Progressive Communications as a Tool for Advancing Gender Equality


The Progressive Communications Movement is an umbrella for many organizations and groups united by one main objective: using communications and information technologies to create a just and more comprehensive world for marginalized and vulnerable groups. Masaar has previously introduced this movement through a paper entitled “Progressive Communications: Values, Principles, and Effect.

The current paper turns its attention to the intersection between this movement and gender, the social structure with the widest impact in societies. While women represent half the society, they still suffer the continuing existence of structural discrimination against them. Gender discrimination is a very important and difficult challenge in the path to building more egalitarian and just societies that provide all individuals with equal opportunities for a safe life free from oppression and persecution and which allow them to develop their different potentials.

The convergence of progressive communications and gender studies presents a significant field for advancing justice and equality. It encompasses a broad and multifaceted scope, as exemplified by the Association for Progressive Communications’ dedication of one of its programs to women’s rights.

According to the program’s website, “Information and communications technology has great potential for supporting human rights for women and girls.” It also “provides a platform for expression and access to information to create and share narratives that may lead to a change in norms and values contributing to discrimination and inequality.”

This paper seeks to provide an overview of the intersection between progressive communications and gender. It discusses the role that progressive communications can play in supporting efforts to achieve gender equality, including the opportunities available and the means to support them.

The paper also discusses the practical implementation of progressive communications principles in order to play an effective role in the struggle for equality. It focuses on progressive communications’ roles in inclusiveness and participation, in forming the prevalent discourse, and in challenging stereotypes. Finally, the paper discusses the challenges and obstacles that may face progressive communications on its path toward performing an effective role in promoting gender equality.

Progressive Communications Intersection with Gender

Traditional Communications and Gender

The term “traditional communications,” as used in this paper, has two meanings. The first is that traditional communications depend on means of communication developed prior to the digital era. For instance, traditional communications include printed material in different forms, as well as radio and TV channels.

Although traditional communications in this meaning have presented and still present progressive models, they have, by nature of their technologies, a limited effect in supporting progressive principles. Traditional communications are more vulnerable to the effects of limited funds, for instance, due to the fact that most of them need relatively large financial resources. They are also more vulnerable to the state’s control and repression, under and outside the law.

The second meaning of traditional communication refers to non-progressive communications. This includes different forms of managing and using communication means without committing in principle to the values of justice and equality. In the case of gender, this means not taking gender sensitivity into consideration and up to forms of communication that are conservative, retrogressive, and hostile to the concept of gender sensitivity in principle.

Lack of gender sensitivity in communications management, whether they were digital or pre-digital, has created many of the phenomena prevailing in the communications space. These phenomena reproduce the discriminatory practices against women, including directly limiting effective women participation.

For instance, women’s roles in traditional communications institutions are limited, especially in managerial, planning, and decision-making positions. In other cases, women’s participation is made more difficult by widespread phenomena like sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and others. 

Other discriminatory practices include allowing misogynistic discourse, or such speech that demean women, in the public sphere. And finally through phenomena like algorithmic gender bias and weak privacy protection measures.

The communications space reveals the different negative effects of prevalent traditional communications on gender equality and women’s place in this space. This emphasizes the need for a progressive alternative that takes the principles and values of equality and justice into consideration. As such, among its priorities are policies that limit the negative phenomena in the communications space and on the Internet.

The Intersection of Progressive Communications Principles with Gender Equality

It is well expected that progressive communications principles intersect with gender equality. While progressive communications is concerned with all equality and justice causes for all marginalized groups, the importance of gender equality is special as a priority. It is because gender discrimination affects the largest marginalized group in society, which is women, who represent half the world’s population.

On a more detailed level, the basic principles of the progressive communications movement, like equality, openness, and human rights, are all connected to the efforts to seek women’s emancipation and achieve gender equality. These common principles bring together the progressive communications movement and feminist movements and organizations seeking to achieve gender equality. They also provide a common ground, making cooperation and joint work easier and more effective.

Common work principles between the two sides open a way for the progressive communications movement to support the efforts seeking gender equality. Utilizing ICT effectively involves applying various resources to put its principles into practice. This is particularly evident in the implementation of self-power building and organization principles, as ICT offers extensive opportunities for practical implementation in both areas.

Women’s Role in Developing and Shaping Progressive Communications

Throughout history, women have played a crucial role in the development of progressive communication concepts. Their initiatives in utilizing communication and information technology have been instrumental in shaping this field. Women have employed various means of communication, both pre-digital and modern digital, to advocate for their rights to justice, equality, and the realization of progressive principles.

