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Media, women and common goods

terça-feira 26 de junho de 2012, por Terezinha Vicente , Terezinha Vicente Terezinha Vicente

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Knowledge, culture, popular and traditional knowledge and communication are fundamental common property, even though common sense and mass media speak only of the goods provided by nature, like water, land, biodiversity, or air.

Translated by Malgorzata Chojnowska

"We want to put on the agenda immaterial common goods, the goods in the form of culture, memory, history, that is not told from the point of view of women," said Rita Freire, the founder and the editor of Ciranda at the opening of the panel "Women, Media and common goods" at the WFFM II (World Forum of Free Media), held as part of the Peoples’ Summit, Rio +20. "History is a common good and we have to struggle for our identity," she continued, highlighting the commitment of women to identify sexism and patriarchy as a structural cause of the systemic crisis in which capitalism has placed us. For the first time, the Forum of Free Media organizes a specific panel with the view of women, a partnership between Ciranda, the Institute Patricia Galvao (IPG) and the Network Women and Media.

Closure of the feminist demonstration at the Summit

Against the commercialization of life and in defense of the common goods, as it defines the People’s Summit in Rio +20, is a privileged theme for the women that always had those objectives in their calendar, because they know well what it is like to have their body commercialized. "Communication and culture are colonized by economic power," continued Rita Freire. "We are here debating the decolonization of our social networks, to get rid of the “walled garden” that is Facebook. To decolonize the communication is to build our own networks". The activist talked about the fact that women also develop the technology of information, anonymously, without putting a competitive rhythm; perhaps this is why it is always men who are called to talk about the topic.

The public voice of women

Women always work to give voice to people and to the struggles on the streets, exemplified by the invited speakers at this panel. Maria Pia, from AMARC (World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters), says that feminism has taught her to talk about women’s practices, to look at the place of women’s public expression. "Even though common sense says otherwise," believes Maria Pia, "the difference between men and women is still very big, we should make these differences a political potentiality in order to change such an unequal world." She highlights the actions oriented to the community for women, the importance of "making our audiences understand that the common goods should be shared and not treated just as a matter of financial greed."

The communicator praised the principles of Ciranda as fundamental in this process of understanding the communication as a right, "beyond the question of ownership of the market and beyond the fact who makes the communication. When we talk about radio frequencies, we are talking about the common good of humanity, we speak of a right that we don’t practice because of the intolerance of the rulers, the ignorance of traditional politicians and lack of knowledge of social movements". The leader of the AMARC also spoke of the issues raised by the feminist movement, "these are topics not well understood, and that hole has to do with the mainstream media that captures people’s consciences. We want to make radio that speaks for the majority, which is heard and which has to do with public policies".

Maria Cienci from ALER - Latin American Association of Educational Radio, which works with social movements, says that "on the radio where I come from, we always seem that we have to justify some issues as women, we need to deconstruct the idea that the men know the politics and we women do shopping!". Angry with the dichotomous vision of the world, the Venezuelan activist defends the deconstruction of our development model and finds that often we leave decisions to others, we act like victims, and she believes in the importance of appearance with our themes of struggle in the spaces of general struggle.

Other common goods depend on communication

Lottie Spade, communication activist in Detroit (USA), argues that "the communication is a human right, not only the media but the technology that continues to keep communities apart and with their voices silenced". She is active in various organizations in her city in defense of political, environmental and food justice, which have as a principle that the access to these rights, just like access to information, should be for everyone, the infrastructure and all forms of the communication. Lottie says that she does intergenerational work, where the young people teach the older ones about the benefits, but also about the harmful effects of the Internet and that the public property is a principle, and also how to create our own tools. "We demystify the technology, we talk about the footprint of technology, we teach people that the whole block can share the access", for example. "We have done work with women so they can create food safety messages for children, we provoke the discussion of why it is so much easier to find McDonalds and similar establishments than natural food in Detroit". The African-American feminist says that we have to use and change the Internet, the tool that big companies are using to make decisions on our behalf. "We must realize that nothing substitutes communication, the tool is not enough."

Today at the protest march

Women have always been responsible for "management" of natural goods. Especially in the scarcity of those, itis the woman who "has to turn around" to ensure water and food for her family, especially for the children. However, capitalism makes invisible women’s work, the solutions they create and the way that they manage to this scarcity. In the same way the history, memory and struggles of many oppressed peoples without political rights – like the Palestinians, the Kurds and the Sahrawi people, who participate in the II WFFM – are made invisible. As Rita Freire says, "the people who do not have territory came here to express themselves, because it the relationship between the lack of political solidarity and the need for communication is clear".

"In the war," says Soraya Misleh, communication activist who works for the liberation of Palestine, "where common goods are in dispute, women are suffering the most, in Palestine they do not get prenatal care, they have children in the zones of control". She also speaks about the stereotype that is sold by the media of Arab women and Arabs in general. "Eastern and Western are opposed and the first ones are the barbarians, the terrorists. The Arab woman is always an exotic, submissive being with something hidden behind the veils", laments Soraya. "Every Arab is Muslim, another unreal generalization. The media reproduces that form of portraying the Arabs to maintain the global hegemonic system". The Palestinian militant reminds that the media made a big deal of women going to the street in the "Arab Spring" and explains that the Palestinian women have always been side by side with the men, a lot of times in the front line; the feminist Arab movements have existed since the beginning of the 20th century and the struggles also. "In social revolutions, the media played an important role, but it was the tool," said Soraya, telling that today there is a Tunisian blogger on hunger strike, showing that the revolution continues its course, but this information does not reach us.

Producing and breeding the life, women have always defended a harmonious relationship with nature. They are the ones who conserve the seed, cultivate medicinal plants, they are the defenders of the sources of life, of water, food security and peace. But this is only possible with the right to communication democratized and with freedom of expression for everyone. We know that the change of the paradigms in which we live or the continued destruction of the planet depend on information and communication. Women are involved in many activities of this Summit, including acting in Summit Radio, making coverage of everything that happens, and being the protagonists of the great lilac manifestation held today in Rio de Janeiro. We will strongly defend the inclusion of communication and culture as the priorities in the axis of convergence in defense of common goods against the commercialization.