The Debate over Caster Semenya

MDIA2002 Media Analysis Article 2

Kostas, Carolena z5061221 F10A


The Debate over Caster Semenya


Olympians are known to be celebrated by their nation and by their fans, however, issues often arise over the fairness of competition, be it doping or other means of cheating. This in particular has affected South African 800m Athlete, Caster Semenya who has hyperandrogenism, (a medical condition characterised by excessive levels of androgens, male sex hormones such as testosterone, in the body and the associated effects of the elevated androgen levels) and thus a global debate has occurred over how to treat hyperandrogenic athletes.


With an influx of current media representations surrounding hyperandrogenic athletes competing in the Rio 2016 Olympics, Caster Semenya is in a position of intense scrutiny following the debate whether it is fair to allow her to compete or to bar her. “South African Athlete Caster Semenya reportedly under armed guard at Rio Olympics following safety fears” by Benedict Brook for and “Caster Semenya 800m Rio Olympics: Most sensitive race of Games as South African star runs” by Tony Harper for FoxSports, advance similar viewpoints and offer insight into the different perspectives and world views held by authority, athletes and sports fans alike regarding this ethical issue. The personal viewpoints are not advanced by each author, rather the reader’s need to conclude for themselves, after careful consideration of the evidence put forward through use of quotes from figures with relevance to athletics and the sporting world.


A myriad of opinions is portrayed through news stories and there is no conclusion yet on how to treat Semenya’s case in regards to her competing as a woman who is hyperandrogenic. Semenya’s athletic career has been put at stake since the IAAF launched an inquiry into her gender in 2009 after she won an international title at age 18. Semenya has been characterised as an athlete with extraordinary talent but the question remains, is she too fast for a woman? The general attitude represented by authority and sporting figures is that at the heart of the ethical debate, she has grown up and identifies as a women however further research needs to be made to determine if she has an unfair advantage over athletes who do not have her condition. Thus the sensitive issue of her competing at the Rio Olympics continues.


Author Benedict Brook from provides a balance of quotes for those in favour of Caster Semenya competing and those who believe she has an unfair advantage, this positions the audience to better understand each side of the argument before making their own conclusions. Brook’s use of emotive language portrays the issue of the sensitivity of her competing, as displayed in the quote; “Fearful of disquiet from the fans of rival runners spilling over into physical violence they have beefed up Semenya’s security.” Whereby he insinuates that the events currently unfolding in Rio are very controversial. After introducing the current situation in Rio surrounding Semenya, Brook then appeals to authority and ethical social norms, by recounting facts that arose about Semenya’s gender. “A leaked medical report said the athlete has internal testes a condition called hyperandrogenism which naturally increases levels of testosterone. This, in turn, can aid in the building of muscle — essential for an elite athlete.” Through an appeal of emotive language coupled with facts, Brook’s argumentative support justifies the claim that Semenya may have an unfair advantage competing against other women which highlights the generalized attitude people hold when they first hear about Semenya. Generally, the media portrays hyperandrogenism in female athletes in a negative and unfair light and thus Brook argues against these presumed representations which can have a profound influence on the general sporting readership’s opinions of Semenya competing at the Rio Olympics. In this instance, Brook has characterized Semenya as a muscular athlete with uncertainty into her gender, however still implicitly evaluating the case that surrounds her in a justified manner.


In order to present a balanced argument to ensure his readers can come to an educated conclusion, Brook includes quotes to express the opinion of Semenya’s rivals and her supporters, and in this way does not not advance his own opinion on his readers. Drawing firstly upon the opinion of competitors; “Rivals say they would be labelled a drug cheat if they topped up their testosterone to the levels of Semenya and she has an unfair advantage,” he emphasizes the sensitivity of the debate through emotive language. In contrast, Brook immediately goes on to provide the alternate viewpoint; “But supporters say whatever condition she may have, she is still a woman and should be able to compete as one. They say the furore is more because she doesn’t fit the stereotype of what a female athlete should look like.” By providing this balance of arguments, Brook coaxes his audience to make their own opinions by appealing to a comparison, to influence how his audience is informed. Although the argument over whether it is fair to let Semenya compete is a slippery slope, Brook’s strategy is to appeal to different opinions to enable his readers to make their own conclusions and viewpoints. Authors often employ this technique throughout a multitude of media representations in order to not impose their own opinion on their readers. Brook deals with for and against arguments in a manner that suggests his readers have significant understanding of the controversy and that although Semenya may face potential harm, the benefit to society is that they can conclude in an informed manner, whilst respecting the rights of an individual. Although the media portrayal of Caster Semenya is varied and with a certain degree of indecision, as no conclusion has yet to be made by authority, they still afford the debate to be interpreted by their own audiences.


Furthermore, Brook again withholds imposing his own opinion on his readers by including quotes from athletes and authority to support the comparative argument he is attempting to portray. Sports fans have the capacity to respect the opinion of other Olympian’s, and thus Brook appeals to his audience in the quote, “In July, British Olympian Paula Radcliffe told the BBC: “When we talk about it in terms of fully expecting no other result than Caster Semenya to win that 800m, then it’s no longer sport. It’s not just Caster’s rights but all the women with elevated testosterone that need to be balanced with those that don’t.” Brook then goes on to support his argument that a unanimous decision across authority and sporting figures is yet to be made by appealing to facts in, “But a 2016 paper by the American Medical Association poured cold water on the suggestion testosterone would make enough of a difference on its own to support exclude those athletes. “Many factors, favourable genetics, height, muscle type… contribute to competitive success in sport.” This style is employed by authors in order to allow their readers to come to their own conclusions and to ensure their articles are free from their own bias. Through using an evaluative claim, Brook appeals to ethical and social norms as the readers are able to form their own understanding of the issue and then pass their own judgment. An appeal to authority and popular opinion, allows Brook to share the same underlying world view as his readers and supports the claim that a decision has not yet been made by authorities whether it is fair to continue to let Semenya run. As Semenya’s current position has been evaluated by athletes and authority, the readers can understand that Brook has implicitly demonstrated the representational effects of a controversy in sport that has spanned over many years.


Author Tony Harper from FoxSports provides more perspective into the debate over whether it is fair to let Caster Semenya run as a hyperandrogenic athlete. Harper’s article appears to be firstly centered around the fact that Semenya has a right to run and is in favour of her. This is exhibited in the large amount of quotes firstly in favour of Semenya before presenting the other side of the argument. This positions the audience to firstly take on the stance that Semenya is within her rights to run as she is, before allowing them to comprehend whether this ethical debate should result in her being barred from competition. Again the author offers alternate viewpoints to enable the audience to be educated in either side of the debate before coming to their own conclusions. Harper firstly appeals to emotion through an almost sarcastic tone in, “Semenya, the so called intersex athlete, has divided the sport’s fans between those who feel her biological make-up is merely the luck of the draw and those who feel her participation is unfair on her rivals,” by which the words “so called” and “those who feel” deliberately evoke an emotive response in the reader.

Furthermore, the word choice of ’those who feel’ is a direct appeal to the audiences’ emotion as they are subsequently called upon to reflect on their own emotions on the matter. Harper appeals to popular opinion through the inclusion of an athlete’s viewpoint; “It’s a hard situation … This goes beyond sport to the human being,” John Steffensen, an Australian Olympian born in South Africa, told Fox Sports Australia.” As the issue about Semenya translates into the sporting world, as well as being an ethical and moral debate, readers can respect John Steffensen’s opinion as a fellow athlete who has also competed at the Olympic Games. Authors who write about controversy in sport often provide a recommendation claim to appeal to their audience. In this instance, Harper has justified his principle claim that Semenya’s participation is a difficult argument to make conclusions on which creates a relationship between the reader and author. Although Harper does not mount his own argument into his article, he employs quotes that evaluate Semenya in order position his audience to respect the different opinions presented. Through inclusion of quotes from the public consensus against that of a respected athlete, Harper promotes the generalized view that after careful consideration of facts and ethics, one is able to form their own opinion of Caster Semenya.


Authors employ rhetorical questions to intentionally allow the readers to question their own viewpoints as well as the matter at hand that they are reading. Harper additionally appeals to consequence and emotion through the use of rhetorical question in, “This so clear cut and so decisive, she can win the Olympic Games and not run really well,” Bideau told the Herald Sun. “It’s ridiculous but that’s the rules, what can you do about it? It’s not her fault, it’s just unfortunate.” This quote is from Nic Bideau, a coach of Australia’s Rio track team and thus the readers are able to respect the opinion of a figure of importance in the sporting world. Rhetorical question is a device that directly appeals to the audience’s own emotions and displays that although the article endeavors to be fair by providing both sides of the argument, it plays on the readers’ emotions and piques their interest. By including quotes from authority, Harper is able to appeal to his readers and further their understanding of the legal matter on Semenya; “The IAAF are researching into this area to see if there are rules that will help women’s sport to remain fair, but hugely complicated and difficult subject, as you all know,” said Dr Richard Budgett.” By including quotes from figures of authority, including scientists and people responsible in research areas, authors are able to invoke attitudinal assessment by positioning the audience to believe facts coming from authority with relation to this ethical debate. Although as Harper writes for FoxSports and the articles from this media outlet are often very emotive and play on the readers’ feelings, he attempts to provide a balanced argument by offering facts and quotes from authoritative figures. Authors will employ an appeal to facts and authority, especially in the instance of an emotive piece, to further the belief of their readership and to sway them to the underlying world views that they or the publication hold. Harper has positioned his audience in a way that they are able to respect both stances on the Semenya debate as opinions from athletes and coaches with a stake in the issue are explicitly demonstrated, as well as the authority presenting their stance on the issue with careful consideration.


Through a journalistic analysis of two contrasting articles that delve into the controversy of Caster Semenya, it is apparent that although there is no general consensus or conclusion whether she should be allowed to compete, the sporting bodies have not been able to make a reasoned decision yet regarding hyperandrogenic women and thus journalists should tread lightly on this sensitive issue. The authors have also positioned their readers to enable an attitudinal assessment of the situation, which in turn results in the public feeling that they should treat the subject with sensitivity. Each article reaches the conclusion that how to treat Semenya is still up in the air, however the readers are invited to make their own assessment on the matter after being presented quotes and facts from both sides of the argument. Both authors position their audience to understand how this is an ethical debate over fairness of sport and the rights of an individual. Through the many appeals that the authors make to their readers, the authors interpret their audience as sports fans with a capacity for empathy and understanding over the controversy that surrounds Caster Semenya. Thus the conclusions that the audience are able to make are reliant upon personal opinion and how each article has affected the readers’ emotions and overall assessment of Semenya. As the readers are encouraged to come to an educated and informed opinion by the end of each article, this provides engagement as well as the influence each author has. Through a comparison of the linguistic devices of appeals to emotion, comparison, authority and facts, it becomes apparent that each text supports that there are varying opinions surrounding Semenya and her competing at the Rio Olympics. Although there is no general consensus held by both authority and sporting fans alike as to how to treat the ethical debate surrounding Semenya, the readers are invited to make their own opinions on the matter. Brook’s and Harper’s articles are both argumentative in their own right and both attempt to provide a balanced argument for their readers, despite the nuanced play on emotions that occurs. As her involvement in the games is imminent and her progression into the final of the women’s 800m remains, the debate will continue likely into the next Olympics in four years’ time. Being for or against Semenya is a real ethical debate that goes beyond the sporting world as it plays into the world view that everyone should be treated equally.





