A think-tank focused on research, training and advisory services towards gender equality, has condemned what they call the “sexist coverage of the National Science and Math Quiz”.
The group, Aya Institute for Women, Politics and Media in an open letter accused the media of painting female contestants in a sexist and demeaning manner, they also attacked pundits and other observers of sexualizing the quiz mistress with comments about her physical appearance.
The Institute thus called on the organizers of the NSMQ to condemn any coverage that happens to be sexist in nature.
Below is a copy of the letter
We wish to out rightly condemn the sexist and sexualized coverage of the ongoing National Science and Math Quiz by especially citizen journalists, other internet citizens and some journalists (bloggers).
The National Science and Math Quiz represents a serious undertaking on the academic calendar in Ghana and is undeserving of simplistic, sexist and sexualized narratives.
Throughout the contest this year and in the previous years that they were held, we have noticed a disturbing pattern of framing which is replete with sexual innuendos and sexist tones and undertones.
These frames which propagators suggest and want to push down our throats as harmless mischief and jokes are in no way innocent. These narratives have gone ahead to trivialize, infantilize, sexualize, derail, deflate and objectify especially the female participants in the Quiz.
In fact, all females who interface with the National Science and Math Quiz in one way or the other get caught in representations of powerless and demoralizing languages. Quiz mistresses, for instance, experience coverage and get comments that focus on their dressing, hair, marital status and overall sartorial appeal. We wish to state that this is very unacceptable.
On Monday July 7th, 2019 we witnessed the contest between three high schools: Wesley Girls’ High School, Tepa Senior High School and St. Peter’s Senior High. The end of the contest saw the all-male teams ahead of Wesley Girls’ High School which has been the only girls’ school – needless to say all girls’ team, remaining in the competition.
Hitherto, Wesley Girls’ High School had beaten two other all male teams which were Prempeh College and Achimota School. These two events saw the girls cast in frames that mocked them and questioned their autonomy, agency and mental fortitude as compared to the boys; in addition, they were framed as belonging to the domestic arena (kitchen), and others which advised them to stand behind, pray and lend their intellect rather to the advancement of the boys (men).
These narratives are not just troubling and demeaning to the girls and women. They spit in the face of the progress that women have made so far in changing the impressions about them held by the reading, listening and watching public.
We know in no uncertain terms that Wesley Girls’ High School is not just one of the top schools in Ghana but has on several occasions topped all, proving to be the primus inter pares at the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Exams (WASSCE).
It is therefore inaccurate, a disservice and an injustice in the light of their legacy and performance for any well-meaning commentator, blogger or “journalist” to mock their capacity and mental abilities because they lost a competition; one that several male schools have equally fallen away in.
It is very disturbing to observe the tight ropes that women have to navigate in our social narratives making rounds, where when boys are defeated by girls, the boys are mocked and called women/girls and when the girls are defeated by boys it proves that boys are by default intellectually better. Pointless to say, this is untrue.
We must rather seek to critically probe, assess and verify any systemic structures and socialization in the preparation of the schools for the competition. We must pause to think of the feelings of the young women who are being washed in sexualized imagery.
We must desist from comments which are highly derogatory, undermining and unacceptable for a contest of that pedigree and one involving high school teenagers.
Our society is sexist. The ugly display of sexism on the internet is only a reflection of our overwhelmingly sexist society and we must stop playing the ostrich but rather tackle head-on at the policy level against female subordination, sexism and disparaging sexual coverage in both overt and covert forms.
Fighting about misguided toxic gender narratives shouldn’t be what a section of the Ghanaian society does, it should be what we all must do for the betterment of all of Ghana’s citizens – both males and females.
We would like to call on the organizers of the NSMQ, teachers, other members of the academic community and all Ghanaians to condemn the sexist and sexualized coverage that are marring this all important competition.
The organizers of the NSMQ should also take advantage of partnerships to build the gender intelligence of the participating schools, staff, commentators and journalists.
Lastly, people who seek to be pundits in the political media space must equally educate themselves and build the needed capacities to speak and write about women and all minorities.
Next year’s competition must be different and we should all start the work now towards eliminating toxic gender and sexualized coverage of the NSMQ 2020 and beyond.
Dr. Carol Donkor,Chief Gender Officer for Gender Watch Ghana; An initiative of the Aya Institute for Women, Politics and Media
Story by: Isaac Dadzie|universnewsroom.com