Her Story, Her Words: The Media’s Influence
By Christian Coleman
In place of their male counterparts, women in politics are more prone to facing discriminatory media coverage due to the lack of underrepresentation, stereotypical behavior such as the portrayal of a woman as the “damsel in distress” when faced with opposition and precarious decisions as well as the objectification, ageism, and online harassment. With the continuous disadvantage of stereotypical media coverage, it does not help that a woman’s appearance and demeanor are more scrutinized than the men before them. The disinformation released to the constituents of political candidates during their campaigns is more than not skewed toward women of color, moving the country backward instead of forwards.
The question of biased media coverage of women’s political campaigns has been examined and studied for decades, most recently in 2020. This particular study amassed nearly 100 categories of discriminatory behavior towards women which includes coverage of private and family life, candidate viability compared to men, and horse-race coverage. The Nieman Journalism Lab brought attention to a missing discriminatory behavior – the perspectives of women for office on their own and not alongside or with the support of a man. This was highlighted by Andrea Lorenz who’s a researcher at the University of North Carolina. Lorenz managed to interview 37 women who sought out candidacy between 2016 and 2020, titled “‘Minimal’ and ‘biased’: An intersectional analysis of female candidates’ perceptions of their local news coverage.”
Media coverage of female candidates in regard to local campaigns resulted in salient and “skeletal” media coverage. Surprisingly, this was not the cause of candidates being bothered by the lack of media coverage. It is more so surrounding how journalists perceive them without putting all the puzzle pieces together to form a complete picture. Holding journalists accountable would make them aware of the discrepancies in the information that is funneled to them. Lorenz’s study showed that discriminatory writing was targeted toward women of color and women working in blue-collar professions. Many individuals in the research study also revealed that the media coverage did not hinder their campaign because of the workarounds they crafted alongside their team. Diversity in the world of journalism has the potential to lead to less offensive material being published due to source misinformation.
The Journal of Communication published “Gender Differences in Political Media Coverage: A Meta- Analysis” in 2020. The paper utilized “86 studies in 66 publications and covering over 3,500 women politicians in over 750,000 coded media stories” to showcase the media’s attitude towards women vs. men in the political arena. It was discovered that there is gender bias present in the world of journalism against women, where politicians receive 17% less coverage and TV outlets are more likely to cover stories compared to the newspaper. In countries such as New Zealand, Venezuela, and Germany, gender-biased coverage is less prevalent where both men and women are on a level playing field. Studies as such are conducted by women more than half the time, followed by gender-mixed teams, and all male teams fall
behind in last place.
Overall this article aims to shed light on the evident gender bias reporting on female candidates and
politicians compared to males in the era of modern-day media. The focus on a woman’s physical appearance, professional background, and emotional responses, among other discriminatory behavior distracts eligible voters from the real issues at hand. Alongside individuals in a society, it is just as important to take into consideration the way journalists share information to the general public, to ensure unbiased engagement.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hey, I’m Christian and I’m currently a graduate student in Washington, D.C. I’m most passionate about advocating for mental health, increasing access to higher education, and promoting equality in the workplace. Outside of education and advocacy I’m an avid book reader, traveler, and coffee lover!