Brook, B (2016) ‘South African athlete Caster Semenya reportedly under armed guard at Rio Olympics following safety fears’,


Harper, T (2016) ‘Caster Semenya 800m Rio Olympics: Most sensitive race of Games as South African star runs’ FoxSports Australia









Media Analysis 4 – Proposal on the debate over Caster Semenya in reference to the Rio Olympics

Drawing upon two comparative online articles, I intend on making the conclusion that although there are many sides to the debate over Caster Semenya (as a hyperandrogenic athlete), the authority has not yet made a decision and thus the public should treat the issue with sensitivity. 

I will be focusing on how each author positions their audience with regards to an ethical debate over fairness of sport and the rights of an individual.

I will be analysing the language techniques employed by each author to best persuade their readers into taking on the underlying worldview. Through the many appeals that the authors make to their readers, I will conclude that the authors interpret their audience as sports fans with a capacity to have empathy and understanding for the controversy that surrounds Caster Semenya. 

Carolena Kostas z5061221

MDIA2002 F10A

The Brock Turner Effect

It’s the case that took the internet by storm, raising questions about the conviction of sexual assault offenders, rape-culture and white-privilege. The Brock Turner case garnered a significant amount of public criticism, represented by a vast selection of media outlets including an official Wikipedia page. and Sydney Morning Herald’s Clementine Ford, Buzzfeed’s Katie Baker, The Independent’s Susan Svrluga have produced varying representations of the case through their ‘views’ journalism or opinion pieces that outline different aspects of each party—the judge, the victim and the convicted. Each piece however brings forward the underlying issues of reporting and sentencing sexual assault that have been scrutinised by the public.

The issue that garnered so much attention to this case is highlighted in Ford’s article that Brock Turner’s charges were lightly punished because he didn’t look like society’s stereotypical rapist. His mugshots were reportedly impossible to find, and all there was of Turner were yearbook photos and content snapshots of his pro-athlete life (Ford, 2016). What the public noticed, was that the ‘sex offender’ under investigation was as a young, promising swimmer on a scholarship at the prestigious Stanford University, with his supportive parents to provide his privileged white background. His dream of being an Olympian which he worked so hard for was apparently tarnished after a scandal with a half-naked girl at a frat party, unleashing the public criticism that Turner’s sentence was a condescending representation of rape-culture (Sklar, 2016).

Brock Turner’s sentence would become a characterisation of the white-privilege society that dominates the justice system, represented by the vast majority of publications slamming Turner’s allegations as offensive, myopic and tone-deaf whilst the victim’s personal letter was moving, powerful and searing (Miller, 2016; Sklar, 2016). The victim herself made it clear that his background and circumstances had significant control over a case which should have been treated like any other rape case—her argument stating that a campus environment, alcohol, lack of criminal history and future prospects shouldn’t alter the grounds of his conviction (Svrluga, 2016).

Source: The Independent [Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in jail in controversial circumstances]
Source: The Independent [Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in jail in controversial circumstances]
Although just one of the hundreds and thousands of opinions written on the case, most authors were quick to present Turner as a convicted felon who received special privileges, through their language and image choices. The Independent’s article in discussion placed Turner’s mugshot before their written piece, the image that was so hard to find amongst all his athletics and yearbook photos.

 Source: The Independent [Brock Turner (Dan Honda/Associated Press)]
Source: The Independent [Brock Turner (Dan Honda/Associated Press)]
The representational meaning of Turner is evident with this powerful image— the low quality, serious facial expression, bloodshot-eyes, grey background, sweatshirt attire, dishevelled hair and image frame that is all so common with mugshots. If this isn’t clear enough, the next photo of him below also represented the circumstances of a guilty defendant—the candid mid-shot moment of him from an odd angle, out in the public in Sunday clothes avoiding eye-contact with what is presumed to be the mass number of journalists and activists trying to capture a reaction.

Evidently, Svrluga wants us to see Brock Turner as a guilty criminal from these aspects of the included images. Where the author wants us to develop a particular viewpoint of Turner and the conviction, there are a few linguistic patterns, similarly identified by Montgomery (1995, p. 245). Svrluga places respectable terms such as “fair”, “smart”, “well respected in the legal community”, “believed” “genuine remorse” in regards to Turner, to “shocked ”and “appalled” by the sentence that shows “guilt”, “shame” causing “hardship” on the victim. What was even more interesting, is that the author began referring to Turner as a “Stanford University varsity swimmer”, “freshman” and even just “Brock Turner” in the lead up to sentencing that caused the scrutiny. The victim, was first described as “a woman”.

To contrast on this, the author then placed statements which led on to refer to him as “assailant”, “perpetrator”, “defendant” or “Turner”, and referred to the “woman” mentioned in the beginning as a “victim”, a “she” and “her” who had family and friends later on. The shift in the vocabulary pattern demonstrates that the author is passively constructing the victimisation of the woman and a shift in blame on Turner (Montgomery 1995, p. 247).

Svrluga uses the appeal to ethics and morality to shift the audience’s attitude from a neutral stance of innocent-until-proven-guilty towards a sex-offender who shocked a nation because of the light conviction he got for the devastating effect he had on another life. She includes a passage from a juror’s letter to Judge Persky that proves the jury did not agree stating “justice has not been served”, and even refers to a letter written by Vice President Joe Biden expressing his anger towards Turner’s sentence, a highly credible source that represents a negative perspective.

By focusing on a sexual assault case as a “what Turner (the convicted) had to lose than what the victim had already lost”, it portrays the idea that circumstances like campus-parties, alcohol, and young elite athletes with bright futures are not rapists, but people who have made a mistake. This in hand reduces the power that women have over their own bodies if what the rapist looks like represents the severity of the situation. Svrluga emphasises this again, utilising vocabulary such as “nice guys” and “the guy next door” to be unsuspicious of committing such a heinous crime.

The article that moved the public so significantly was the 12-page statement read in court by the victim, released on Buzzfeed by Katie Baker. The most profound part for the readers who accessed the article was the page background of the article—a stark block of red space highlighting the intimate details interrogated from the victim to levels that could be considered irrelevant and insensitive. The readers are immediately drawn to the emphases that the case was a constant battle proving the validity of the assault.

Source: Buzzfeed News
Source: Buzzfeed News

Baker’s piece headlined “Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker” is aimed to position the readers to feel empathy towards the affected individual in the title, in which case is the “victim”. Through transitivity analysis, we can see that the linguistic choice here is evident already that the victim is the ‘affected’ party set in a passive tone, focusing on the “attacker” as the actor in the article (Montgomery 2005, p. 247).

Before delving into the actual transcript of the victim’s letter, Baker provides a background summary and again emphasises the position of Turner versus the victim through her linguistic choices.

“The judge said he feared a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner, a champion swimmer who once aspired to compete in the Olympics – a point repeatedly brought up during the trial” (Baker, 2016).

Here, Baker proposes the idea that has garnered this case so much attention—the trial focused on this particular representation of Turner, a “champion” swimmer who “aspired”, because the judge “feared” of the outcome. This brief but positive representation of Turner through emotional and social appeal is constantly discussed by Baker and the majority of authors in the media. Although it represents Turner in a light that is an insult to rape culture and idealises white-privilege, it also highlights how much influence the positioning of a perpetrator based on their background has on the public, which captures the reader’s attention. In a way, the social constructs which cause the gray areas in rape culture and victim-blaming is the same reason why it is also scrutinised and brought to attention in a case like this.

Through the statement told directly to Turner, the victim illustrates the noticeable difference in the allegations of the assault, placing herself from an active actor and agent, to the affected in passive tone. “I liked it because I rubbed his back”, “I was awake”, “I permitted it” and “I wanted it”, she said in active tone, describing what Turner claims happened that night. When she provided her description of the story, she used terms like “my ass and vagina were completely exposed”, “fingers had been jabbed inside me”, “you took away my worth” and “you made me a victim”.

The linguistic changes identified above highlights the significant contrast between the account evident of victim-blaming, versus the account describing the victim’s story. The difference in active and passive tone told from whichever party demonstrates just how effective language tools are in shaping social constructs and our comprehension of them. Language choice itself mirrors ideological choices; the ideology that the victim who deserved it took action herself, and the ideology that the victim was assaulted is described by the processes occurring on the affected (Perccei et al 2011, p. 12).

In comparison to the two articles previously discussed, the Sydney Morning Herald piece written by Clementine Ford emphasised the positive representation of Turner in the media, to demonstrate how social image should not be relevant to criminal conviction. How so? The headline for this article is “Clementine Ford: This is what a rapist really looks like”. Ford’s juxtaposition of the negative connotation of the term “rapist” and the emphasis on “really” against the yearbook photo of Turner builds upon the preconceived idea of what society expects a rapist to look like—social image being a key factor in how justice is served.

Unlike the previous articles, Ford starts off her piece by actively positioning Turner as the agent (in this case, a rapist) rather than the champion swimmer so frequently emphasised by numerous authors. By doing this, Ford positions the readers from the beginning that the assailant is already guilty of being a rapist, playing on the familiarity that society has with seeing a rapist and their assault charges explained. The familiarity of “rapist” and “attacker” to the “survivor” is so strongly constructed that we wouldn’t find anything peculiar if we saw otherwise (Peccei et al 2011, p. 11).

But delving into the analysis of visual tools, it is evident that this photo represents positive interactional meaning and a choreographed modality—this person is a happy chap, and represents himself as so. This is when Ford alternatively draws attention to rape culture, when readers are stunned by the image of the so-called “rapist”.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Source: Sydney Morning Herald

She utilises further linguistic tools in her phrases “The person you’re picturing is almost certainly male, aged somewhere between 25 and 40”, “he might seem quietly angry, with a discernible air of violence about him”, “a ‘scary type’”, “you’re probably not imagining him as wealthy”, “reflected in the way you’ve chosen to imagine his choice of dress”.

The negative representation of her selection of words which is familiar with the representation of a rapist is emphasised as she places the reader as the active audience who are “likely to” and “not imagining him as a wealthy”. The reader is positioned to be the powerful agent, establishing the idea that the audience were more than likely to be doing those exact things (Montgomery 2005, p. 245). This is how ford emphasises the fault in rape culture and privilege from social background, making her perspective clear that what we think looks like a rapist is not always the case—hence why the way you look has nothing to do with being a rapist.

