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"Welcome to 2018": Resisting gender inequality in social media discourse

Wiens, Meghann (2018) "Welcome to 2018": Resisting gender inequality in social media discourse. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Through talk and text, people can both create and undo social realities (Edwards, 1997). People have the capacity to produce discourse which perpetuates hegemonic, patriarchal accounts of women, so they should be able to recognise and challenge it (McKinlay & McVittie, 2008). The present study investigates comments on social media in response to the pregnancy announcement of Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s third female Prime Minister, in January 2018. Ardern’s case is notable as her pregnancy makes her gender highly salient as she occupies a leadership role commonly viewed as ‘masculine’. Research has established that women are evaluated differently to men in leadership roles and are viewed as either warm and incompetent, or competent and cold (Hall & Donoghue, 2013). Representation of women in political leadership is therefore only one step toward gender equality as the underlying structures maintaining sexism need to be challenged. Comments were examined using a synthetic approach to discourse analysis (Wetherell, 1998) to determine how they resisted gender inequality talk. Two themes of resistance emerged from the corpus. Firstly, commenters employed devices that accounted for opposing views as outdated and not the norm in modern society. Arguments were bolstered by presenting factual accounts, diminishing the relevance of sexism, and isolating opposing views to individuals rather than society. Secondly, working motherhood was normalised. This was achieved by focusing on fathers, de-gendering ‘parents’, and reducing personal stake or interest. The comments examined here embedded radical feminist views into mainstream conversation and worked to undermine gender inequality talk by making alternative accounts robust and available.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Supervisor(s): Hastie, Brianne
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