Sex Basis in Media

Published: 2017-11-22 11:24:05
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Objectives

Main Objective

To analyze the language on media coverage of the 2016 presidential candidates; Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Specific Objectives

To analyze two online newspapers, The times and Wall Street Journal on language bias in representing these two presidential candidates

To understand the impacts this language bias has on the polls

Literature review 

One of the most confusing grammatical terminologies to understand is gender. Most linguistics and non-linguistics have found great interest in studying this field. Notably, Corbett (1991) states that as one study the term in depth, the more they are motivated to continue with their research. Further, he suggests that gender is pervasive and central to some languages unlike in others. However, to the linguistics, one core specialty is that there is always an interesting aspect of studying gender in different areas (Walsh, 2016). Most definitions of the term ‘gender’ describe it on sex basis which distinguishes an individual as either man or woman. In line with this research is the issue of genderlect which is defined as the pattern of expressions and terms that describe a specified situation or function (Viskova, 2006). Therefore genderlect distinguishes the male and female speech. While most linguistics base their research on genderlect, it is important to consider some of the features defined by this term that distinguish the issue of gender in the language (Weatherall, 2002). These features include hypercorrection, over reporting, politeness, aesthetic and favor among others. According to the Halliday’s linguistic theory, lexis or vocabulary is a core foundation of the ideational structure (Bergvall, 2014). This means that in a particular language, vocabulary reminds the culture being communicated on various aspects such as concepts, objects, and relationships. Vocabulary, therefore, has a structure which is not easily recognized on the surface.

Considering language, gender, and US politics, two main aspects come to play. First is the issue of women underrepresentation in all the social aspects. Secondly is the issue of over-emphasis of the female gender in the issue. Fox and Oxley (2003) are of the opinion that it is impossible to comprehend the dynamics of election without putting into consideration the role of media in molding the opinion of the public. Notably, most of the US citizens will depend on the media for information affiliated with the candidates (Litosseliti, 2014). Most importantly to note is the fact that the media is diverse which includes the TV, and online newspapers. It is apparent that once the media selects the information it conveys to the public, such an inherent action can shape the political landscape and public opinion (Coates, 2015). Besides, most people agree that the media has the power to influence the perception of people and groups as a result of the way they frame the stories. It is also important to note that the cultivation theory while focusing on the influence of TV to the public states that continuous watching of the television will acculturate the public not only with the specific beliefs but assumptions regarding the society (Maas, Arcuri & Suitner, 2014). In line with this, the question that arises is that of media bias against the women. In the current political landscape, it is essential to note that there are several barriers to women as they run for office. Another factor to note is that although media bias may not influence the poll outcomes directly as seen in the current US opinion polls where Clinton is still leading; there is an issue of sexist media coverage which is a contributing factor to internalizing the norms affiliated with gender (Cameron, 1998). As a result, other women running for similar positions may be discouraged.

One major aspect that plays a role in this issue of media bias is that of under-representation. The sexist language is one of the reasons behind women underrepresentation in the government as well as the history of their oppression (Allen, 2016). According to Jamieson on her book ‘Beyond the double bind’, women have faced double binds which include being placed in a no –win situation. This book traces the origin of this culture and attributes it to the biblical theology; that of the original sin (Viskova, 2006). Although the modern society would disagree with such a fact, Jamieson argues that language remnants persist on the way we conceptualize the role of women in our society. An example of binds in her book is that of the dual role of women dubbed ‘womb/brain’. According to this bind, women would either have children or exercise their intellect but cannot perform both. However, in the modern world, women have been allowed to access education as well as have families. According to Falk (2008), since the nineteenth century, most women have made a move towards running for the presidency. Accounts estimate that more than 100 women have run for the presidency until now. However, only a few of these individuals received a comprehensive funding and press coverage. According to several scholars such as that of Meeks (2013), media coverage of several women has significantly improved such as that of Elizabeth Dole, Claire McCaskill among others running for both executive and non-executive posts. This research shows that these women received more coverage although it cannot be compared to that of men. However, this coverage was centered on gendered issues, gendered traits and novelty labels which are more than their male counterparts. In considering one of the situations pertaining gendered language, a study on Elizabeth Dole in 1999 revealed that although the overall quantity of coverage in the newspapers and articles did not differ between Elizabeth and her male counterparts, there were portions of paragraphs on Dole that focused more on her personal traits while in general, the issue of policies was not put into consideration.