She further asserts her point saying that the people who perpetrate are not usually like Brock Turner. Additionally, the image of a rapist that we constructed is so embedded into our culture that it is difficult to see otherwise (Ford, 2016). As much as we don’t want to have these negative constructs and generalisation dominate our culture, it unfortunately does, and cannot be more clearly emphasised than through the case of Brock Turner.

These articles which portray vastly different angles of the case provide only a small fraction of evidence that society has constructed the image of a rapist to be a scary-looking violent man from a low socio-economic background. Brock Turner’s youthful face and grinning pride represents just how misjudged a rapist can be, when no one suspects people like him, like your neighbour or your brother to be capable of such behaviour. The swarm of media that have brought this to the public’s attention have helped voice the issue of rape culture, campus violence and victim-blaming where justice is often served based on the social image of the perpetrator and the intimate details of a victim’s personal life.

 By Alissa Shin z5087997 PingTian10.30


Baker, J 2016, ‘Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker’, Buzzfeed, 4 June, accessed 30 October 2016, <>

Ford, C 2016, ‘Clementine Ford: This is what a rapist really looks like’, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 June, accessed 30 October 2016 <>

Miller, M 2016, ‘A steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action’: Dad defends Stanford sex offender’, The Washington Post, 6 June, accessed 30 October 2016, <>

Montgomery, M 1995, An Introduction to Language and Society, 2nd ed, Routledge, London.

Peccei, J, Mooney, A, LaBelle, S, Henriksen, B, Eppler, A, Irwin, A, Pichler, P, Preece, S, Soden, S, Thomas, L, Wareing, S 2011, Language, Society and Power: An Introduction, 3rd ed, Taylor & Francis, London.

Vegan Children: A lifestyle choice under social scrutiny

By Alexandra Refenes


There is a certain kind of appeal that surrounds veganism as an alternative lifestyle choice. Excluding the consumption and use of all animal products, this plant-based diet appears to be growing exponentially in popularity. Not only does it offer a healthier lifestyle alternative, veganism is also characterized by its ethical regard for animals and a cleaner world.

Click here for more information about veganism from The Vegan Society.

However, current media representations have placed this lifestyle under intense scrutiny following a number of worldwide cases where babies raised on a vegan diet have been hospitalized due to malnourishment. Is it safe to raise a BABY as a vegan? Experts reveal whether the plant-based diet can be healthy for young children by Stephen Matthews, An Italian baby raised on a vegan diet is hospitalized for severe malnutrition and removed from parents by Mary Hui, Italian baby kept on vegan diet taken into care after being found malnourished by Josephine McKenna and a Vegan mum who allegedly fed baby only fruits and nuts charged published by, offer different perspectives regarding this societal issue.

The general consensus portrayed by news stories in the media is that veganism for children is unethical. Sparking moral debate, media articles question parenting skills and raise concerns about the absent intake of key nutrients that are essential for infant growth and development. Amongst these negative representations, however, there are few opinions that advocate a vegan diet. Some people argue that veganism is not the problem; it is neglect that leads to child malnourishment. Thus the contentious issue of vegan children remains.

In the first article Stephen Matthews offers insight into both perspectives, which positions the reader to consider either side of the argument. At first, Matthews alludes to the negative representation of a mother from Pennsylvania who “was charged with endangerment for feeding her baby nothing but a small amount of nuts and berries”. He couples this with the recent court decision in Italy where feeding children a vegan diet under the age of 16 has been criminalised “after a number of vegan babies were hospitalized for malnourishment”. By appealing to comparison, Matthews is propagating the generalized stigma, which surrounds vegan children. In most media stories, vegan children are perceived as victims whilst their parents are reviewed as unfit guardians. These are assumed representations that have significantly influenced societal opinions regarding the administration of vegan diets for children.

In contrast to this view, Matthews additionally discusses how the media can often create unfair representations in relation to this social issue. Drawing upon the authorial opinion of nutritionist Reed Mangels from Massachusetts, news stories that describe vegan children as malnourished “can be stressful for parents who have done their homework and have to defend themselves time and time again”. Further inclusion of academic opinion from The American Academy of Pediatrics promotes veganism for children by describing how, with dietary planning and research, “it is possible to provide a balanced diet to vegetarians and vegans”. The use of the word possible creates hope for veganism as a positive lifestyle choice for young children. By inviting the reader to consider the authorial opinion of academic sources, Matthews is implicitly influencing his readers to consider other viewpoints. This is a common technique that many authors appear to use through out various media representations in order to remain neutral in their opinion. By including both sides of the argument, this allows the reader to reach their own conclusion about the social issue of vegan children. Although many articles predominately oppose vegan diets for children, they still offer debate that perhaps there are other plausible causes, which could lead to malnourishment. However, the general consensus represented by the media still remains that this lifestyle choice inhibits the welfare of children.

Author Mary Hui from The Washington Post offers further insight into the debate of vegan children in society. Reporting on the hospitalization of a 14-month-old baby from Italy, she writes how the infant was found severely malnourished after being raised on a vegan diet.

“The baby, whose parents allegedly kept him on a vegan diet without providing dietary supplements, was found severely malnourished, suffering from dangerously low calcium levels. Complicating matters, the baby had to undergo an emergency operation because of a congenital hear condition, which was aggravated by his low calcium levels”.

Appealing to emotion, Hui includes words and phrases such as shocked, harrowing, suffering and dangerously low to invoke audience reaction. Painting a negative picture, these linguistic devices used by Hui position the reader to oppose veganism as a dietary option for young children.

The inclusion of an authorial voice in the above statement also creates a relation between the reader and author. Hui asserts her opinion through descriptive language, which essentially influences the reader to share a similar view. Through the use of transitive analysis, this is a passive clause that describes the baby as the affected, the parents as the agent and malnourishment as the process. By including this analytical perspective, Hui is promoting the generalized view that once again, children fall victim veganism as a result of poor decision-making from their parents.

Despite these negative viewpoints, Hui additionally alludes to social misconceptions that surround veganism for children. ‘“Holy guacamole – can we all just stop the madness when it comes to ill-informed journalists claiming that vegan diets harm/kills babies?!’ said a broadside in the Your Daily Vegan. ‘Every year or so, an article enters the world with inflammatory headlines and content about how dangerous a vegan diet can be for infants and children’” she includes.

The explicit language used in this quote attests to the moral and ethical debate that surrounds this issue in society. The use of the phrase can we all also creates a relation between the text and the reader by positioning them with majority of society who seem to oppose vegan diets for children. By referring to articles with inflammatory headlines and content about how dangerous veganism can be for children, Hui highlighting the general view of media representations. The media tends to promote negative perceptions of this social issue, which positions members of society to disagree with this lifestyle choice.

Furthermore, Hui juxtaposes negative perceptions of vegan diets for children by appealing to authority. By including a statement from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, she seeks to promote what appears to be a minority view in the media – that veganism can be healthy for infants and toddlers. This invokes attitudinal assessment by positioning the reader to trust academic sources in relation to this debatable issue.

In a similar manner, Josephine McKenna from The Telegraph also reports on the Italian baby who was found malnourished as a result of a vegan diet. The association between these two stories illustrates the negative correlation between most news articles that are published by the media. By appealing to consequence, these articles illustrate that most cases of vegan children shared by the media communicate negative consequences, rather than positive impacts of this lifestyle choice.

Negative media representations appear to scrutinise the skills of vegan parents, which has essentially become a major issue in society. Including the authorial opinion of Luca Berndardo, director of paediatrics at Milan hospital, McKenna alludes to the idea that veganism does not offer sufficient nutrient intake for young children. In her article, she describes the Italian baby as “severely malnourished with calcium levels barely adequate to survive”. A quote Bernardo suggests that from the moment of birth, the young child “should have had support in this case with calcium and iron levels”.

This is another societal issue that surrounds vegan children. According to The Youngest Vegetarians, “key nutrients whose adequacy should be monitored in vegetarian/vegan diets include vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc (Mangels, 2012, pg. 8)”. However, many media representations communicate that veganism does not offer such nutrients to young children, which are optimal for growth and development.

McKenna further alludes to comparison by referencing other vegan cases that resulted in negative consequences. “It is not the first time that vegan diets have provoked alarm in Italy. Four children have been hospitalized within the last 18 months and a malnourished toddler spent several days in intensive care in a Genoa hospital last month”, she states. By including other cases of malnourished vegan children, the author is highlighting the severity of this situation. This essentially provides the viewer with substantive evidence that perhaps veganism for children should be disapproved. have additionally published a news article that shines a negative light on veganism as a lifestyle choice for young children. Drawing parallels with the first article composed by Matthews, this media text offers negative perceptions of the discussed social issue.

In accordance to court records, the estranged husband of Elizabeth Hawk became concerned after their son broke out in a rash as a suspected result from the baby’s strict diet. Police said that the mother, who had subjected her child to a vegan diet, had “had not fed the child enough for the baby to thrive”.

Representations of the mother through out the article and other similar news stories are severely negative. By including the opinion of a paediatrician who examined the child, this article sees the mother’s actions as “inhumane”. This particular description ignites emotional reaction in the reader and positions them to review all vegan parents in a negative manner. Media representations tend to label vegan parents as neglectful and incompetent, which seems to influence the establishment of societal views regarding this issue.

Court records, which describe the child as unable to ‘“crawl as a result of the malnourishment,’ which also left him developmentally delayed” are grim perceptions that influence the readers opinion of veganism for children.

In addition, the article also states, “Brandy described her sister-in-law’s views on nutrition as extreme, adding: “She was going to live on water and sunlight”.

This statement, which describes the eating habits of Elizabeth Hawk, is testament to majority of media representations that people regard about veganism. As a dietary choice that excludes all animal products, many people in society are under the assumption that veganism involves very little choice in terms of food sources.

Furthermore, Elizabeth Hawk was charged with endangering the welfare of her son after failing to provide him with sufficient food. The extremity of this case promotes societal judgement, as people continue to review veganism for children as a poor parental choice. The legal implications involved in this case also heighten negative connotations that media tend to attach to this societal issue.

Through the journalistic analysis of the articles above, it is evident that media representations of vegan children provoke inevitable public debate. The conclusions reached by each author are subject to personal opinion, which essentially influences the engaging reader. By comparing linguistic devices and the use of authorial opinions, it is clear that each text promotes varying perceptions of vegan children in their own way. Whilst the general consensus may regard veganism as a negative lifestyle for young children, there are still opinions that think otherwise. As this plant-based diet continues to grow in trend, the debate shall continue in relation to determining how young is too young for children to follow this strict diet.