Women have also contributed to building the progressive communications movement by occupying leading positions in many of the organizations working under the movement’s umbrella. They have also carried out much of the research about gender discrimination and the importance of inclusive and egalitarian communicative practices to face it.

Women’s roles in advocacy, capacity building, and digital activism in the ICT space had a great impact on crystallizing these paths as tools and objectives of progressive communications. Feminist organizations contribute to the development of policies that promote gender equality. Throughout their work, these organizations have accumulated valuable experiences and conducted significant experiments. Notably, the progressive communications movement has greatly benefited from their efforts.

Progressive Communications Role in Seeking Gender Equality

Progressive communications can play a very important role in the struggle to achieve gender equality. The paper discusses this role in the following section by reviewing the available opportunities and how they can be reinforced. Additionally, it discusses the mechanisms of implementing progressive communications principles in seeking gender equality while taking feminist activism principles and issues into consideration.

The progressive communications movement has taken off from a position at the heart of the ICT field. The movement depends on possessing the knowledge, skills, and technical expertise that allows using ICT to support principles of justice and equality and to build a better world for everybody, especially marginalized groups.

Specialized knowledge and the availability of technical skills open a wide space for supporting the efforts for gender equality. This is accomplished through the following:

  • Programs and initiatives that depend on best practices of ICTs.
  • Providing direct technical support to feminist programs and initiatives.
  • Transmission of knowledge and technical skills to feminist organizations, initiatives, individuals, and small groups.

As the progressive communications movement gains momentum, organizations and individuals involved can strengthen their role by deepening their understanding of gender issues, particularly those that intersect directly with the ICT field. This knowledge can be acquired by accessing and learning from the extensive body of work produced by feminist movements and individual feminists in academia, research institutes, and human rights organizations. Drawing upon these existing resources and insights can contribute to a more informed and effective approach to progressive communications.

Feminist organizations and individual feminists can also be supported through cooperation and joint work. This creates opportunities for interaction and exchanging experiences. It also allows for building permanent links and ties. Additionally, incorporating feminist groups under the progressive communications movement umbrella provides the possibility of feed and feedback and deepening the commitment of the progressive communications movement to the efforts of gender equality and women’s emancipation and empowerment.

Implementing Progressive Communications Principles in Seeking Gender Equality

Inclusiveness and Participation

Progressive communications emphasizes the principle of participation, which involves actively engaging individuals from marginalized groups in decision-making processes. This is crucial to ensure that diverse perspectives are heard and included. Integrating women’s participation in decision-making processes at various stages, such as planning, implementation, and daily work, aligns with the principles of justice and gender equality. By committing to inclusive decision-making, progressive communications promote equitable participation and empower marginalized voices.

Incorporating women’s participation in programs and initiatives ensures a gender-sensitive approach. Women’s participation is the only guarantee that the outputs of programs and initiatives are free from traditional stereotypes that reinforce gender discrimination and imply misogyny. This participation guarantees that the outcomes of programs and initiatives convey messages that actively promote gender equality rather than reinforcing harmful stereotypes.

Progressive communications networks can support creating opportunities for women’s voices to be heard in international conferences and events concerned with the future. Women can also be present in the preparation stages of important treaties that may impact our digital world.

For example, in the framework of the efforts of preparing the Global Digital Compact, promoted by the UN, the Association for Progressive Communications contributed with others in an event entitled “Women’s Rights and Choices in a Digital World: Why do we need a feminist global digital compact?” The event aimed to “provide a space for conversation, cooperation and advocacy about urgent issues related to women’s rights in the digital space, especially about the impact the global digital compact would have on women’s rights and lives.”

The principle of inclusiveness and participation also implies the consideration of intersectionality. This principle acknowledges that gender is intertwined with other social identities, such as race, class, and sexual orientation. Intersectionality aims to achieve justice and equality by amplifying the struggles of marginalized identities through collective efforts while avoiding contradictions.

Inclusive communication strategies demand an intersectional approach, acknowledging that various discourses in identity politics can conflict when they neglect intersectionality. Movements like anti-racism or class struggle may inadvertently perpetuate sexist narratives, necessitating critical examination.

Thus, when formulating messages for progressive communications programs and initiatives, the discourse used should avoid any traditional stereotypes that contradict gender sensitivity. This is more important when reusing the discourse of legacy liberation movements.

To implement the participation principle, progressive communications programs and initiatives should seek cooperation with feminist organizations, movements, and initiatives. This can be accomplished by:

  • Entering into partnerships to achieve common goals.
  • Providing support in the area of using means of communication in the best available ways suitable for their resources.
  • Providing technical learning and training for concerned individuals to gain skills and experience that help them play their roles.

