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CHAPTER THREE LITERATURE REVIEW OF EXISTING SCHOLARLY RESEARCH ON MEDIA REPRESENTATION OF FEMALE POLITICIANS
Literature review is basically concerned with providing background and context of a researcher’s work. The major pre-occupation of literature review is particularly to examine scholarly research that already exists within an area of study and it is the researcher’s role to identify existing gaps. In this section this study examined literature that concerned the representation of women in the media. Thus Chapter 2 presents a critical review of existing literature pertaining to the representation of female politicians in newspapers. This study specifically assesses the way female politicians are represented in the newspapers in the Third Chimurenga period in Zimbabwe. The chapter is made up of three distinct sections: media representation of female politicians in general; media representation of female politicians in Africa and media representation of female politicians in Zimbabwe. This study sought to verify the hypothesis that the various newspapers active in Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2008 projected gendered images of female politicians that discouraged women from entering the world of politics while influencing society to treat existing female politicians as inherently alien to that social domain. This period was marked by the so-called Third Chimurenga (Third Liberation Struggle). Zimbabwean women and their interests and movements were likely to be marginalized by the media during that period as it was characterised by violent land seizures associated with the FTLRP as well as the unprecedented power contestation between ZANU PF and the MDC. The media generally omitted narratives about women or trivialized issues considered ‘feminine’ in the pursuit of the more ‘male’ issues of governance, political power and ideology and the economy. The period under study was generally characterized by a paternalistic hegemony in Zimbabwean society and particularly the media.
The number of female politicians did not necessarily increase because the attitude of the society and the media had changed. On the contrary, the advent of the MDC brought with it a number of female politicians within its ranks. Secondly, the introduction of new legislative offices, such as the senatorial positions, that did not exist before ensured an increase in the number of female politicians though they were still out-numbered by their male counterparts in more or less equal proportion to the 1990s. Proportionally, therefore, the percentage of women had hardly grown in comparison to that of men. The ZANU PF ideological framework of the Chimurenga, which sets the Zimbabwean revolution apart from all others in the region and the world at large, re-called discourses of the war of liberation, which was, by and large, a male preserve (Nhongo-Simbanegavi, 2000; Chung, 2006; Chogugudza, 2010).
Studies of representations of women politicians in other parts of the world is the beginning of the review as it provides a general context for more specific review of representations in Zimbabwe. Studies of female politicians in other societies inspired the present study’s concern with Zimbabwean media images of Zimbabwean female politicians, a setting that had received scant academic scrutiny prior to this present study. The frames examined in this study as well as its general theoretical framework and methodology also derive from existing literature on media coverage of female politicians.
Representation of female politicians in general
Scholars have generated significant amounts of literature on media representation of female politicians. Several studies are reviewed in this section in order to locate the present study within the broader context of global research on the coverage of female politicians in the media.
The title of Maria Braden’s (1996) book, Women politicians and the media, perfectly echoes the topic of this present study, which is “female politicians and the media” in Zimbabwe.The most obvious difference between the two is the site of the research: 1980s-1990s America for Braden and early 21st century Zimbabwe for this present study. Beginning with biting irony – the title of the first chapter of the book reads “going forward, walking backward” – Braden (1996) makes the point that American women politicians are yet to come to terms with the fact the press has always and perhaps will always treat them differently from their male counterparts. Arguing that women politicians need to accept that they need press coverage, whether good or bad, to progress in the careers, she writes:
More than a century later, women politicians are still discovering what (Susan B.) Anthony had learnt – that journalists often ask women politicians questions they don’t ask men. The reporters describe women politicians in ways and with words that emphasise women’s traditional roles and focus on their appearance and behaviour. That they perpetuate stereotypes of women politicians as weak, indecisive and emotional. That they hold women politicians accountable for the actions of their children and husbands, though they rarely hold men to the same standards (Braden 1996:1).