Matthews, S (2016) ‘Is it safe to raise a BABY as a vegan? Experts reveal whether the plant-based diet can be healthy for young children’, The Daily Mail Australia,

Hui, M (2016) ‘An Italian baby raised on a vegan diet is hospitalized for severe malnutrition and removed from parents’ The Washington Post,

McKenna, J (2016) ‘Italian baby kept on vegan diet taken into care after being found malnourished’ The Telegraph,

Author unknown, (2016) ‘Vegan mum who allegedly fed baby only fruits and nuts charged’,

The Vegan Society, (2016) ‘Definition of veganism’,

Mangels, R (2012) ‘The Youngest Vegetarians: Vegetarian Infants and Toddlers’ in Childhood Obesity and Nutrition, vol. 4, no. 1, pg. 8-20.








Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams: the representation of white and black female athletes under the discourse of femininity

Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams: the representation of white and black female athletes under the discourse of femininity

Jiaqi Lu; z5037864

Over the past decade, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are two of the biggest names in the field of women tennis. Besides their remarkable achievements, their “rival” relationship both on and off the tennis court is frequently reported by media, showing a “double-standard” representation of them. Thus, a further examination of how female athletes are represented in media is triggered by the disparity between the stereotypical depiction of Sharapova and Williams, with regard to the underlying social traditions of femininity. The findings demonstrates an underlying notion of femininity based on a rigid set of beauty standards that skewed to the side of white females rather than that of black ones, which further implies the superiority of whites over blacks to some degree.

The first part of this article will explore the stereotypical representation of Sharapova and Williams respectively and make a comparison. By analysing images on the covers of ESPN The Magazine and typical labels attached by mainstream media, it can be argued that Sharapova is depicted in a relatively active and positive way while Williams are more associated with passivity and negativity. The difference between the way media treat the figure of Sharapova and Williams’s reflects the prevalent perception of the ideal woman who is typically blonde with prominent feminine characteristics, further pointing to the assumed inferiority of black females under the conventional ideology of femininity.

The second part further moves to the unequal position of Sharapova and Williams presented by media including them in one item. An image featuring both of them and an article “Maria Sharapova Blasts Serena Williams, Criticises Her Love Life” written by Agence France Presse and published on Business Insider in 2013, are dissected. Again, the evaluation of Sharapova is more positive than that of Williams. This finding further proves the stereotypical view of white females and black females that the former have inherent predominance in the construction of an ideal figure not only physically but also morally.

It is not a fangle that female athletes, as a particular group, are stereotyped by media based on attributes, behaviours and roles that are socially assigned to them. Because media is the primary news source to serve the public, the way they portray female athletes is fully consistent with the way society perceives these women (Shaller 2006, p. 50). For women, being an athlete violates the conventional female role that is associated with passivity, nurturing and subordination, and thus media coverage tends to highlight aspects of “femaleness” rather than athleticism (Knight & Giuliano 2001, p. 219). According to sports researcher Dorothy Harris, “today’s woman athlete has become so trendy, she has now become sexy” (Shaller 2006, p. 51). Under the social constructions of Western society, female appearance matters to male audiences. A man prefers to view a woman with emphasized feminine qualities who is better looking and not portrayed as powerful (Media Report to Women 2002, p. 7). Since target audience of most sports publications consists of male audience, practitioners have to meet their tastes.

Therefore, female athletes participating in non-contact and “sex-appropriate” sports of tennis are preferred to be covered by media (Kane, MJ 1989, p. 107). More importantly, these portrayals presented in different ways exactly mirrors the socially acceptable conception of women’s figures. This point can be well examined in the comparison between covers of Sharapova and that of Williams presented by ESPN The Magazine, an American biweekly sports magazine published by ESPN network.

Maria Sharapova (ESPN The Magazine, June 29, 2009)
Maria Sharapova (ESPN The Magazine, June 29, 2009)

In this cover, Sharapova is wearing a revealing black dress and standing upright at the certer of the frame. Her blonde hair and exposed skin all suggest her femaleness. Meanwhile, she is wearing a business watch without jewels and keeping a porker face. Besides, her head is askew to her right side and turned a bit down. This shot with a slightly lower angle forces audience to look up at her, thus symbolising a sense of dominance and superiority. Meanwhile, the act of tearing the paper reflects Sharapova is portrayed as active in this image and demonstrates the strength and power which are not matched with her dress up. From this point, this image actually presents more masculinity than femininity, in terms of Sharapova’s pose and action combined with her stun facial expression and simple accessories.

Venus Williams (left) and Serena Williams (right) (ESPN The Magazine, 1998-2008 10th Anniversary)
Venus Williams (left) and Serena Williams (right) (ESPN The Magazine, 1998-2008 10th Anniversary)

However, the cover of Serena Williams makes the difference. In this cover, she is wearing a strapless white skirt and luxurious jewels. The half-exposed breasts and body curve highlight her sexiness and feminie characteristic. Notably, she is standing by her sister Venus Williams who is also a famous tennis player. Here, the representation of sisterhood emphasises the personal role as a sister which is socially assigned to a female. What’s more, it can be found that Williams is poised passively without any dynamic behaviour. Her bright smile and bended body suggest her approachability and tenderness instead of strength and power. In brief, the characteristics of femininity are greatly amplified and there is nearly no additional element representing masculinity in this image.

Then, what is at stake here is the factor contributing to the difference of the way media position these two female athletes respectively. For Sharapova’s cover, the editor assumes this Russian blonde is already recognized by audience as an ideal beauty, who bears Western dominant aesthetic consciousness and conventional notion of female characters. Because the editor believes the appearance of Sharapova has completely met public’s inherent anticipation of women’s images, there is no need to exaggerate her feminine qualities. Rather, it is reasonable to attach a bit strength and power to her because the purely sweet appearance and slender figure don’t accord with the orientation of a sports magazine. In another layer, the sense of dominance delivered by Sharapova’s facial expression and pose demonstrates the assumption of audience that they will be comfortable with the superiority from a blonde.

For Williams’ cover, the editor assumes that this American black woman with well-developed muscles and robust body completely violates the stereotypical notion of an ideal woman. Because audience are supposed to think that Williams lacks femininity socially assigned to a female, the editor tries to strengthen her feminine aspects as a woman rather than masculine ones as an athlete. Thus, the sexiness, gentleness and relative passivity delivered by Williams’s smile and pose on the one hand make her more consistent with public’s expectation of a female figure, and on the other hand weakens the stress and fear brought by her significant masculinity.

Serena Williams (ESPN The Magazine, August 19, 2002)
Serena Williams (ESPN The Magazine, August 19, 2002)
Maria Sharapova (ESPN The Magazine, June 20, 2005)
Maria Sharapova (ESPN The Magazine, June 20, 2005)

From this perspective, these two covers further prove the underlying assumption of audience concerning their regular view of an ideal woman. Sharapova and Williams are both wearing a white vest. Apparently, Williams dyes her hair blonde and perms it straight. Since Williams’ cover was published ahead of Sharapova’s, it is unconvincing to assert Williams are purposely imitating Sharapova; but the change of Williams’s appearance does reflect that audience’s preference of the blonde or the “white-like” figure. What’s more, Williams is still portrayed as passive in terms of her undynamic pose. The shot with slightly higher angle makes audience look down at her, which renders a sense of inferiority. With the comparison of the cover of Sharapova that depicting her playing tennis with an overtly aggressiveness, the similarity and difference between two images well prove the underlying assumption that the white have absolute predominance and superiority in the social orientation of a woman, and conversely black women are positioned as passive and have no say in this matter.

Apart from magazine covers, different labels attached to Sharapova and Williams by media also demonstrate the conventional expectation of a woman. Looking at Sharapova first, the following headlines, exacts and image captions selected from mainstream media reflect the fixed view of her figure:

Russian beauty Maria Sharapova lures fans to tennis centre” – 2012 (

  “Russian glamour Sharapova had people swarming to the outside courts to watch her train” – 2012 (News. com. au)

  “Russian beauty, Maria Sharapova, celebrated a winning point, but it wasn’t enough    to defeat Dominika Cibulkova.” – 2014 (POPSUGAR)

“‘I’m confident in my skin’: Tennis star Maria Sharapova opens up on beauty as she poses for Self magazine” – 2014 (Daily Mail)

  “And despite being known as one of the more glamorous female tennis players, Maria Sharapova admits she doesn’t spend much time focused on her appearance.” – 2014 (Daily Mail).

  “But the issue I am raising is that believing Sharapova — the beautiful, glamorous, eminently-likable, Russian-born tennis star — has instantly gotten that much harder to do.” - 2016 (American Council on Science and Health)

Notably, Sharapova is frequently portrayed as “beautiful”, “glamorous” and closely associated with the label “beauty”. The authoritative organization American Council on Science and Health particularly emphasizes Sharapova’s beauty and glamour when mentioning her name, showing that the most significant characteristic of Sharapova is exactly her personal charm and this belief is backed by the authority. Meanwhile, the word “lure” and “had” reflect that people are attracted to Sharapova subconsciously or even unconsciously since she is the active agent performing the action. By portraying her as positive and active, the media make the assumption that the appearance of Sharapova completely fits into the stereotypical conception of beauty in public’s mind and she has the ability to have an influence on them by the virtue of her socially acceptable appearance.

However, the labels attached to Williams are greatly different. She is quite often attached with powerful words or phrases that often imply negativity. For example:

Williams slays Sharapova to reach ninth Miami Masters final” – 2014 (CNN)

This headline involves both Williams and Sharapova. Williams as active agent performs the act of “slaying”. Generally, the term “slay” means “to kill by violence”, “to destroy” or “to extinguish” ( It is often used to describe a murder or atrocity, containing negative connotations. Here, the word “slay” not only alludes Williams’s big lead in the game but also implicitly evaluates her play style as “violent” and “cruel”. Meanwhile, Sharapova is portrayed as a vulnerable “victim”, which gives rise to sympathy. This headline operates under the common narrative of femininity that ties feminine quality to vulnerability. A woman like Williams has muscular body and strong physical power is easily associated with negative terms because her appearance and behavior doesn’t meet the conventional understanding of femininity.

This navigate evaluation of Williams especially evident in the description of her as a “gorilla” or as “manly” made by online commentators. The frequent analogy between Williams and an animal or a man precisely reflects a taken-for-granted perception of black women as inherently unfeminine. As Mary Hannigan said in an article “Serena Williams tramples down Twitter trolls and opponents” published on The Irish Times:

  “There has been an anti-Serena element because she didn’t fit the stereotype of the old-fashioned, elegant white female tennis player. She was big and muscular and black. Let’s be candid about it, there’s been plenty of that sort of unspoken prejudice against Serena.”

This extract well explains why media represent Sharapova and Williams in such different ways. The particular version of blackness as “inherently different from other bodies” makes Williams a typical negative example, especially in the field of tennis that are widely recognized as a white sport. What’s more, her achievements are overly attributed to brute-force attacks rather than other internal factors such as intelligence, professional techniques and mentality. For example:

‘Serena out-muscles Sharapova to reach Open semis’ – 2016 (Pasion Sports)

As shown in the term “out-muscles”, there is a characterisation of Williams’ play style dependent on an old and unreconstructed thought of black physicality, consequently making Williams as a stereotype of “All brawn no brains”.

