Gender Constructions in Daily Newspapers – a Comparison of News Coverage in Austria, Germany and Switzerland

Media portrayals of gender – textual as well as visual – can be understood as cultural constructions that continue the process of symbolic and social construction of gender. In Western societies, masculinity and femininity have been increasingly constructed as opposites since the 18th century. Although this gender polarity continues to permeate all areas of life and topics to date, masculinity and femininity have become more multifaceted in the mass media meanwhile. Moreover, although gender-specific attributions of properties are stable across national borders, there are intercultural fluctuations in the extent of stereotyping. Professional orientations and practices in different sectors of the newspaper market (e.g., tabloid vs. quality newspapers) also affect the portrayal of women and men.

Inspired by deconstructionist gender research, this project seeks to clarify how masculinity and femininity are constructed today in and by the mass media. In order to identify potential influencing factors on media portrayals, a quantitative content analysis compares news coverage of daily newspapers in three German-speaking countries (Austria, Germany, Switzerland). The broad media sample includes the national market leaders in the segments of tabloid, regional and national quality newspapers. In addition, the daily newspaper „Austria“, launched in 2006, is examined, whose self-image explicitly states to stand for a modern female role model.

The study breaks new ground by not limiting itself to a specific group of actors (such as politicians), but covering all important newspaper divisions (e.g., politics, economics, culture, miscellaneous) and thus actors from very different societal areas. In order to grasp genre constructions as completely as possible, both text and images. It aims at identifying diverse and multifaceted gender constructions that are recomposed from traditional female and traditionally male attributes.

Collaborators

Birgit Stark (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria)
Melanie Magin (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria)
Susanne Kinnebrock (U of Vienna, Austria)

Funding

OeNB Anniversary Fund

Project Duration

2008-2010