Cooperation and partnership with feminist groups reinforce the awareness of those involved in progressive communications programs and initiatives with the considerations required by gender sensitivity in their work. Feminist groups have a theoretical knowledge foundation as well as experiences accredited throughout years of work that progressive communications programs and initiatives can benefit from.

Shaping Discourse

The dominant discourse in society is a fundamental tool for reproducing gender discrimination. This discrimination manifests in various practices, but it is particularly evident through discourse that reinforces the continuity of these practices and provides justifications for them. It also encourages them by attributing positive qualities to them or linking them to religion and inherited traditions. Additionally, it supports stereotypes and harmful concepts about women in countless forms of expression.

The means of communication provided by ICTs play an important role today in shaping the prevalent discourse in society in a way that is unseen before. Most people today are communicating with each other and are exposed to different messages from a variety of sources through their daily interactions on the Internet.

This allowed public discourse to be more expressive of ordinary people’s ideas after being long monopolized by traditional means of mass communication. These means have mostly provided an elite discourse under the state’s control to some degree. Today, the public sphere is open under new rules that depend more on ordinary people’s preferences. While this is a positive development in itself, it still has negative effects. For example, conservative and regressive discourses can sometimes gain more prominence than they did in traditional media.

Conservative discourse prevalent in modern communication mediums like the Internet poses significant implications for women. Not only does this discourse perpetuate discriminatory practices against women, but it also hinders their safe and effective use of these communication channels.

Misogynist discourse on means of communication expresses itself in many forms, up to the widespread sexual harassment, verbal attacks, and silencing and defamation campaigns. Such practices terrorize many women. If not leading them into refraining completely from participation, they most of the time limit such participation in many forms, including expressing themselves freely.

It is imperative to recognize the significance of shaping the prevailing discourse, considering two crucial courses of action. Firstly, we must strive to create a secure online environment for women, particularly on social media platforms. This involves ensuring their equal rights to freedom of expression and privacy, thereby empowering them to actively participate in digital spaces. Secondly, it is essential to challenge discriminatory practices in the real world by fostering a discourse that condemns such actions. This can be achieved by promoting alternative approaches rooted in principles of equality and justice, thus creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

Progressive communications have the tools needed to reshape the prevalent discourse and push this process in the above-mentioned courses. This requires studying and understanding the mechanisms of creating and spreading a discourse through communication, especially on social media platforms, in addition to exploiting these mechanisms to create and spread alternative discourses.

This can be accomplished through awareness and training programs about these mechanisms, how to tackle them when abused, and how to use them positively. Work can also be done to build innovative campaigns, whether to tackle discriminating discourse or provide alternative ones.

Fighting Stereotypes

The difficulty in combating negative stereotypes about women stems from their pervasive nature across various forms of expression. These stereotypes place women in a subordinate position compared to men, reinforcing discriminatory practices. Their familiarity, due to constant repetition, makes them challenging to overcome.

On the other hand, different means of communication are the domain where stereotypes of different sorts are spread and promoted. Accordingly, it is the main arena where stereotypes can be fought, and their spread can be limited. Additionally, they can be replaced with positive images promoting women’s status in society, reinforcing the efforts demanding equality and stopping gender discrimination. Progressive communications has the required tools to fight these stereotypes.

Addressing gender stereotypes requires intervention on multiple fronts. Expressions that include forms of hate speech can be countered by urging legislative bodies to develop existing laws or enact new ones that allow for combating hate speech online. This should be done according to clear and exclusive rules without infringing on the right to freedom of expression.

Furthermore, social media platforms should enhance their mechanisms for detecting and addressing hate speech promotion. They should modify their algorithms to prevent the dissemination of content containing hate speech or negative gender stereotypes.

The most effective way to combat stereotypes is still to spread real images that contradict them. Progressive communications programs and initiatives can support feminist groups’ campaigns that aim to demolish the credibility of negative stereotypes of women. These campaigns can showcase examples of women who have achieved success in various fields. By doing so, they can contribute to spreading models from reality that contradict stereotypes and promote a more accurate and positive image of women.

Presenting such models in innovative ways and using mechanisms that ensure their widespread dissemination requires specialized knowledge of content distribution on the Internet. The progressive communications movement, which possesses the necessary expertise and skills in this field, can contribute to this effort.

Challenges and Obstacles

While progressive communications align closely with efforts to achieve gender equality and justice, their potential to contribute effectively requires addressing and overcoming several challenges and obstacles. The following sections outline some of these challenges and obstacles.

Resistance to Change

Changing long-standing gender policies in the communications and information technology industries is a challenging undertaking due to their deep-rooted nature. Attempts to modify or replace these policies with more gender-sensitive approaches often encounter strong resistance.