The inequality of media’s treatment of Sharapova and Williams not only exists in the aspects of appearance but also that of internal qualities, which can be well examined in the following section.

Maria Sharapova of Russia, left,  looks at Serena Williams of the U.S. during the awarding ceremony after her women's singles final loss to Williams at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. )
Maria Sharapova of Russia, left, looks at Serena Williams of the U.S. during the awarding ceremony after her women’s singles final loss to Williams at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. )

This is an illustration of the article “Prediction: Maria Sharapova will stun Serena Williams, snap 16-match losing streak at Wimbledon” written by For The Win’s Chris Chase. Two athletes are positioned away from the centre of the frame. From the camera angle, Williams is located in the foreground and blurred, while Sharapova is placed in the background with a clear profile. This axial configuration of elements not only shift audience’s focus on a single element in the image frame, but also establish dynamic, unequal relationships between a dominant element and other less significant elements in the frame (Bednarek & Caple (2012, p. 167). In this image, Sharapova is singled out in terms of the camera focus although she is in the background. She is gazing upon the championship trophy held by Williams in a depressed mood. The frame of this image reflects that media assume audience are more concerned with Sharapova’s reaction and status rather than Williams’s, even though Williams is the champion. The significance of Sharapova and the ignorance of Williams precisely shows the unequal relationship between two rivals in which Sharapova has inherent superiority as a white tennis player who deserves more attention from audience.

Importantly, the intrinsic predominance of Sharapova in figure construction in the aspect of morality is especially prominent in the hard-news style article “Maria Sharapova Blasts Serena Williams, Criticises Her Love Life”,  published on Business Insider. In this article, Sharapova is portrayed as morally superior to Williams:

Williams, the 16-time Grand Slam title-winner, was forced to apologise for her comments regarding the rape of a 16-year-old girl by two high school American football players in the Ohio town of Steubenville.

  “I was definitely sad to hear what she had to say about the whole case,” said Sharapova, who was defeated by Williams in the French Open final earlier this month.

  “I just think she should be talking about her accomplishments, her achievements, rather than everything else that’s just getting attention and controversy.”

From these three paragraphs, it can be noticed that Sharapova makes a moral judgement on Williams’s inappropriate deeds. The phrase “was forced to apologise for” and “should be” indicate Williams’s passive status and Sharapova’s active position. In this scenario, Williams is assumed to be morally inferior to Sharapova and it is reasonable for Sharapova to judge her. This assumption is evident in the following paragraphs that depicting their debates:

“There are people who live, breathe and dress tennis. I mean, seriously, give it a rest,” Williams told Rolling Stone magazine without naming the Russian.

  “She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ — it’s so boring. She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.”

The arguments of Williams presented here obviously renders unrespect and impoliteness that violate ethical normality, further deepening the old-fashion perception of blacks frequently associated with misbehaviours. Then, the author presents Sharapova’s refutation:

Sharapova, clearly upset at the insinuation, hit back on Saturday at Williams’s romance with her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

  “If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids,” said Sharapova.

Sharapova also discusses Williams personal life in an unfriendly manner. However, by the term “insinuation” and “hit back”, the author portrays Sharapova as a “victim” of Williams’s verbal aggression. Thus, her counterattack is legitimate and acceptable. In this situation, Sharapova’s argument can influence the way audience perceive Williams while Williams is always in the dock. The inequality of two athlete’s position precisely depends on the underlying conception of spiritual superiority of whites over blacks that makes media represent them in different ways.

In conclusion, today’s media represent female athlete based on the socially acceptable traditions of femininity that is skewed to whites – i.e. that the white athlete has absolute superiority over the black athlete both physically and morally. The stereotypical views of an ideal woman pushes media to represent athlete with distinctive appearance and ethnic backgrounds in very different ways. Demonstrated in the example of Sharapova and Williams, the disparity of treatment of a blonde with feminie characteristics and that of a black female with masculine features exactly reflects the assumption of inherent predominance of whites empowered by the public. Although many socialists and scholars criticise media practitioners of this inequality and call for actions to eliminate the significant difference in media coverage, this phenomenon is still prevalent because the cultural standard of femininity and beauty has never been essentially changed.


Bednarek, M & Caple, H 2012, News Discourse, Continuum, London.

Kane, MJ, 1996, ‘Media coverage of the post Title IX female athlete: A feminist analysis of sport, gender, and power’, Duke J. Gender L. & Pol’y, vol. 3, pp. 95-127.

Knight, J L& Giuliano, TA 2001, He’s a Laker; she’s a “looker”: The consequences of gender-stereotypical portrayals of male and female athletes by the print media’, Sex roles, vol. 45, no. 3-4, pp. 217-229.

Shaller, J 2013, ‘Female athletes in the media: Under representation and inadequacy’, The Review: A Journal of Undergraduate Student Research, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 50-55.

‘Women in Sports Not Covered Seriously; Beauty, Sexiness Part of the Package’, Media Report to Women, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 7.



Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The portrayal of a feminist.

by Vanessa Liang Xuan Wu z5079754

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The portrayal of a feminist.

What is a feminist? Who are feminists? Can someone be more of a feminist than the next person? Can males be feminists as well? The word feminist is defined in the dictionary, but there seem to be a never-ending conversation about what it is and what it should be. Despite its relatively fluid meaning, it remains often used in the media as a label. A figure who is no stranger to this label is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is a multiple award-winning novelist from Nigeria who received international fame from the wider audience when her TEDx talk “We should all be feminists” went viral and even got sampled to be featured in Beyonce’s track titled “Flawless”.

In my analysis of the following articles, I will examine how this label is not given but rather earned.

  1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “I Wanted to Claim My Own Name”

Erica Wagner   3 Nov 2015       Vogue

  1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – the feminist who sells make-up

Clare Spencer   22 Oct 2016      BBC

  1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘[Beyonce’s] Feminism Is Not Mine’

Natasha Bird     10 Oct 2016      Elle

  1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Quietly Gave Birth, Refused to ‘Perform Pregnancy’

JE Reich             7 Jun 2016         Jezebel

  1. Award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has had a baby, not that it’s anyone’s business

Lynsey Chutel   3 Jul 2016          Quartz

The dictionary loosely defines feminists as advocates for women rights. They are often found in conversations surrounding the social problem of gender inequality. The almost universal experience of gender inequality, coupled with the portrayal of feminism in media has created a fluid but communal understanding of what feminists should be. Through my analysis, I will argue that the word ‘feminist’ has become a title that needs to be demonstrated with evidence and argued for, according to socially perceived standards.

There is a range of attitudes towards Adichie presented in these articles. Wagner(Vogue), Spencer(BBC), Reich(Jezebel) and Chutel(Quartz) gave Adichie a relatively positive evaluation while Bird(Elle) introduced one of few negative portrayals of Adichie. Despite having differing evaluations, all authors kept to four main portrayals of Adichie, a successful, opinionated, credible and feminine individual. The articles examined largely fall under the category of soft news where there is a mix of quotes from Adichie, external sources as well as authorial impressions of Adichie are incorporated in the piece. Hence evaluations are conveyed both indirectly through implication as well as explicitly through the remarks of the author.


The portrayal of Adichie as a successful individual who is outstanding in character and her pursuits was done both directly and indirectly in the articles. This is extensively seen in Vogue’s feature article on Adichie which is the earliest published out of the bunch that is examined.

              “She’s an award-winning novelist, a TED talk sensation and Beyoncé’s favourite feminist.”

The opening sentence of the article already presents the author’s explicit suggestions of Adichie’s success. While ‘award-winning novelist’ can be seen as an undisputed fact, ‘TED talk sensation and Beyonce’s favourite feminist’ (emphasis added) are definitely superlative descriptions that positions the audience to view Adichie’s achievements as outstanding.

              “She herself is proving to be a major force in the development of local authors: for the past eight summers she and her Nigerian publisher have hosted a writing workshop in Lagos.”

The author further attributes success to Adichie by describing her as a ‘major force’ which implies that she has created significant impact through her long commitment to the local writing community. The mention of Adichie’s service to her community can also be read as praise of her character, in the spirit of selflessness and collectivism, where the audience is likely to perceive as positive character traits.

This is further supported by an external quote from a fellow reputable author Salman Rushdie who described Adichie as “…what was so striking was her own confidence and authority. She very much held her own, and spoke fluently and powerfully, and all of us there that day could see that someone very remarkable had just arrived.” (emphasis added). This can be read as an indirect evaluation, borrowing the reputation of Salman Rushdie and his impression of Adichie, the author paints for the audience a personality portrait that is full of positive traits such as confidence, strength and intelligence.

In the articles that were later published, authors largely depended on explicit evaluations of Adichie’s achievements and her public recognition.


“One of the world’s leading feminists…”

“The Nigerian novelist was well known in literary circles…”


“Lauded Nigerian author and celebrated feminist…”


“Celebrated Nigerian novelist…”

“…one of the most prominent voices on feminism today…”

By conveying Adichie’s achievements in such a undisputable manner, the authors show that Adichie’s success is something that is already recognised by the wider public which is a powerful persuasive tool to convince that audience that Adichie’s success is significant, using the argument of the majority.


The second main portrayal of Adichie that supports the socially perceived criteria of feminists is that of an opinionated and intelligent individual. This can be seen from the heavy use of direct quotes from Adichie in all five articles. This is especially seen in Vogue’s feature article where its structural affordances allowed for long running quotes from Adichie.

              “I was still writing it when I went up to speak, and afterwards, clearly people had listened, clearly people felt strongly about it – but I let it go. So they put it online, and only then I heard about people using it in their classes, about people arguing about it at work and school.”


              “I am a person who writes and tells stories. That’s what I want to talk about. There’s an obsession with celebrity that I have never had. But the one thing I will say is that I really do think Beyoncé is a force for good, as much as celebrity things go. I know there has been lot of talk in the past year about how feminism is ‘cool’ now, but I think if we are honest, it’s not a subject that’s easy. She didn’t have to do this, she could have taken on, I don’t know, world peace. Or nothing at all. And I realise that so many young people in our celebrity-obsessed world, well, suddenly they are thinking about this. And that’s a wonderful thing. So I don’t have any reservations about having said yes.” (emphasis added)

In these long running direct quote, the repeated appearance of the personal pronoun ‘I’ conveys Adichie’s personal voice and viewpoints. Her use of phrases like ‘I am’ and ‘I really do think’ also shows the reader that she is an individual who is self-aware and ready to forward her personal opinion. The presence of these long direct quotes throughout the article also presents Adichie as a coherent individual who is able to speak for herself communicate her thoughts fluently to her audience.

