Gender, leadership and online news : How Scottish young people perceive constructions of women political leaders and digitally-mediated politics

Barty-Taylor, Miranda and Koller, Veronika (2020) Gender, leadership and online news : How Scottish young people perceive constructions of women political leaders and digitally-mediated politics. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This research examines attitudes among young people in Scotland towards women politicians. I analysed constructions and self-constructions of women leaders in online political news and the leaders’ reception by Scottish teenagers. I conducted Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis of digital representations of three party-leaders: Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale. I analysed semantic agency conferred via verbal processes, social actor representations and images. The leaders were predominantly constructed using verbal processes with a high level of semantic agency. These progressive constructions were undermined by instances of gendered discourses in clickbait headlines, images, reported speech and embedded tweets. Digital practices in news-generation affects representations of gendered power in new ways. The leaders’ self-constructions differed substantially; Dugdale used fewer agentive processes than Sturgeon or Davidson. The focus group data mirrored this; Sturgeon and Davidson were perceived as strong leaders, Dugdale as ineffectual. I presented digital stimuli to Scottish young people in focus groups to elicit discussion about the leaders and digital politics. Stimuli foregrounding hegemonic gendered representations elicited similar responses. Yet participants positively evaluated the leaders’ debating skills, signalling a normalisation of women in the public sphere, and read passion as synonymous with power, suggesting that conventionally defined characteristics of femininity are being recoded from ‘weak’ to ‘strong.’ Participants were knowledgeable about digital image-management. Their observations of authenticity were recurrent regarding ‘staged’ photographs, public speaking skills and politicians tweeting. They also displayed understanding of the motivations and impact of content-creators’ choices in online news. They held strong opinions about Twitter as an inappropriate site for political debate. Overall, encouragingly, numerous hegemonic representations were resisted by both content-creators and young people - but women leaders’ symbolic exclusion from authoritative leadership has mutated into online discursive news practices. Strategies may be identified to regulate genre conventions and digital practices to construct women without relying on gendered discourses.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? genderleadershipdigital literaciespolitical discourseonline newstransitivity ??
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12 Jun 2020 16:05
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:51