The interview aired on Tuesday, August 18 saw Karua discuss a wide range of important issues such as implementation of the Constitution and the implications of the handshake, but it was her snappy response to a question by Olive Burrows that caught Kenyans’ attention.
Burrows had launched into a tangent on cultural norms and how girls and women were taught to behave, when she was interrupted by Karua. “I wasn’t taught (how to behave like a woman),” a seemingly irritated Karua retorted.
The simple three-word phrase captured the imagination of many Kenyan women and sparked a conversation on gender bias in media coverage of women.
A section of viewers sought to explain Karua’s reaction arguing that male politicians were rarely subjected to questions on cultural norms and defying tradition.
Some, such as singer Sheila Mwanyigah, raised questions on Burrows’ interview style and her choice of questions.
“So much to ask,but this was the best question the reporter could think of? Marthaâ€™s expression was the literal depiction of how one scorches the earth with a look! Those are the flames presenters who donâ€™t prepare, burn in,” she wrote.
Various studies from around the world have unraveled evidence of the media’s gender bias in how it covers leaders and political candidates.
Other than gender inequality in the political arena and women politicians generally receiving less visibility in print and broadcast media, important questions have been raised on how the media influences society’s view on gender.
Many who slammed Burrows over the interview argued that given Karua’s credentials as a lawyer, party leader, former MP, Cabinet Minister and Presidential Candidate, it would have been more appropriate to focus on matters of substance.
“I don’t think if it was Murkomen (Kipchumba – Senator) or Uhuru (Kenyatta – President) being interviewed she would have asked them about cultural norms and expectations. I feel it was a stupid question and especially a let-down to women.
“The problem is how the media tries to present women as emotional and this translates to how people view and treat women,” stated Stacy, a Nairobi-based digital media expert.
Yvonne, a journalist, told kenyagist.com that the moment was nothing strange given how the media pushes women to the periphery.
“With women the media always makes it about societal expectations, I don’t really understand. And beyond that we are used to even panels full of men on TV discussing women issues so it’s nothing new,” she opined.
Another Nairobi-based journalist, Brigit, noted that Burrows question wasn’t invalid but, rather, misplaced.
“I think the problem was that it was Karua being interviewed because whatever Burrows was talking about are also real issues that affect women and girls. But with Karua there’s so much you can ask her having bee
n around for so long that the question seemed out of place,” she opined.