Gap and expected outcome

Although various studies have been conducted to address the issue in research, the Clinton race to the presidency is special as she becomes the first woman to probably win the elections. Besides, it is essential to critically analyze a specific media and in particular the online newspapers which have been covering the entire process since Hillary and Trump launched their presidential interests. By the end of this research, it should be evident on the role of Journalism on gender language bias. Additionally, I will show how gender-bias language has an impact on the social aspects of the modern culture which is based on the gender equity. 

Methodology

This study will entail an analysis of two main online newspapers, The Times and Wall Street Journal. To conduct a conclusive study, the critical discourse analysis will be used which views the use of language as a social practice (Fairclough, 2013). Notably, social practice is tied to historical contexts. The critical discourse analysis is used to address the concerns attributed to special interests. Among the questions addressed by CDA include positioning of a text, interest being addressed by the positioning and the interest being negated. Fairclough deviced the CDA model based on three core dimensions. These include analysis of the object, the process by which the object has been produced and received and the socio-historical conditions governing these processes (Fairclough, 1995). Fairclough further suggests that these three dimensions have specified analysis. While text analysis is done through description, processing is conducted through interpretation and social analysis is by explanation. The selection of this model in this research is based on the fact that it allows the researcher to select a text, analyze it by identifying its positioning and making the right judgment about it (Janks, 1997). It is essential to describe the three dimensions as defined by Fairclough. The first dimension which is the analysis of the object entails the verbal and the visual texts. In this study, it analyses two newspapers which are visual texts. The next dimension is the process of introducing, receiving and producing the text. In this approach, this dimension refers to the writing and designing of the texts in the newspapers. The final dimension is that of socio-historic condition governing the process. In this research, therefore, as a social historic condition, it is the historical imbalance between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump since their announcement on presidential bid. 

Another crucial aspect of Fairclough’s CDA approach is providing multiple analytic points of entry. As a matter of fact, it does not matter where one begins so long as by the end of the research, they have identified an explanatory of the text (Fairclough, 2013). One of the key requirements in this approach it the ability to identify the disjunctions and patterns which need to be described explained and interpreted. While unpacking the text, this research will put into consideration that it is not always possible to obtain the meaning directly from the textual signs (Viskova, 2006). One of the core advantages in using Fairclough’s model is that it allows the systematic analysis of the gender language and the power contained in the text. Also, as a researcher, one has the ability to systematically examine the following aspects in a text; transitivity patterns, use of the passive and active voices, mood choices, themes contained in the text structure, focus of the information, and lexicalisation. It is also important to note that it is not possible to analyze the entire content of the text as this is time-consuming. 

Conclusion

The issue of Gender language and bias by the media has been in existence especially on matters pertaining politics. In the US, this scenario has been experienced in the past with cases such as that of Elizabeth Dole in the 1999 primary elections. However, Hillary Clinton is in the race in what seems to be a winning battle against her Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Although Clinton is leading the polls presently, it is essential to critically analyze the effect journalism plays in the issue of gender language. This research, therefore, proposes to analyze two online newspapers, The Times and Wall Street Journal. These newspapers have been selected based on the fact that they have been covering the entire process since the announcement of the two candidates’ presidential bid. Upon completion of this research, it will be an additional to the existing studies especially since it is founded on the most recent situation. Also, this study is unique since, for the first time in History, America is about to produce the first female president against all the hurdles of gender-based language and issues. this researchwill be conducted through critical discourse analysis, a model devised by Fairclough which aids linguistics to analyse texts.

References

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