This contention summarises Braden’s thesis about media coverage of women politicians. In her opinion, the media is generally sexist in its coverage of female politicians, with the difference among the various publications being less in the attitude than in the form of the sexist discourse developed by each publication. These forms range from blatant sexism, such as drawing the attention of a female parliamentarian to the fact that her new neighbour is an ‘eligible bachelor’, to more subtle discourse strategies whose net effect is to diminish the stature of women politicians or imply that “women are anomalies in high public office” (Braden 1996:1).
Braden (1996) argues that a publication’s stance on gender – to be biased or to practice balanced objective reporting – depends less on the society within which that publication exists but on that publication’s chosen worldview and value system as well as the worldview and value system of the individual reporter concerned. Thus, media houses do not necessarily seek to ‘mirror’ society but to influence it to adopt their own worldview and value system. Society is thus at stake in the dogfight between the various media houses that operate within it. This is what explains the fact that, despite the many victories and milestones in the fight for the emancipation and empowerment of women in broader American society, the media still continued to be biased against women politicians in that society. Braden (1996) thus believes that media houses set agendas on women politicians more or less independently of established social norms and values. This research interrogates the representation of female politicians in an African, particularly Zimbabwean context. The cultural norms within this set up in which women value their role as mothers and wives may not necessarily result in the same outcomes as those in Braden’s book. This is generally because culture normally has an implication on outcomes in the treatment of women. Braden’s notion is problematic as it ignores the obvious fact that media practitioners are not independent entities perfectly insulated from society which they 72 manipulate like rival puppet masters but that they are products of that society with the privilege to select values and worldviews from within that society to propagate. The difficulty of characterising media houses as detached from society is almost immediately confirmed by the contradictory assertion that women politicians have been portrayed in accordance with societal expectations. She argues that, at a time when American society expected a woman’s place to be in the home, “newspapers of the day reflected that cultural expectation” (Braden 1996:4). She notes that this expectation was even mirrored in media house practice where women journalists were generally confined to societal news
– “hearth and home” columns” written for women–while “the rest of the paper was male turf, written by men for men” (Braden 1996:4). This, in essence is the media mirroring dominant tendencies in society.
A historical overview of the relationship between the American media and women politicians further illustrates the close link between general societal expectations about women in general and media attitudes towards women politicians. Throughout the 20th century, therefore, the American media reminded audiences that women were essentially meant to occupy the domestic space, so that even successful women career politicians were covered first and foremost in terms of their roles as wives and mothers. While this finding may reflect dominant contemporary thinking about women in the US, it may not be representative of other cultures, such as the expectations of African women. For instance, whereas many African feminists do not see motherhood and occupation of public decision making positions as mutually exclusive, Western feminists have separated and differentiated these two spaces. As a result, the findings of the present study may not be identical to Braden’s (1996) as the worldviews that determine perceptions of women’s empowerment vary from culture to culture, country to country and continent to continent (Cheater, 1986).
Chapter Two of Braden’s book reports that, in 1916, pioneering Congress woman Jeannette Ranking virtually received no press coverage because society deemed her chances of success next to nil in this male preserve: “In so doing, the newspapers reflected the views of many people, who refused to believe that a woman could be capable of serving in Washington” (Braden 1996:19). The dynamics of context may create differences between Braden’s findings and those of this present study. The status of patriarchy as a single hindrance to the careers of female politicians may not be as representative of other cultures particularly Africa and Zimbabwe. Trust in women as leaders cannot be primarily the stumbling block for female politicians in Africa. This is primarily because, in rural settings where the vast majority of Africans live, pre-Christian traditional worldviews that regard the mother and motherhood as the foundation and central pillar of the home still prevail. For instance, in Shona traditional culture, women have the final say and even have veto power in such important private and public matters as marriage and the choice and coronation of a chief or king. One of the most powerful institutions in Shona (and Bantu) traditional culture is that of tete (husband’s sister or father’s sister) who has the final say in the choice of a chief or a king as well as in the marriage of a son or daughter of the family. The power and authority of tete, vamwene (mother-in-law), or amai (mother) are redoubtable as they derive from the ancestors and are therefore spiritual and uncontestable (Manyawu, 2012). For this reason Braden’s findings cannot be universalised.