Numerous familiar policies are perceived as free from gender bias, leading to resistance to their modification. This resistance often manifests as denial, resulting in prolonged and inconclusive debates. In other instances, excuses based on societal norms are cited to justify resistance. These excuses frequently serve as a means of maintaining a stable foundation for followers or avoiding adverse reactions. Furthermore, in many cases, resistance stems from deeply held beliefs within individuals themselves.

Overcoming the obstacle of resistance to change requires cultivating a culture that acknowledges and understands the realities of gender discrimination and recognizes the urgency of eliminating it. Such a culture equips individuals within any community to challenge discriminatory language and demeaning stereotypes, regardless of their frequency or the form in which they are presented. Some people believe that the form, such as sarcastic or comic undertones, excuses the acceptance of these stereotypes. However, a culture that embraces gender equality prioritizes a commitment to this principle over fears of confronting prevalent societal norms. This shift in mindset lays the groundwork for individuals to actively work toward gender equality and create a more inclusive and respectful environment.

Resistance to Intersectionality

One challenge in creating a more inclusive and equitable digital world for all is overcoming traditional notions and flawed practices that have led to disparities and divisions in different progressive approaches.

In many cases, it is widely believed by emancipatory movements based on some identity that other movements’ work contradicts their own. In a more distinctive form, some class emancipation movements look suspiciously at emancipatory movements based on gender or race. They believe that such movements fragment their base. Even as such views are declining, there are still many emancipatory movements that have remnants of contradicting traditional legacy in their discourse.

The work of the progressive communications movement intersects with all paths of progressive emancipation. Therefore, it is concerned with overcoming any contradictions between these paths that could waste significant time and resources without tangible results. The progressive communications movement can facilitate greater convergence among emancipation paths through joint work programs. These programs focus on points of agreement and highlight the false perceptions that create contradictions that do not actually exist.

Weak Representation

Weak representation of women in the ICT field continues to be an obstacle to implementing the principle of participation. This principle requires women’s effective presence in planning, implementation, and decision-making processes.

Groups under the umbrella of the progressive communications movement enjoy a higher rate of women representation compared to the ICT space as a whole. However, when implementing different programs and initiatives, it is difficult to achieve an acceptable balance in women’s representation in different work stages and aspects. Facing this obstacle requires exerting more efforts to attract women and girls to the professional specialization in ICT, in addition to providing opportunities for learning and training as well as employment.

Lack of Resources and Data

The primary tasks that the progressive communications movement can undertake in the pursuit of gender justice and equality face a real challenge regarding resources and data. For instance, many programs and initiatives aimed at narrowing the gender gap in internet access or providing education and training programs require financial resources that are not easily obtainable. This difficulty is particularly exacerbated in developing and impoverished countries and even more so in rural and remote areas within these countries.

Limited financial resources for such programs are paralleled by limited data and information necessary for determining requirements, discovering problems, and assessing work results. Accurate statistics for different indices, whether related to ICT gender gaps or gender discrimination phenomena, are limited or non-existent in many developing and poor countries. Women in these countries need to direct a significant portion of the available efforts due to the great discrepancy in covering their needs compared to the situation in advanced industrial countries.

Overcoming the obstacle of resource and data scarcity requires resorting to innovative solutions to provide funding for various programs and initiatives and relying on low-cost alternatives. Additionally, it necessitates thorough planning that involves phased work, allowing for the gathering of information and statistical documentation during actual implementation at each stage to gain clearer insights into requirements and address shortcomings or resource wastage.

Research and surveys can also be encouraged to cover the countries that need them most. This can be reinforced by acquiring international academic scholarships. International bodies with more capacity for access to information can also be approached to demand more efforts focusing on developing and poor countries so their reports about such countries can be more comprehensive and accurate.


Progressive communications stand at the intersection of efforts to achieve gender equality with ICT, a point of crucial importance and sensitivity. ICT offers tremendous potential to support progress towards a more just world free from discrimination against women. At the same time, it is also susceptible to exploitation as a tool for reproducing and disseminating conservative, reactionary, and anti-women discourse. This discourse reinforces the entrenched discriminatory practices against women in society.

In this context, progressive communications have ample opportunity to play a crucial role in directing the use of ICT to support gender equality and eliminate discriminatory practices against women. This includes avoiding the misuse of these technologies to perpetuate such practices.

This paper sought to provide an overview of the intersection of progressive communications with gender equality issues. It examined the aspects of this intersection and discussed the various roles that progressive communications can play in supporting justice, equality, and women’s empowerment. Finally, the paper addressed several challenges and obstacles that hinder the ability of progressive communications to fulfill its intended role in advancing gender equality efforts.