "mothering" role must also explain why men and women display
equal support for certain other "harmful" forms of media communication. For
example, the there are no significant gender differences in the U.S. concerning
support for journalistic rights to report about national security, even when
authorities say that such reporting may harm the nation. With national security,
however, it could be argued that males are uniquely sensitive to military and
security issues given their historical involvement in the upper echelons of
military and government.
(6) Women have less power and are more likely to be victimized, even in
non-pornographic ways (French, 1992). This explanation is supported by trends
in the other demographic variables: the elderly are significantly less
supportive of expressive rights than those in the "prime of their lives."
Of course, the most likely explanation is "all of the above" and then some. The
fact that there are negligible gender-related differences among Israeli Jews
tends to indicate that more egalitarian societies - in which women almost
universally work outside the home and even serve in the military, except among
the strictly orthodox Jews - produce similar attitudes toward civil liberties
from both men and women. On the other hand, the fact that the gender gap among
Arab males and females is smaller than the American gap is puzzling, given the
more traditional nature of Arab society. Here, however, one explanation may lie
in the fact that Arab males - most of whom (78 percent) are Muslims - are
equally disapproving of sexually explicit communication as females.
Examining the findings for each index should offer more insight into the ways
that gender operates within cultures. On the journalism index, which produced
the least gender difference overall, little difference occurred between the
sexes among Israeli Jews and Russians. Historically, these two cultures have
been the most egalitarian of this set. Women were more likely to support the
journalism rights than the other two indexes. Together, these findings suggest
that women who have greater influence as a group in the public sphere may be
more likely to recognize the importance of news media to maintaining that
status. It is also possible that news media fulfill different expectations in
cultures where women and men support journalism rights about equally. For
Russians, the news media may play an important role in building the
post-Communist culture and economy; Russians were by far the most supportive of
journalism rights. This notion of expectation is partially substantiated by the
finding that American women were more supportive of journalism rights than
Israeli women of either culture, although their mean was much lower than that of
American men. That is, although Israeli Jew women were not likely to support
journalism, neither were male Israeli Jews, perhaps because the news media in
their culture may have the potential to serve either an insulatory or disruptive
function in the comparatively unstable society.
Gender differences were even larger on the entertainment index, though Israeli
Jews again were roughly equivalent in their support. They also had the highest
support for entertainment media, followed closely by Israeli Arabs. Despite the
cultural differences between the two groups, they are exposed to the same
television programming that the items in this index addressed; entertainment
media may not serve as divisive a purpose for them as journalism does. American
men and women were the furthest apart in their support levels for entertainment
media and less supportive overall than the Israelis. Russian men and women's
means on this index were lower than their American counterparts. Because the
entertainment index focused almost exclusively on sexual content, the women in
these two cultures may be more hesitant about endorsing such rights. American
women may be exposed to more sexually oriented media than those in the other
cultures and thus be sensitized to the possibility of its negative effects on
children or others. Russian women, on the other hand, have had comparatively
little access to sexually explicit material (Gray, 1990); they may overestimate
its potential effect.
Advertising produced the greatest differences between men and women and among
populations. Not surprisingly, Russians were by far the least supportive group,
with women's mean on the advertising index strikingly lower than that of Russian
men. This culture has historically had the least experience with advertising,
and they may not have overcome any distrust of its role in a capitalist economy.
That Russian men are still more supportive than Russian women despite their
negative attitude toward advertising, however, reinforces the overall finding
that gender operates fairly consistently across cultures, almost regardless of
societal structure. A large disparity occurred between American men and women
in support for advertising, with American males the most supportive group of
all. Findings from previous research discussed in the introduction of this
study point to an explanation for this difference ( American women may perceive
themselves to be manipulated or devalued by advertising directed at them.
Israelis of both cultures seemed to offer the same support for advertising as
they did for entertainment media, perhaps for similar reasons, though male
Israeli Jews were somewhat more supportive of advertising than they were of
That age did not interact with gender in predicting support for media rights,
combined with the lack of education effects, suggests that gender has a profound
impact on the way individuals view the media and thus their society.
Despite our findings that different media functions are supported to varying
degrees in the four cultures studied, gender was the most consistent predictor
of support. In every culture and for each media-rights index, men were more
likely than women to support the media. This disparity was smaller in cultures
that are traditionally the most nearly egalitarian ( among Israeli Jews and
Russians. Overall, our results suggest that gender is a powerful lens through
which to view the societal structures that bind us. If, as some scholars
charge, the media act as an institution to maintain those structures, it should
not be surprising that women in cultures with constrictive gender roles are
dramatically less supportive of the media than their male peers.
The functions that journalism, entertainment and advertising media serve in
these four cultures differ substantially as well, if public support for their
rights is indicative of their roles. Journalism rights were most supported in a
culture in which drastic societal changes have occurred for the entire
population and least supported by two traditionally opposed groups trying to
share the same, unstable country. Advertising had the most support in the
United States and Israel, where the public is savvy about its role in an economy
based on capitalism. For all of the cultures, the entertainment media fell
between journalism and advertising, though it is possible that this index was
confounded by its focus on sexually oriented media, the presence of which varies
greatly among the four groups.
Future research needs to delve deeper into the ways that women and men perceive
the media, and it needs to examine the expectations that individuals in a
variety of cultures intend the media to fulfill.
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Table 1. Items forming the three media-rights indexes.
"Do you feel the media should be protected all the time, protected under certain
circumstances or not protected at all when..."
( Journalists report classified material that the government wishes to keep
( Journalists report stories about national security without government
( Journalists report factually inaccurate information that they believe to be
( Television stations project the winners of an election while the people are
( Newspapers take sides in editorials during an election campaign.
( Newspapers or television stations run graphic photographs of violent events.
( Reporting about the sexual habits of public figures.
( Journalists report about the mistakes a public figure made more than 20 years
( Journalists report the name or identity of a rape victim.
( Journalists report the name of a juvenile charged with a crime.
( Refusing to run advertising for certain products.
( Television broadcasts pictures of nude or partially clothed persons.
( Television broadcasts pictures of graphic sexual acts.
( Television shows music videos that deal with sexual acts.
( Television shows music videos that seem to promote drug use.
( Distributing recordings that portray sexual themes, drugs or religious cults.
( Advertising products that are illegal.
( Advertising products by making false or misleading claims.
( Advertising pornographic or obscene material.
( Advertising products that are legal but harmful to the public, such as
tobacco or liquor.
( Advertising guns for sale.
Table 2. Support for all media rights by population and gender.*
*Gender is a significant main effect on media rights (p<.001). Population is not
Table 3. Support for the three media-rights indexes by gender and population.*
*Gender interacts significantly with the three dependent variables at p<.01;
population interacts with them significantly at p<.001.
1 It should be noted that a follow-up survey using a subset of items from the
ASNE study was administered in January 1991 during the Congressional debate
preceding the Persian Gulf conflict (Wyatt, 1991). Under such unusual
circumstances, Americans displayed a shift toward greater support for almost all
media and individual free expression rights-except those involving national
security, where the shift was in the opposite direction. Because the spring 1990
survey was conducted during normal times, when nothing unusual was on the public
agenda, data from that study are used for the baseline here.
2 Four additional items on high school newspapers, selling books or keeping them
in schools and libraries when there are objections to their content and allowing
minors to see R-rated movies were included on the survey. Because these
activities are not controlled by mainstream news or entertainment media, they
were omitted from this analysis.