Von Julia Dallhammer
Vienna was recently named “The World’s most liveable city” in 20191 again. Its clean streets, green parks, and safe buildings have most certainly been factored into consideration. However, has equality been a part of this discussion? When The Economist talks about “liveable”, does it mean liveable for all its inhabitants or only the most privileged? In order to answer this question, we have decided to take a closer look at Stadt Wien as a whole and the gender specific measures taken to ensure a high quality of life for female inhabitants as much as male ones.
In connection to this, it was essential to both understand and work closely with Gender Mainstreaming. Gender Mainstreaming, in simple terms, is a strategy to further gender equality and has become increasingly popular over the past decade. Stadt Wien has stated they are designing community spaces with Gender Mainstreaming in mind and have also created a guide book (“Handbuch Gender Mainstreaming in der Stadtplanung und Stadtentwicklung”2 which they are meant to follow as closely as possible. However, it is often not immediately visible for everyone if someone might be at a disadvantage, especially if that person is more privileged than others. A mother has different needs when it comes to community spaces than a young woman or the elderly. Often, our own privilege blinds us to someone else’s disadvantages, which is why the media is such an essential tool in distributing different opinions and points of view that most people would otherwise never come into contact with. However, if the media does not offer and spread these perspectives, these people, who are usually minorities, become silenced. The Economist’s liveable city list is a good example for that, as it is to be presumed most readers would only read it from their perspective. It is left to be questioned how many men read the list and immediately think about women’s possible disadvantages.
The problem begins, as it often does, at the top. If the media is run by the most privileged people in a country, it will be more likely to distribute content from a more privileged point of view, which in turn, will lead to the silencing of minority opinions, points of view, and needs. As such, there have to be policies in place that dismantle this exclusivist media distribution and help creating an environment where every member of society gets a voice. In connection to Gender Mainstreaming, this approach has already been adapted successfully in several different countries. For example in Malta, the Maltese Broadcasting Authority has introduced the “Guidelines on Gender Equality and Gender Portrayal in the Broadcasting Media profile”, which are intended to “sensitise the broadcasting media to gender equality and portrayal”3. The NUJ (National Union of Journalists UK and Ireland) on the other hand, has introduced an equality council to deal with all issues relating to (in-)equality4 and the Finnish Union of Journalists has adopted an “Operational Equality Plan” that dictates that equality is supposed to be upheld by the journalistic profession, by the companies within the profession, by the Union itself and also in the content of journalistic publications5. These initiatives will certainly help the respective country’s breaking of the taboo of gender inequality. Unfortunately, addressing issues like inequality are still matched with hate and disregard. However, the media’s role could be essential in removing the stigmata and help solve these issues.
In Vienna, we wanted to see what had been done for community spaces in connection to Gender Mainstreaming so far, if anything, and analyse the subjective success of these methods, if applicable. In order to do so, our project group decided to conduct expert interviews and complete a field observation in several parks to analyse the current situation. For the expert interviews, we talked to people actually working in the department of designing the city’s community spaces from several magistrates and asked for their opinions and memories, because inside knowledge would be invaluable, which was exactly what it turned out to be. As for the field observation, we had planned on observing several parks and comparing the Gender Mainstreaming techniques set in place, if any, and analyse their success. However, the biggest issue we faced was unfortunately beyond our control, namely the season. Since we were only able to conduct these observations in December, the subjective success of possible Gender Mainstreaming techniques was questionable to define. Community spaces are simply not used to the same extent in winter as they would be in summer and such an observation would clearly have to be conducted in a more agreeing temperature to be sufficiently valid. Even then, it would be of interest to observe these parks at several dates to get more conclusive data about their use.
After a whole semester of talking about Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming, the main conclusion I reached was that talking about the issue is helping solve the issue. It is the refusal to define the problem in the first place that leads to numerous problems, especially the refusal to discuss issues that do not affect oneself. The more visible the gender inequality issue is in the media, the day-to-day conversations and academia, the more likely it is to be adapted into law and real life. As someone who aspires to have a career in media and advertising, it will be a daily challenge to be as inclusive and equal as possible and forcing to challenge outdated ideas and basics in order to live in a freer, more equal world. The media world needs to change alongside with the corporate and juridical world. Only if different sections co-align on this important issue, will the problem truly be solved. Until that happens, however, every small deed can and will help the cause and if everyone consciously chooses the more gender-equal option every time they are faced with a decision, then the groundwork on which true equality should be based on, will be in place and ready for action.
Broadcasting Authority Malta. (2020). Retrieved 5 February 2020, from https://www.parlament.mt/media/60060/0178.pdf
Equality | Journalists in Finland. (2020). Retrieved 5 February 2020, from https://journalistiliitto.fi/en/rights/equality/
Equality NUJ. (2020). Retrieved 5 February 2020, from https://www.nuj.org.uk/rights/equality/
Retrieved 5 February 2020, from http://media.obvsg.at/AC10838167-2001
Vienna remains the world’s most liveable city. (2020). Retrieved 5 February 2020, from https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/09/04/vienna-remains-the-worlds-most-liveable-city