A video dialogue program for young women in the USA and Muslim countries
March 29th, 2008 at 10:09 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Our latest discussion was shortened due to the fact that our normal 6-hour time difference was off, but we had a good conversation on the topic of legal protection for women. Our participants in Tunisia started the conversation by discussing the extensive rights that women in Tunisia enjoy: most women go to university and women are free to select a career of their choice.  They said in Tunisia, women are considered “half of society”.

In US, one of our participants mentioned the “glass ceiling” that exists in spite of equality between men and women. The Tunisian participants asked the Americans what they considered the most important woman’s right to be. The response by one participant was the right of choice: that women can choose what career to have, whether to have children etc.

We later discussed the International Day of Women, a holiday that is celebrated in Tunisia, but not widely in the US. A participant in the US said this year was considered particularly important for women here, however, because there’s a strong woman presidential candidate

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March 2nd, 2008 at 9:15 am
Posted by Zia in Sessions

After months of technical glitches, we are finally back up and running. We held our most recent session on the topic of the media. A summary below:

Preferred news sources. Our participants Gabes said they got their news from different TV channels; they try to listen to multiple channels and listen carefully. They know that most news comes with a certain bias, so they try to be critical of whatever news source it is. The Internet also plays a critical role for them in getting their news, and some people use only the Internet for their research needs.  The Americans cited CNN and the BBC most frequently as their preferred news sources; some also cited The NY Times and NPR. The NY Times and BBC were cited as having strong international coverage; CNN was criticized as being too US-centric.

Truth and the media. One of the participants said that freedom should relate to ethical behavior, and wanted to discuss how it related to the media. One American said she thought that news organizations should write what they want, incorporating different views, but without lying. Another said news organizations should be able to write things people don’t like as long as they’re true. In Gabes, truth in news reporting was very important: one participant felt many global news organizations were more focused on promoting one view or opinion rather than reporting on the truth.

Children and the media. We also had a conversation on children and the media, and the degree to which media should be censored or filtered for the young audience. The Americans tended to believe that it was the parents’ responsibility to make the decisions about what their children should and shouldn’t watch or read. The Tunisians were stronger proponents of some degree of control over the content available to children.

Reality TV. The conversation later turned to reality TV, and if it was a good or bad thing. One of the Tunisian participants felt it didn’t really teach anything positive; it simply provided a look a certain types of behavior which weren’t always positive. One of the American participants said it made her not want to be like certain people on the show. Participants in both locations felt the idea that reality TV showed a glimpse of people’s real lives - without any superficialities – could be good, but that the shows often brought out the worst in people’s behavior.

The paparazzi and media intrusion into personal lives. Part of our conversation focused on the paparazzi and the media’s role in celebrity lives. One of the Tunisian participants asked how we felt about the fact that American celebrities were pursued relentlessly by the media. The American participants felt many celebrities enjoyed the attention, and that they had a degree of control since some celebrities courted the media much more than others. The Tunisian participants asked what options celebrities had to combat false rumors written about them; the Americans explained that people here did have some legal recourse here if the media reported inaccurate, damaging details about their lives.

Personal websites and social media. The final discussion revolved around use of the Internet for personal promotion. Although none of the participants in Gabes had personal pages, one had a friend with a personal website to show her pictures. None of the Americans had personal web pages, although all used either Facebook or MySpace. The Tunisian participants didn’t use these sites; they said, however, there were some collaborative sites that people used in an academic context.

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