Braden (1996), however, shows that women can also influence the media to cover them more positively. One way of achieving this is for women to enter the political fray and actually win elections. For instance, after Jeannette Ranking won her congressional seat despite the media blackout on her campaign, there was a dramatic change in the way newspapers dealt with [her]”; suddenly, “the press couldn’t get enough of her” (Braden,1996:20). Another way is by assuming influential positions in media houses, such as what happened in America during the two world wars when men went off to fight, leaving women to run newspapers as editors and journalists. This contention has to be regarded as reflective of specific contexts such as the one that Braden (1996) discusses. The African situation is different in that, in the continent’s poor economies, many aspiring female politicians do not have the financial wherewithal to fund meaningful electoral campaigns against male rivals who are generally better funded because of the legacy of a patriarchal socio-economic system inherited from European colonialists. African female politicians are therefore more likely than their counterparts in western countries to find it difficult to mount successful electoral campaigns in the face of hostile media.
Another factor that worked in favour of women was technological advancement. Braden (1996) posits that the advent of radio in the 1920s brought the world of news to spaces traditionally occupied by women, such as the home, enabling women to finally take an interest and participate in politics. Women could also take part in radio programmes, as did many women’s groups that saw the opportunity to reach out to women through the medium of the radio, away from the male-dominated print media. The print media could also not ignore the effect of radio on popular thinking about gender in general and the participation of women in politics in particular and so changes gradually took place in print media coverage of women politicians in keeping with shifting value systems social attitudes and expectations.
The present study retains from Braden (1996) the notion that media images of women politicians are products of worldviews existing in society. All that media practitioners do is choose the worldview that best suits their individual and organisational interests and agenda. However, women are not entirely passive, but can actively help shape the way the media represent them. It is, however, important to note that political ideology in itself has little bearing on media attitudes towards women politicians and that these attitudes derive from deeper lying and more durable value systems than political persuasion, such as patriarchy (Braden, 1996). However, a concern of this present study is to establish the effect, if any, of political orientation on media coverage of female politicians in the polarised political environment that was early 21st century Zimbabwe.
In the article, The media’s war on women: gendered coverage of female candidates, Ryan (2013) identifies media representation as one of the major factors in the marginalization of female politicians in the US. In her research Ryan (2013) assessed The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Daily News of New York, New York Post, Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, the Denver Post, and the Dallas Morning News. She constructed a corpus consisting of 400 and analysed a 50 story sample. She focused on women in their roles as Senators, cabinet members, wives of presidential candidates, and as presidential candidates. While Ryan’s study focuses on ten newspapers and analysed 50 stories published within a six month period in the US, the present study uses content analysis to examine the representation of female politicians in three (3) Zimbabwean newspapers over four electoral years. Ryan’s (2013:20)
methodology was structured thus:
Each article will be coded according to six major aspects of gendered news coverage: mention of dress or appearance, discussion of male versus female personality traits, mention of husband or marital status, discussion of female versus male issues, talk of “running as a woman” or use of novelty labels, and mention of political background.
She contends that, “The gendered coverage inevitably affects the outcome of the campaign because it is one of the most influential sources of information for the public” (Ryan 2013:13). Women continue to be trivialised through structural, societal and institutional spaces. This poses challenges for women that aspire to be in politics and more so those involved in election campaign. Women are frequently subjected to gendered coverage which undermines their capabilities and potential as politicians. Consequently, gendered coverage by the media remains one of the major barriers of female politicians’ success in politics.
Gendered coverage involves the use of traditional stereotypes to confine, discredit and disadvantage women as able politicians. This mode of representation makes use of trivialisation of female politicians through focus on marital status, appearance, education and health care issues. These discourses are carefully crafted to undermine women’s contribution in public spaces, especially those that deal with important issues such as foreign affairs, the military and finance. Women are generally regarded as unable to occupy these positions that are traditionally considered as masculine.
