Bicentennial Preliminaries: Aboriginal Women, Newspapers and the Politics of Culture

By Greenfield, Cathy; Williams, Peter | Hecate, November 3, 1987 | Go to article overview

Bicentennial Preliminaries: Aboriginal Women, Newspapers and the Politics of Culture


Greenfield, Cathy, Williams, Peter, Hecate


Now that Aborigines are becoming more politically powerful, a certain proximity has been forced on white Australians, a cultural and political proximity to a race which hitherto has been kept distant. Political issues such as land-rights, access to medical, housing and legal facilities, alternative education, writing of history, and so on, have tended to force people into new understandings. Talking about specific issues disrupts the usual ways of talking about Aborigines as a totality.(1)

Introduction

This article is concerned with some recent print media images of Aboriginal women and with the politics of ways in which one particular cultural medium constructs and positions Aboriginal women as `newsworthy' individuals in `human interest' stories. More specifically, we are concerned to discuss these images and positionings in the range of historically produced and socially organised contexts leading up to the 1988 Australian Bicentenary with its theme of `Living Together' in a consensual, multicultural society. Informal content analysis of Australian daily newspapers would seem to indicate that during 1987, the year leading up to the Bicentenary, there has been a quantitative increase in the number of reports on and photographs of Aborigines generally and Aboriginal women in particular.(2) The particular print media incorporations and presentations of Aboriginal women at once register their political significance on a dominative surface of visibility for what might be termed the Bicentennial national-cultural agenda while also managing the conditions of visibility, positioning and ordering of elements of this agenda in specific and important ways that make very little space for the negotiation of Aboriginal self-presentations.

This works as consistent, culturally authoritative pressure which simultaneously disregards and discounts the possible effects of newspaper reportage and accompanying images on their large and diverse readerships. As a `mass' medium, widely selling and effectively monopolistic, newspapers are often dismissed as merely pandering to the social `lowest common denominator.' The effects of such cultural products are often regarded as transitory; as tawdry and insignificant appurtenances of `the information society'. It is our contention, however, that the print media repetition over time of a definite and limited range of ways of seeing Aboriginal women can be expected to have material social effects and outcomes. The widespread repetition of these particular frameworks for seeing and thinking about Aboriginal women may close off competing and contradictory ways of addressing the various sorts of social relations in which Aboriginal women are actually inscribed.

To work in this way is to take up themes previously elaborated in Hecate. For instance, Jackie Huggins wrote of the multiple discriminations to which Aboriginal women have been historically and continue to be socially subjected:

Today women's status has been changing, their prestige and opportunities increasing more rapidly than men's. Aboriginal women have continued important work roles. But, of course, to add to the disadvantage of sex and class, Black women carried the additional burden of racism. Women have been prominent as workers, office-bearers and spokespersons in Aboriginal lobby groups and pressure groups arousing public awareness of Aboriginal needs. Women have also participated in the various State and Commonwealth consultative bodies, along with many men.(3)

Newspaper narratives and photographs often contribute to effectively racist and sexist constitutions and positionings of Aboriginal women while at the same time marginalising the politicality of many of their activities.

Neither of the writers of this article can claim to speak for or on behalf of Aborigines. However, our critical distancing and analysis of the possibly sexist and racist effects of recent print media images and (re)presentations of Aboriginal women may, hopefully, help to clear a space into which Aboriginal self-presentations can be worked up and placed as a contribution to the transformation of the ways in which social identities such as those of Aboriginal women are publicly and dominantly produced and used. …

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

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.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

Bicentennial Preliminaries: Aboriginal Women, Newspapers and the Politics of Culture
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?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access 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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.