Media Representations of Women Politicians in Australia and New Zealand: High Expectations, Hostility or Stardom
Senior women politicians are a novelty, receiving enormous media attention. They have had to deal with high expectations in the media and other political institutions such as Parliament. This essay examines media portrayals of women politicians in Australia and New Zealand. It argues that the media embrace women quickly and fully early in their careers, but attack them very fiercely when things go wrong. The media creates elevated hopes around them when they enter the political arena. Initially, these women can do no wrong as the media raises them on a pedestal. Those who cannot meet the high expectations, however, fall from the pedestal and are often attacked or trivialised. A more recent development, particularly by the Australian media, shapes women into stars, promoting them as personalities. The women themselves may encourage or welcome the celebrity tag. The minute they make mistakes, however, they are judged harshly. I argue that media representations of women’s political styles illustrate perceptions about politics that continue to reflect entrenched gender norms. One-dimensional media portrayals do little to challenge these norms. Setting up false distinctions of femininity and masculinity contributes little to pushing women’s interests on to the political agenda.
Policy, Organisation & Society