Ryan (2013), however, contends that women are not universally affected by these stereotypes. There is evidence that media is less gendered as women move from legislative to executive offices. This is contrary to what was the case in previous decades due to changing culture of the media. She (2013) however contends that derogatory language has remained consistent principally for women running for presidency, a position that is perceived to be traditionally male. She argues that, although there is evidence of a marked difference in the way female candidates were covered in the 1920s and the 1990s, women are still represented less favourably than men.
According to Fowler and Lawless (2009), “the media exerts a powerful influence over the type of political information that reaches voters”. Ryan (2013:14) further adds that,
The media reflects what the public has established as its norms and when a story breaks those norms, the subject will most likely receive negative or less coverage. When women run for office, they break the gender stereotypes we have both for women and for politicians. In turn, the media perpetuates this novelty frame in negative media attention or by giving female candidates less coverage than their male counterparts.
Therefore, society, is more often than not influenced by the way media expresses issues that concern women. While the categorization in the treatment of female politicians is already noticeable in the US, Africa still generally stereotypes female politicians in the same manner. This means that there is no distinction in terms of treatment between seasoned and upcoming female politicians.
Ryan (2013:15) also discusses frames and argues that there are two major types of frames in the media. These are frames in communication and frames in thought. Her argument is that frames in communication make use of “words, images, phrases and presentation styles” by a speaker. Frames in thought refer to an individual’s understanding of a situation. From the way they are structured and constructed frames in communication tend to shape frames in thought, known as framing effect (Druckman, 2001). Ryan (2013:15) argues that, Frames point to what people experience in their everyday lives. On another level, framing entails selectivity of what should be included or excluded concerning the involved subjects. The implication is that the electorate gets filtered information from media, especially concerning politics and candidates. In the constructions, if the media leaves gaps in their stories the voters use their lived experiences to fill in the missing links. As a result, the people resort to traditional stereotypes that are often used by society which in most instances disadvantages women. Though there disadvantages, Kahn (1992) cited in Ryan (2013:15) contends that this sometimes works to the advantage of women as voters view women as more transparent and honest than their male counterparts.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background to the study
1.2 Justification of the Research
1.3 Research Aim
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Research Objectives
1.7 Relevance of the topic to the discipline of communication
1.8 Scope of the Study
1.9 Limitations and constraints of the Study
1.16 Chapter Organisation
CHAPTER TWO THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 Representation Theory
2.2 Agenda Setting Theory
2.4 Double Bind Theory
CHAPTER THREE LITERATURE REVIEW OF EXISTING SCHOLARLY RESEARCH ON MEDIA REPRESENTATION OF FEMALE POLITICIANS
3.1 Representation of female politicians in general
3.2 Representation of female politicians in Africa
3.3 Representation of female politicians in Zimbabwe
CHAPTER FOUR RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
4.1 Qualitative Research
4.2 Qualitative Content analysis explored
4.3 Research Design
4.4 Unit of analysis
4.6 Sampling Techniques
4.7 Data gathering methods
ANALYSIS OF THE REPRESENTATION OF FEMALE POLITICIANS IN THE KWAYEDZA WEEKLY NEWSPAPER
5.1The motherhood and wifehood frames
5.2 Female politicians as inadequate and unfit politicians
5.3 Double bind dilemmas in the representation of female politicians
CHAPTER SIX ANALYSIS OF THE FINANCIAL GAZETTE WEEKLY NEWSPAPER
6.1 Female politicians as mothers and wives
6.2 Female politicians as inadequate and unfit politicians
6.3 Double bind dilemma in the representation of female politicians
ANALYSIS OF PRIVATELY-OWNED THE STANDARD WEEKLY NEWSPAPER
7.1 Female politicians as mothers and housewives
7.2 Female politicians as inadequate and unfit politicians
7.3 Double bind dilemma in the representation of female politicians
8.0 General media representation of female politicians
8.1 Representation of female politicians in the three newspapers
8.2 Media and party political ideology
8.3 Language and representation of female politicians by the three newspapers
8.4 Female politicians and media ownership
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