This is further illustrated by regularity which Adichie’s opinion become the title of the articles that are written about her.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘[Beyonce’s] Feminism Is Not Mine’


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “I Wanted to Claim My Own Name”


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Quietly Gave Birth, Refused to ‘Perform Pregnancy’

Adichie is seen to be unafraid to share her original and uncensored opinions despite the possibility of attracting controversy and media attention to herself, which shows an outstanding determination to forward her personal opinions. Adichie’s opinion in presented in Elle is potentially offensive to Beyonce and her opinion in Jezebel may inspire disagreement from other mothers who have engaged in the performance of pregnancy. The author’s disagreement with Adichie’s evaluation of Beyonce’s feminism was what inspired the Elle article in the first place.

“‘Her type of feminism is not mine,’ she says. ‘As it is the kind that, at the same time, gives quite a lot of space to the necessity of men.'”

In response to Adichie’s opinion, the author argues that “The problem is that we’ve enough men and women in the world refuting the idea of feminism entirely, to be able to afford to have in-fighting among those who stand up for the concept.” (emphasis added) From the phrase ‘in-fighting’, the reader can see that the author does not question Adichie’s position as a feminist but still puts forward a negative evaluation for Adichie’s opinion against Beyonce as it is deemed to be contributing to a larger ‘problem’ rather than improving the situation. Adichie’s actions come at a cost that society is unable to ‘afford’.

A less than glowing evaluation of Adichie is similarly presented in the Jezebel article where the author describes Adichie’s decision to keep her pregnancy quiet as a “pointed effort to elaborate the gendered imbalance of ‘performing pregnancy'” as well as a “refreshing take”. This can be read as an explicit evaluation of Adichie’s intent and its subsequent impact. While the evaluation is not obviously positive, the reader is positioned to interpret it positively when it is considered in conjunction with Adichie’s status as a feminist which simply put is an advocate for change. To describe Adichie’s actions as ‘refreshing’ implies that there is something new and different about it compared to the current social norm which fulfils her role and identity and a feminist.

She is also often seen to be adopting a recommendatory tone in her speech which contributes to the construction of an opinionated character in the media.


I feel we need to make a space for dreaminess. But life is short. I’ll say, don’t give up your job. Get up earlier, make the space. If it matters to you, make it matter.” (emphasis added)


I think men are lovely, but I don’t think that women should relate everything they do to men…”

We women should spend about 20 per cent of our time on men…” (emphasis added)

Adichie’s recommendatory tone can be inferred through the use of verbs such as ‘women should’ and ‘we need to’ which signals a recommendation to be followed. Through the presentation of her recommendatory opinions, Adichie is also portrayed as an intelligent and thoughtful individual. This may prompt the reader to consider her recommendations rather than brush them aside as recommendations are often given by individuals who has a certain amount of expertise and credibility in society.

Adichie’s opinionated nature is also illustrated with her ability to assert herself while under the pressure of an insistent reporter. Quoted in both Quartz and Jezebel’s article, Adichie deflects the reporter who asked for her baby’s name with “No, I won’t say.” accompanied with a “disarming smile”. She is known prefer keeping her family life private and away from media scrutiny and her actions corresponds with a pre-existing public image which presents her has an individual who defends her own opinions.


Thirdly, Adichie is presented as a credible figure and an authority on feminism through the use of indirect implication. In the article by BBC, the author uses implicit evaluative terms to elevate and portray Adichie as a figure of authority.

“She advised that raising a feminist didn’t mean forcing her to reject femininity: ‘Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. It is misogynistic to suggest that they are.’

“This lesson – to stop caring what others think – is what she says is the most important thing to pass on to daughters.”

The author foregrounds Adichie’s opinions with implicitly evaluative terms such as ‘advised’ and ‘lesson’ to suggest to the reader that Adichie is in a position who is qualified to give advice and share lessons before introducing Adichie’s actual words. This arrangement may encourage the reader to give higher regard to Adichie’s opinions as she is portrayed as a figure of authority.

Adichie’s credibility is further strengthened with validation from external sources like other feminist thinkers such as Harvard lecturer Phyllis Thompson and Abujha-based feminist Florence Warmate. In the BBC article, the author gives a brief comment that “[Adichie] is taken seriously by feminist thinkers as well” which can be analysed as a direct positive evaluation of Adichie’s credibility but she is quick to justify her evaluation with quotes from two notable feminist thinkers.

“But she says Ms Adichie’s relationship to make-up is very much in line with the “third wave feminism” of the 1990s and current post-feminism, both of which encourage women to do what makes them feel confident, and to take pleasure in their own presentation.”

              “She said that Ms Adichie’s experience of life in America, where she went to study at the age of 19, has allowed her to “take herself out of the [Nigerian] situation and properly analyse it“.

The first quote by Havard lecturer Phyllis Thompson explains and legitimises Adichie’s interest in make-up and fashion which is traditionally dismissed by feminists to be an unproductive social construct imposed on females. This not only strengthens Adichie credibility by deflecting criticism from people who subscribe to older definitions of feminism but it also further supports Adichie’s own sentiments about feminism and femininity that was shared previously.

Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. It is misogynistic to suggest that they are.”

The second quote by Florence Warmate also lends credibility to Adichie’s views on feminism as it suggests that Adichie’s privileged experience has gifted her with a perspective that is uncommon but helpful in forming effective analysis of the state of feminism in both Nigeria and America. Warmate’s comments serves to foreground Adichie’s recount of her experience of moving to the United States. Adichie’s presentation of her contradictive experience and her subsequent resolution gave her an opportunity to communicate her ideals and concept of feminism in a credible and convincing manner as it is based on personal experience. This shows that Adichie is capable of identifying feminism in the everyday and act upon it based on her ideals and convictions.

              “‘I was raised to care about my appearance but when I went to the US I internalised the idea that if a woman wants to be taken seriously, she can’t seem to care too much about her appearance.’ She went back to wearing make-up when she came to a realisation: ‘I don’t really care very much about what anyone else thinks.’

Adichie’s portrayal as a credible authority on feminism is also supported by celebrities such as Beyonce and Lupita Nyong’O and brand endorsements from Dior and Boots. In Vogue, Beyonce claims that “Her definition of a feminist described my own feeling…” while Nyong’O shares that “For the first time I felt that someone had found the words to express sentiments, analyse situations about the rich and varied African immigrant experience, in a way I never could.” Adichie’s success in communicating the experience of two other women of diverse backgrounds increases her credibility as it shows that her grasp and understanding of feminism has wider appeal and application. The brand endorsements are also additional recognition to the mainstream appeal of her idea of feminism.


Finally, Adichie is presented to be a feminine figure in the articles. This may not be the traditional perception of a feminist which often includes rejecting pursuits that are seen as feminine e.g. fashion, makeup, men, bras etc… However, it reflects Adichie’s perception of what feminism should be. As seen in BBC’s article, “She advised that raising a feminist didn’t mean forcing her to reject femininity: ‘Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. It is misogynistic to suggest that they are.’ While in Vogue, she is portrayed to “do all these drawings for [her] clothes”, have “her favourite make-up artist” get her ready for the photo shoot where she is seen “in a neat-waisted patterned dress and teetering lavender heels that are utterly unsuited to the sandy ground”. Adichie’s interest in fashion and makeup despite the fact that it is time-consuming and sometimes impractical as it requires her to “teeter” in heels that are “unsuited to the sandy ground” is presented alongside her success as a feminist.

Another feminine quality that is emphasised in the articles is Adichie’s frequent laughter and smiles. This is especially highlighted in Vogue “You might guess from looking at photographs of her that she is a very serious person, but her laughter comes easily and often.”, “She throws backs her head and laughs.” and “…laughing again.”. Additionally, her attempt at using her feminine charm to disengage the reporter is seen in Quartz and Jezebel where she flashes a “disarming smile” in response to a question that she is not willing to answer. Adichie is shown to have managed being a feminist while being feminine and this persuades the reader to agree with Adichie’s perception of feminism and further reinforces Adichie’s claim to the label of a feminist.

This particular characterisation is further enhanced with the photos that are featured in the articles.











Even in photographs Adichie is shown to have both a serious and relaxed side. This can be explicitly seen from Vogue and Elle who used more than one photo in their article, each featuring Adichie with contrasting serious and smiling expressions. From the pictures, one can easily tell that Adichie is a well dressed and well groomed individual but it does not stop her from being a feminist and engaging in serious intellectual conversation about this difficult topic. This is expressed in the photographs found in Jezebel and Quartz. In Jezebel’s photo, Adichie is seen to be well dressed and well groomed but she is at an award ceremony for Women Prize For Fiction. Her care for her appearance is shown to be not contradictory to her career success and achievement. While in Quartz’s photo, Adichie is shown to have a serious and thoughtful expression while she is getting her hair and makeup done by others. This photo accurately reflects Adichie’s perception of feminism that is portrayed in media and its physical representation by Adichie herself is a powerful persuasive tool for readers to believe Adichie’s perspective and validate her status as a feminist.

With the exception of Vogue, the other articles portrayed Adichie in a close up shot from a level angle. This creates a personal atmosphere that prepares the reader to get to know Adichie as an individual in the article. The use of close portraits also places sole focus on Adichie which suggests that she is someone of certain importance and power, whose words should matter and carry weight.

In conclusion, the media frequently uses the label ‘feminist’ to describe individuals but it remains something that requires justification. As seen from the analysis above, the process of justifying it requires careful navigation between its dictionary definition, social definition and individual definition. The media has constructed a variety of representations of Adichie but analysis shows that they were all working from the same socially defined framework of what a feminist is: successful, opinionated, credible and feminine. Their evaluations of Adichie were similarly based on an agreement that feminism is a desirable positive force in society.



Spencer, C. (2016). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – the feminist who sells make-up – BBC News. [online] BBC News. Available at: [Accessed 3 Oct. 2016].

Wagner, E. (2015). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “I Wanted To Claim My Own Name”. [online] British Vogue. Available at: [Accessed 3 Oct. 2016].

Bird, N. (2016). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘[Beyoncé’s] Feminism Is Not Mine’. [online] ELLE UK. Available at: [Accessed 3 Oct. 2016].

Reich, J. (2016). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Quitly Gave Birth, Refused to ‘Perform Pregnancy’. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Oct. 2016].

Chutel, L. (2016). Award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has had a baby, not that it’s anyone’s business. [online] Quartz. Available at: [Accessed 3 Oct. 2016].


Pauline Hanson and the great Australian debate. – z5075983

By Natasha Banicevic, z5075983.

