Tough Choices: News Media Accounts of Women Union Leaders

By Muir, Kathie | Hecate, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Tough Choices: News Media Accounts of Women Union Leaders


Muir, Kathie, Hecate


Tough Choices: News Media Accounts of Women Union Leaders

The 1990s saw a revival of feminist interest in analysing news media representations of women in political positions.(1) In part this was probably due to the rise in numbers of elected women politicians and the concurrent achievement of leadership positions by women in political parties and other membership based organisations, including trade unions. Women's increased entry into elected positions was accompanied by an increased scrutiny of women's experiences and responses to their experiences by representative organisations such as unions and political parties. Gender made it onto the policy agenda although it has not yet achieved a central priority.(2)

Women citizens want more women in public life and, as audiences of news, they want more information about the personal beliefs and experiences of their elected representatives. This audience interest is important to news producers who seek to increase their audience share (particularly amongst women) to compete more successfully for advertisers. Public and media interest in how women perform as political actors has increased the amount of news coverage of their actions and stories about their personal lives. The traditional association of women with the private sphere, and their `novelty' value, may account for some of this emphasis on the personal. It also articulates with the general trend in news reporting to increase coverage of the personal lives of public figures, sometimes referred to as the `feminisation of news,'(3) as part of a strategy to increase the appeal of the news to new audiences, particularly women.

In this article I will argue that the opposition of women to politics, which lies at the heart of many of the difficulties women experience as political actors within the public sphere, is sustained and circulated by particular emphases in media representations of women as political actors.(4) This has significant implications for women trade union officials as well as for women elected politicians. Women within trade unions face a double challenge in attempting to communicate their achievements, credentials and experiences. Not only are they always already positioned as outsiders through their gender, but the traditional conventions of news reporting position trade unions in opposition to the presumed interests of audiences.(5)

I discuss news media representations of Jennie George as ACTU president to illustrate (and to some extent document) the problems women leaders face in combating the masculinised culture of the union movement, and indeed of public politics generally. Media representations also compound the problem by re-inscribing George's femininity and difference from the masculine norm -- positioning her consistently as the Other.

Multiple Differences

In the 1870s and 1880s the Australian union movement believed it was creating the working man's paradise. It developed a strong masculinist organisational `monoculture'(6) despite political and factional differences between unions and variations in the specific models of unionism across industries, areas of work and states. The traditional culture of the trade union movement is combative, shaped in part by its origins in defending workers against employer exploitation and in acting assertively to improve workers' pay and conditions.(7) But this culture has also been informed by beliefs about working-class masculinity and the appropriate ways to assert, and to defend that masculinity in the face of threats to one's interests as a worker and/or as a man.(8) As Carmel Shute has argued, `unions rely on an emotional dynamic which requires men to assert their strength. Militancy and masculinity have become conflated.'(9)

The historical emphasis on the physical strength of blue-collar workers, their necessary toughness and their militancy in pursuit/defence of their interests,(10) articulates with a number of myths about the `good union official' (for example one who works extremely long hours, prioritises work over family, and wears ill-health as a badge of honour). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Tough Choices: News Media Accounts of Women Union Leaders
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.