Patronized Imagery of migrant women within the European media

In today’s times, immigration is topically tempestuous across the world over but in overcrowded Europe its perceived as a grave threat. In this battle, the European media plays an important role in forming opinions about the shaky relationship with foreigners or the “other aliens” “living on the European soil. People living here whether it’s the real Europeans or “extra-communitario” are bombarded with news related to immigrants from  print, radio, television and other  mediums.

This is a huge topic to tackle, so we will start off with “image of migrant women within the European media.”

Media reporting on foreign women; examination of three common case studies. Let’s take a look shall we?

1.  Post Communism fall, most of Europe still has a very-bitter relationship with the East, that’s  clearly still reinforced into the east European women’s portrayal victims of poverty, sex trafficking and a highly sexualized identity.  An enthusiastic-eagerly accepted stereotype by most educated audiences in North like those in Germany,  Holland as well as the south like Spain, or Italy. A review  of their print media shows  weekly basis time slots are allotted to “Eastern migrant women” stories related to trafficking, as well as  advertisement pages to be full of events including the dance shows, adult-only events with photos of the heavily made up faces, and in many cases even tattooed breasts and female butts in titillating lingerie. Most of these photographs show a peculiar resemblance to Eastern European women.

2. The anti-Chinese sentiment existed in Europe long before the gold rush. It was born of a European belief in superiority over other races as well as stereotypical symbols of Asian women. Social media in Sweden, Greece, and others; i.e print magazines and virtual websites are full of messages reinforcing silent, docile and impossibly tiny Chinese women that probably serves as a fetish kick for the so-perceived civilized European men. Today, news about local beauty industry in Europe is somewhat dominated by cheap saloons offering beauty treatments and most importantly the “erotic massages” by Chinese women.

3. The Great Britain, France and countless other European countries actively promote media messages like “Islam is a threat to modern-day Europe” with typical depictions– a bulky hijabi-Muslim woman wearing a skirt down to her ankles, having two or three children at each side.  Deeper analysis of main-stream media reporting shows reinforcement of the oppressed, unskilled woman who continues to have children, in reality a financial burden on the European republics. European journalists seem fixated on “what the Muslim women are wearing instead of who they are and what they are doing.” Across Europe, there is prevalent, the trend of deliberate under-reporting on Muslim migrant women’s achievements, especially those who do not fit a veiled and victimized stereotype.


Finally,the migrant women in her dismissive identity of being a wife or mother, mainly ignorant and poor, subordinate either to her life circumstances, her family, or her culture, plays a prominent role. On the whole, migrant women are widely represented as being victims of their own cultures and traditions.

Within a patronizing frame, migrant women are mainly described as ignorant, poorly educated, culturally driven and subjected to patriarchy.

When reporting “positive” examples of migrant women’s empowerment, there is an superior-angle highlighting their initial disadvantages and self-congratulatory narratives of Europe has served them in opening doors to newer horizons.

Aspects of gender portrayal in media

  • Traditional roles: often migrant men are seen as aggressive, drunk and shady characters, as opposed to migrant women that are unseen, unheard victims, mothers or housewives in a silent background: in short, in the positions dictated by their physical aspects.
  • Camera angles: applies to photography and television reporting of migrant women are more often filmed from a higher position so that we as the viewer look down on them. This emphasizes their lack of authority and viewers nod at the migrant diminutive statures. Please note a modern-day Europe where 94% of camera operators within television industry are men.
  • Interview techniques: Interviewers often use different approaches in the way they address men and women as well as another set of approach when they interview migrant women and men. Usually migrant women are less likely to be given the floor and they are interrupted more often. There is also a tendency to address a migrant woman by her first name without Miss, Senorita, Fräulein. Heavens help, if the migrant woman’s a hijab-wearer, in that case, a ridiculous expression is sported by most television reporters.
  • Settings: Migrant women are often filmed and photographed in settings like an isolated mother with a baby in her lap at some refugee center, a hijabi cleaner outside a hotel, a skimpy clad African sex worker standing next to a trash can, a-dyed blondie dragging a cigarette puff at a piazza.
  • Story angles: The migrant women’s integration within European society is demeaning under the human rights frame-work as it’s based on mostly hostile elements like a migrant woman who lured an Spanish because she wanted to get her hands on the Spanish citizenship, Jus sanguinis which does not allow a child born to Cigani in Oslo to become Norwegian and so on.

What’s often missing from the media reporting is a simple  consideration that most migrant women have no other choice. Without having the proper language skills of their new country, migrant women are immediately categorized as unskilled workers regardless of their academic laurels (educated migrant women are forced to re-validate their educational degrees with their home country consulates and sit for fresh examinations as per requirements of their host country), which many are unable to do so. Many have no options but to accept the exploitative labor niches such as menial labor, domestic work, and sex work. 

And the local media plays a “not-so-subtle” role in the demonization and degradation of  migrant women. It is time to stop regarding migrant women as a problematic threat to European nation’s wealth and citizens’ rights, but to start viewing them as a source of inspiration. It is hoped that the “continental denial” of the migrant women’s strength and resilience will happen sooner than we think.

5 thoughts on “Patronized Imagery of migrant women within the European media

    • Indeed it is ironic and it is appalling to see minor-girls being sexually abused within their own countries, when the narrative is usually bordering on how high are these incidents in nonwhite communities within the EU and nonwhite parts of the world.
      I continue to monitor European media, telly, radio and print that are full of heroic stories of nonwhite women being saved by white knights, will be following up in coming time with more stories.


  1. Oh, dear, just to clear something up. I don’t agree with western focus on what women wear. Actually I find it irresponsible. What I actually meant is that the west distracts itself from its own problems on how women are treated in the west. Yes, I agree fully that women are people who need to be seen as whole beings, and it is rude for the media to make inferences on people, or to assist that people fit in with western (and therefore dominant) values.

    We were in agreement. I think I didn’t express my point clearly though.


  2. I like the focus on what migrant women wear rather than who they are. We did a course which included western focus on what muslim women in particular (and women in general) wear, as though the west doesn’t have difficulties with the way women are treated without casting its eyes else wear and being critical.

    There’s quite a lovely book on Identity in America after 911, and the way the media started to portray Arabian women as helpless victims of a dominant masculinity, if you are interested. It’s by Naber and it is called Race and Arab Americans before and after 9/11: From Invisible Citizens to Visible Subject.

    Thanks for the post!


    • Thanks for your feedback and also sharing the information about this book, I will definitely try to read it.
      Well, you are quite welcome to your opinion and I can imagine the western interest, but I am really sorry to reinforce my point from the said article that I dislike the obsession and fixation of the western media on “what Muslim women wear as it focuses on the hijab obsession, wifely, homely and so on demeaning, degrading and condescending narratives. I travel across the world to represent my country on intl. events, but am always boggled by the mentality of western media because rather than they ask me about my presentation, or research they are always fixated to know if I wear jeans in Pakistan?
      The EU media is full of negative reportage of Muslim migrant women focusing the victimized states. Those like me that don’t wear the hijab and are not conforming to the usual brown, meek native covered women type, hardly make the news all in the name of freedom of speech and media.
      Thanks and now I am surfing through your blog! S


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