It was in the year 1994 that Australia witnessed one of its most controversial political figures rise to prominence, and for many years to follow she still imposes her stern beliefs on this land girt by sea. Beneath our radiant southern cross, this proud Australian stands as non-other than Pauline Hanson. With a fluctuating political career, Pauline Hanson has made her 2016 political restoration with a groundbreaking return as leader and senator of One Nation. Over the years, Hanson has provided wealth to the media’s toil with her contentious ideologies and even imprisonment regarding the very essence of -‘what it is to be Australian’. Hanson’s racial statements have kept her in the medias eye for two decades now, but after a quite period, her re-emergence into the Australian political scene has come at a time when radical religion and asylum seekers are a melting pot of society’s current concerns. After several tragic worldwide incidents’ involving Islamic ideologies, Hanson has since become a voice for those in Australia who oppose the beliefs of Sharia Law, and notably those who are in support of groups such as the ‘Aussie Patriots’ who believe Australia should be kept multicultural free. Pauline Hanson and One Nation’s beliefs stand as such – Australia is for Australians and under our constitution only Australians decide our laws and obligations, decide who will enter and live in our country, and decide how we ensure our nation’s safety and economic security.”

After solidifying a seat in the Senate, Pauline Hanson has drawn an abundance of media attention to herself, often labeled chauvinistic and racist. Hanson’s recent appearance on ABC’s Q&A sparked flaming discussion between Australian Muslins and herself, as she voiced her combative opinions and views on the prohibition of Muslim immigration into Australia. Controversy was further ignited that week when Australian television presenter Sonia Kruger supported Hanson’s claims on live television, stating that Muslim 1immigrants shouldn’t be allowed in Australia for the safety of our nation. Hanson’s opinions have thus propelled the media to question if her actions authentically reflect Australian values.

So does Pauline Hanson’s One Nation really have us proclaiming – In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia fair”?


The media has had a significant amount of influence over the representation of Pauline Hanson, as she regularly makes headlines with a controversial statement or idea proposed by herself and One Nation. In regards to her proposed ideologies about Islam, a combination of hard and views journalism, flood the media scope in response to her statements. As Hanson has recently gained a myriad of public responses to her politics, Journalist’s have been approaching the issue mainly through a views piece, as the topic deems so controversial. Many journalism pieces also try to fathom Hanson’s sudden rise in popularity, whilst some completely agree in her beliefs. In saying that, there has been a vast array of hard news articles written from the perspective of Muslim academics that argue their case against Hanson’s public anti-Islam claims. The media’s use of representational techniques used to craft Hanson’s public image, has definitely anchored the Australian publics perception into thinking that she is an inflated racist. By looking at a close analysis of Pauline Hanson’s media representation, with the help of Journalists and Academics alike, one can truly answer the question this nation has battled an answer for – ‘What is it to be Australian?’ Can Pauline Hanson and One Nation really answer this question for Australia?

Firstly taking a look at Journalist Chris Mitchell’s opinion piece, “How journalists should approach Pauline Hanson and Islam,” published in The Australian, Mitchell elucidates the polarised representations the media is crafting for Hanson’s image, which has become a signal for Australia’s rise in a divisive media scope. Mitchell immediately employs descriptive language to personify Hanson and ‘label’ her just as she has a label for many minority and ethnic groups in Australian society. “The redhead from Ipswich is branded quite unreasonably on the ABC but lauded quite undeservedly on talkback radio and Sky News.” Here, Mitchell also reveals interwoven elements of his principal claim as he denotes the polarized views that various media outlets craft in representation of Hanson. Mitchell has also used a strawperson argument to attack the news outlets’ dissimilar representations of Hanson, which has him concluding that the Journalists are at fault for how she is perceived. Thus, Mitchell has written this article to denounce the media’s role in Hanson’s representation, as opposed to entirely placing responsibility on herself for her crafted public image.

In the piece, there is a clear primary claim, that being that the spectrum of media outlets and political candidates (Pauline Hanson) alike need to revise their facts before proposing contentious opinions and statements to the public.

“If only more media megaphones and political campaigners ­bothered with facts before spouting raucous opinions.”

“One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has become a signpost for our increasingly polarised media culture.”

Thus, we are also immediately drawn to see the author’s use of language techniques, as he states Hanson is a ‘signpost’, he has used her position as a symbol for the changing scope of the Australian media spectrum. This instantly positions the reader to see Hanson’s effects of her rise to prominence, as she is not only imposing her beliefs and changes to politics, but on the media as well, which essentially do work hand in hand together.

Furthermore, the author’s constant use of the term ‘big media personalities’, and more importantly the choice of descriptive language – ‘big’, elucidates the author’s opinion that the media have a bigger role to play in Hanson’s popularity and portrayal than they actually think.

“Big media personalities rounding on Hanson’s often naive, poorly expressed views may ­reinforce their own moral virtue, but they only drive support to her.”

The authors use of explicit evaluative and emotive language to describe Hanson, such as ‘naïve’ and ‘poorly expressed’, anchors the readers perception to an illustrated image of an inexperienced politician that doesn’t directly induce hateful comments – she is somewhat misinterpreted. Immediately, the reader connects with Hanson on a personal level, the author has described her in a way that is almost vulnerable, that elucidates the fact that she is too a person, flawed yet exploited by the media. Thus, this highlights the author’s opinion that the media’s representation of Hanson is a combination of her own actions, and their exploitation of her inexperienced nature.

“Both interviews were aggressive and made Hanson look foolish. But those ­interviews lifted her final week polling by about 15 per cent compared with the Sunday before election day.” Here, the author employs emotive language such as ‘aggressive’ and ‘foolish’ to elucidate his anger towards the media’s treatment of Hanson, and in return has also used a post-hoc argument to denote that Hanson’s popularity is being boosted by the media’s exploitation of her naive approach to politics. The author almost gives the audience an excuse as to why Australia is voting for such a controversial figure, amid her racist statements that are very opinion driven.

Moreover, throughout the article the author appeals to facts as he provides authentic evidence to persuade the reader’s mindset in alignment with his own, and also justifies his overall claim with solidified factual substantiation. Again, the author states that Hanson’s political views should be handled by the media purely based upon authentic information, as opposed to their opinion based on their personal morals. The author has employed another strawperson argument to attack the media outlet ABC, as he implies that they are just as inverted as Hanson herself.

“How ironic then that the best funded media organisation in the country, the ABC, has both led the charge to the moral high ground against Hanson on Islam but has since September 11, 2001, had to rely on Four Corners buy-ins from the BBC to cover the radicalisation of Islamic youth in the West.”

“This is how Hanson’s views on Islam should be handled. By looking at the facts.”

 Towards the end of the article, the evaluative nature of the piece is made ostensible, as the author provides his own opinion in regards to Hanson, as he states “Hanson is right that Islam is central to terrorism in this country and around the world. The progressive left does its cause no good with the mainstream when it refuses to engage with that fact.” The author does this to elucidate both Hanson and the media’s lack of utilising actual facts in their arguments when attempting to make valid points. Thus, the audience is left to consider the representation of Pauline Hanson, if it so crafted and exploited by the media, or if it is simply a result of her controversial and racial-induced arguments.

Pauline Hanson is synonymous with the statement – ‘What is it to be Australian’. Every Australian has heard her proudly proclaim this question in almost all of her appearances. The question does leave many bewildered for answers, as majority of the population view Hanson’s beliefs as very ‘Un-Australian’, ‘Racist’ and ‘unwelcoming’, to our multicultural land abound in nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare.

After Pauline Hanson’s initiation into the Senate earlier this year, her controversial arguments projected at Islam and immigration has attracted a vast amount of views journalism, that evoke varying representations of her ideologies that is reflected through her morals and character.

Associate Professor of Islam-West Relations, Halim Rane, published an opinion views piece to the ABC in response to Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech delivered in the Senate in September. The article is titled Pauline Hanson on Islam: When Elected Representatives Think like Religious Fundamentalist’, and aims to breakdown the manifestation of Islamic faith to his audience, as he responds to Hanson’s confronting and direct allegations in regards to the religion – representing her in a persona that is racist and rather ignorant.



The author immediately positions the readers perception to view Hanson in an unprofessional and inexperienced way, as he states her maiden speech ‘wasn’t a polished delivery, she sounded nervous and stumbled on many of her words.’ The use of such explicit evaluative terms such as ‘nervous’ and ‘stumbled’, vividly illustrate a representation that Hanson is unprofessional and unfit to be in the position of an Australian senator. The article is extremely evaluative in nature, as the author clearly delivers his perception of Hanson, and initiates the article with a negative illustration of her political speech as a basis for his overall evaluations in the piece.

Additionally, the author appeals to ethics almost immediately in the article, as he proposes, “…almost all of what Senator Hanson had to say about Islam and Muslims, I found disagreeable, ill-informed and disingenuous.” The use of the personal pronoun ‘I’, strictly evokes his personal opinion that he undoubtedly aims to align with his readers, as he uses explicitly evaluative terms such as ‘disagreeable’, ‘ill-informed’ and ‘disingenuous’, to describe Hanson’s speech and overall character. These terms have been employed by the author as a representational tactic as they are so confrontational it prompts the reader to agree with the author, who is an academic figure, assuming that his evaluations would offer an educated response to Pauline Hanson’s beliefs.

Moreover, the author doesn’t actually begin his article with talking about Hanson’s comments on Islam; he transports the reader’s back to the 1990’s where Hanson’s political speeches focused on immigrants from Asia. “Let’s begin with Senator Hanson’s remarks about being “swamped by Asians.” This is, quite simply, racist and offensive.” The author has provided the audience with this context to clearly show Hanson’s racial slurs in the past, representing her in an ignorant and racist light. The fact that he has provided authentic quotes from her maiden speech such as ‘swamped by Asians’, generates the viewers manifestation of Hanson to be well aligned with the his own, as he has provided actual evidence of her racist remarks. The author has also used a strawperson argument to attack Hanson, stating that her comment was ‘racist and offensive’. By providing his own evaluation, which clearly appeals to ethics, it triggers the reader to also perceive Hanson as a ‘racist figure’ represented throughout the entirety of the article.

In his piece, Professor Rain further extends on Pauline Hanson’s ‘One Nation’ cultivation, and the question ‘What is to be Australian?’ “What’s wrong with Asians? Her statement conveys a sentiment – from the seat of federal power, no less – that Asians are unwelcome and undesirable.” The author thus highlights Hanson’s unwelcoming nature, which totally goes against Australian values, as our country prides itself on the accepting and culturally diverse elements that make this Commonwealth ‘renowned of all the lands’.

Professor Rain continues the entirety of his article solely based on Islam, and provides arguments to Hanson’s claims, based on facts that support Muslim assimilation into Australian society. “As for her claim that Australia is now “in danger of being swamped by Muslims” – again, this statement is racist, offensive and wrong. Muslims comprise between 2 and 3% of the Australian population.” Again, the author has continually used the terms ‘racist’ and ‘offensive’ to describe Hanson’s actions, thus reiterating to the audience that her total representation is one of racism and ignorance, it only thrusts the reader to align their views totally with the authors.

