Gender Bias in American Online Newspaper Language

Published: 2017-11-22 11:17:16
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Abstract

One of the most challenging issues not only in the modern society but for decades has been that of gender-biased language. Women have been under-represented especially in the media, an aspect that still subjects them to undermining and being rendered inferior. At the center of this issue is the media which continue to express male chauvinism in their content. The concern becomes dire when it regards politics and affects women wishing to run for both higher executive and non-executive posts. In most cases, a major challenge has been the focus by the media on women personal traits rather than their policies. Various scholars and studies have been done on the issue such as that of Elizabeth Dole in 1999 primary elections where it was noted that the media, particularly the newspapers focussed more on her personal traits rather than policy (Heldman, Carroll & Olson, 2000). This research is therefore based on one of the greatest historical aspects in the American presidency, the race to white house between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A unique aspect of this presidential race is that Hillary Clinton is a strong opponent to the male counterpart Trump. This research explores the aspect of gender bias in two online newspapers Wall Street Journal and The Times. In addition to language bias, this research explores some of the impacts this has on the polls as Americans approach Elections in November this year. This study will employ the use of Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), the three model approach. This method is selected based on its ability to analyse different texts and identifying their position regarding the matter. It is expected that the findings will contribute to the existing study on the gender-based language bias in the modern society.

Background information

The dynamics involved in research regarding gender has extended to the issue of language bias. In the modern society, language bias has shifted from the former perception of language being spoken by women to language about women (Dittmar, 2015). This shift has raised concerns across various realms from economic and social perspectives to politics. Notably, most countries have embarked on the issue of gender parity where there is equity in the distribution of roles. As a matter of fact, the world today is focused more on empowering women by giving them a higher role in the society. However, there has been several concerns still on the issue of language and a Dale Spender suggests in his book Man Made Language (1985). An intriguing thesis regarding culture is that men have taken control over language and in most cases there are more positive words used to express issues affiliated with men than it is for women (Ordway, 2016). For a long time, language has been the foundation of various aspects including social reality. However, powers of language as a tool have been relevant on how the world for a long time has considered women as deviant and inferior. The perpetuation of women representation confirms their inferiority, especially in the social institutions (Ali, 2008). Therefore it is imperative to consider studying deeply on the issue of language and the impact it has on women and whether it is possible to address the gap of gender based on language. Various linguistics scholars have done in-depth research on the issue, and they believe that it is possible to get rid of the gender-based expressions while creating new terms and words that avert this concern.

One of the core issues that forms the primary basis of this research is that of US presidency. For the first time in history, there is a woman candidate in the final round of elections who represents the Democrats and as noted in the current debate is that Hillary Clinton is still the most preferred candidate to most Americans (Bush, 2016). Rivaling the Republican representative Donald Trump, one of the core concerns is the issue of how gender plays a part in this election. As the country moves towards making history, probably the first woman president of the United States, several challenges affect Hillary Clinton’s journey such as discrimination because she is a woman. Notably, since 1937, support for a female president has immensely increased from 37% to the current 95% from all the white citizens (Dittmar, 2015). Although Clinton gathers most of her support from women, the male gender has also pledged its support to the vibrant Clinton. On the other hand, one would question the role of journalism in the support offered to Clinton and whether it is likely that the media can affect the presidential polls in general elections (PBS NEWSHOUR, 2016). Also, one would not only question the use of language by the media in covering the entire situation but also, the issue of gender and presidency. Still, there are people who do not believe that a female president could lead them and some would rather support a falling course and pledge their vote to Trump. Some of the major factors I am concerned about include overemphasis by the media whenever it is reporting about Hillary Clinton on phrases such as ‘first woman presidential candidate.’ 

Language extends beyond the issue of over-emphasis of terms and expressions to the underrepresentation of this gender. As noted in the current US statistics is that women make up more than half of the US citizens although when it comes to representation in the media, only 24% involves women (Ordway, 2016). According to the Global Media Monitoring Report (GMMP), only 24% of the people in the entire population have heard about women. Although some leaders and personnel in the media industry affiliate this number to the shortage of women leadership in the newsroom positions, it has been noted that by 2015, women comprised 35.3 per cent of the newspaper representatives. Women media center, on the other hand, noted that 64 percent of the on-camera appearances and headlines went to men in the US top 20 TV networks, online news and websites. One of the major sectors that am concerned about is the online newspapers which cover every bit of information regarding the subject of the road to US presidency, 2016. My concern is on two leading online newspapers which are The Times and Wall Street Journal. The reason for selecting these two platforms is their 24-hour coverage of the issue and how they report it. I am mainly concerned with the language these newspapers use and whether it has an effect on the US presidency polls in the long run.

Research Problem

This study is aimed at addressing the issue of language bias in American online newspapers and in particular the issue of US presidency between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Although Clinton is considered as the leading candidate currently, I believe that there is language bias in her representation in the newspapers; The Times and Wall Street Journal. Most importantly is that I am concerned with studying the impact this language bias has to the polls. My study is based on two research questions

Is there an element of language bias affiliated to gender between the representation of two presidential candidates; Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?

If indeed there is language bias in the two online newspapers, what are the most likely impacts on the poll results in November’s elections

sheldon

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