Furthermore, many hard news articles report on Pauline Hanson, but utilise Academic figures to assist in the representation of her character, in a style that isn’t explicitly opinionated and evaluative on their behalf. Published for the ABC, Anna Guest reports on Hanson’s maiden speech in her article, Pauline Hanson making ‘discrimination, racism mainstream’: Islamic Council of Queensland”. In this article, although hard news, there is a clear representation of Hanson essentially ‘bullying’ Muslims and the Islamic religion as a whole, as the article is written from the perspective of how the Muslim community feel, with a large input from Muslim academics.

Although the author does not voice her opinion in regards to the issue, she has utilised the perspective from Ali Kadria – The Islamic Council of Queensland’s spokesman. The author has intergraded quotes from Kadria that represent Hanson in a negative aspect, again, a persona that is racist. “Unfortunately this will make discrimination, racism mainstream”.

“When somebody can stand up in the Senate and say things which are not only wrong but illegal, in the sense that she’s preaching for something which is against our constitution, we have a serious issue because people will see this as a ticket to be openly racist and express opinions which are not only incorrect but immoral.”

 The above statement encapsulates the Muslim perspective to Pauline Hanson’s beliefs, and so do many Australian’s agree that her actions are racist and immoral. The author’s integration of a strong Muslim perspective taps into the reader’s emotions and empathetic conscience. Pauline Hanson is thus represented in a way that attacks minority groups in society, notably the Islamic community in which she feels should be banned from Australian immigration.

 Overall, analysis into the representation of Pauline Hanson in the media reveals a clear pattern that she is viewed in an inexperienced and rather racist light. Some perspectives argue that the media is to blame for her portrayal as they exploit her naive approach to politics and religious ideologies. However, an abundance of articles and media outlets simply claim that she is racist in her intentions and ill informed.

Pauline Hanson has definitely sparked the great Australian debate over the paste two decades – What is it to be Australian? Has the media helped pave the way for her debatable behavior? Regardless of this, Pauline Hanson’s popularity is only growing stronger amongst Australian’s, but does it really reflect the values that this nation was built on?

For now we can only say, in joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia fair.





  • z5075983, Natasha Banicevic, F10A.

Slant and bias in the reporting of abuse in Northern Territory detention centres

In July 2016 “disturbing” footage emerged of a 17-year-old boy, Dylan Voller, being strapped to a mechanical restraint chair at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre near Darwin. You can watch the footage below:

The footage was part of a catalogue of evidence obtained by the ABC’s Four Corners program of the repeated mistreatment of boys at youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. The airing of the footage sparked immediate backlash from the public and numerous media publications. The general view of events, during this time in the news; on morning television programs; on talk-back radio and in newspapers, was that the inmates were somewhat defenceless victims and the guards were very much in the wrong. Whilst it is acceptable for morning television programs and talk-back radio programs to express their views and opinions on the matter – as they are essentially views journalism platforms – it is however not correct practice for straight news programs and newspapers to encode any type of world view into their reporting. In her paper, ‘The linguistics of blame – Representation of women in The Sun’s reporting of crimes of sexual violence’, Kate Clarke explains that news items are designed to be processed through the minds of the reader, they must always be subjective and therefore, conditioned by the ideology of the reader, not the author (Clark 1998, p.211). However, through my analyses of four random news journalism reports covering the issue it is clear that this rule of objectivity has not been followed. The Telegraph, ABC, and the Sydney Morning Herald, through their use of linguistic tools such as naming, transitivity and attitudinal language, combined with their selection of attributed sources, images and facts, have all portrayed and positioned their audience to view the guards in a negative light: By doing this, they have all wrongly encoded their own world view into their reports and have breached the the established code of news reporting conduct with respect to balance and impartiality. Even though I myself agree with this world view, and it may very well be the popular ideology, news articles are supposed to remain objective and is is clear in my analysis that this is not the case in the reporting of abuse in Northern Territory detention centers.  

In her paper, Kate Clarke explains that naming can be a very powerful ideological tool. Different names for something or someone can portray it in a different manner and position it to be perceived in a different way. For example, when news publications report on the mistreatment that has taken place at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, they have a few choices when it comes to how they refer to the people involved. In this case publications can either chose to regard the people involved as either guilty or innocent. Clarke says that naming can be accurate pointer to the ideology of the publications (Clark, 1998 p.212): In anaylsing the four articles I have chosen, it is clear that all the publications share a similar ideology, and that is the people who have been mistreated in the Detention Centre’s are innocent and it is the guards who are guilty.

Firstly, looking at the article from the Sydney Morning Herald, they repeatedly refer to the subjects as ‘boys’ or ‘teenagers’ and do not once use the term ‘inmates’. They also go as far to refer to the subjects as ‘children’ i.e.

“The vision also shows the children running back to their cells, hiding behind sheets and bending over toilets when the gas reaches their cells.”

 It is important to bear in mind some of the subjects who have supposedly been mistreated are in fact seventeen years of age, therefore ‘children’ is an interesting way to refer to them. It could be said that the Sydney Morning Herald chose to use this name because ‘children’ is an emotive hyperbole that requests sympathy. Further analysis of the other articles show a pattern of this sort of sympathetic characterisation. News Corp also frequently uses the term ‘children’ and chose to include a quote from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who says:

“I was shocked by the images and treatment of children.”

 The ABC selected ‘boys’ as their name of choice and also refereed to the subjects as children. Once again there is no mention of the word ‘inmate’ and The Telegraph is in fact the only publication which refers to the subjects in this way:

Mr Voller, who is now 19 and still in prison, is suing the territory, along with five other inmates who were allegedly mistreated.” However, this was the only time they did so and referred to the subjects as children or teenagers throughout the rest of the article.”

 Through constantly referring to the subjects as ‘boys’, ‘teenagers’ and especially ‘children’ and avoiding the term ‘inmate’ this presents the subjects detained in the Detention Centre as victims. This is very revealing as to what the general ideology of the media is when it comes to this issue: It would appear through my analysis of these four articles and also from observing other television news reports during the time the story broke, that there is as general feeling of empathy and sympathy for the subjects who have been mistreated.

The naming of the guards in the reports does not play a huge factor in how they are portrayed. Throughout all four reports they are only referred to as either ‘guards’, ‘prison officers’ or ‘prison staff’. All these names have a similar effect and do not attempt to characterise the guards in a certain way: To put this into perspective the publication could have chosen to refer to them using emotive hyperboles such as ‘attackers’ or ‘bullies’ but they did not choose to do so. However, what does play a factor in how the guards are positioned in the reports is the publications choices of transitivity.  Clarke explains that blame or lack of responsibility, absence, emphasis or prominence of a participant can all be encoded into a report through its choice of transitivity (Clark, 1998 p.212). She explains there are two possible roles for participants: There is the Agent who ‘does’ and the Goal who is affected by the action or process (Clark, 1998 p.212). She says that while there must always be and Agent, the inclusion of a Goal is optional. Clarke explains that the agent may be emphasised by choice of active voice, or the goal may be put into focus by choice of passive voice.

In my analysis of the choices of transitivity used by the publication I was interested to discover that although all four publications were enthusiastic in their efforts to portray the inmates of the detention center as innocent victims; they were however not ready to place the blame on the guards. Take this quotes from the Sydney Morning Herald for example:

“Disturbing footage has emerged of a 17-year-old boy, one of six boys tear-gassed at a juvenile detention centre near Darwin, being strapped to a mechanical restraint chair.”

 “The footage is part of a catalogue of evidence obtained by the ABC’s Four Corners program of the repeated assault and mistreatment of boys at youth detention centres in the Northern Territory.”

 “The vision shows the 17-year-old, identified as Dylan Voller, being handcuffed, hooded and strapped to a mechanical restraint chair, where he remained for almost two hours.”

 Here the Sydney Morning Herald has opted to use a passive voice: They have opted to delete the Agent (the guards) and instead the focus is put on the Goal (the inmates). As the guards are not mentioned this results in the blame being withheld from the attacker and transferred onto the victim, i.e. the inmates. and and The Telegraph also both opt to use a passive voice when describing the abuse of the inmates:

The Telegraph  “Other footage, obtained by the ABC’s Four Corners program, showed Mr Voller, then aged 13 and 14, repeatedly being stripped naked, hog tied, and thrown across the prison corridor.”

He suffered multiple incidents of alleged abuse over a five-year  period from October 2010.”

 “He is also one of six boys held in isolation cells at the detention centre, where they were tear-gassed in 2014.”

 Although do mainly use a passive voice in their reports it is important to note that they do actually adopt an active voice in one passage:

“In the footage, Mr Voller was ordered by guards to walk backwards into an isolation cell before asking the guards why his mattress was taken away.”

Here, name the Agent (“the guards”) and detail them ‘doing’ something to the Goal (the inmates.) However, I find it interesting to note they only choose to do this for a minor incident – i.e taking away and inmates mattress before ordering them back into their cell – and not for the more serious incidents of abuse. In fact, The ABC appears to be the only publication ready to use an active voice when it comes to the more serious mistreatments.

Instead of negotiating with the boy, prison staff can be heard laughing and mocking him, calling the boy “an idiot” and a “little f****r”.”

 “One boy is left in his cell and exposed to tear gas for eight minutes. He is seen lying face down on the floor with his hands behind his back, before being handcuffed by two prison officers wearing gas masks and dragged out of his cell.”

 Clarke explains that by deleting the Agent so often as most of the publications have, this lessens the guilt of the guards by making them invisible (Clark, 1998 p.212). By doing this, as a consequence some of the blame is placed back on the inmates. Whilst the ABC is an exception, it appears that many of the publications are very hesitant about placing blame directly onto the guards.

One of the criteria for a journalistic text to be regarded as “objective” is that it avoids using any overtly attitudinal language. This includes any instances where the author has used any words or phrases that are explicitly attitudinal and indicate either a positive or negative assessment of the person, group, institution or events being in question.  The authors own words need to be free of any evaluative judgment and positive or negative evaluations should only occur in quotations attributed to outside sources. However, interestingly, none of the publications analysed abide by this rule. All four authors use a number of attitudinal words and phrases that indicate a negative assessment of the actions of the guards and therefore position the reader in favour of the inmates. Examples of which have been highlighted below:

The Sydney Morning Herald:  

 Disturbing footage has emerged of a 17-year-old boy, one of six boys tear-gassed at a juvenile detention centre near Darwin, being strapped to a mechanical restraint chair.”

 “The footage is part of a catalogue of evidence obtained by the ABC’s Four Corners program of the repeated assault and mistreatment of boys at youth detention centres in the Northern Territory.”

 “The shocking footage also shows the teenager being thrown across his cell, kneed and knocked to the ground, repeatedly stripped naked and also kept in solitary confinement.”

Among the shocking images that prompted the Prime Minister’s decision was a horrific video of an Australian teenager strapped into a mechanical restraint chair, wearing a “spit hood”.

 The disturbing footage, which aired on the ABC’s Four Corners program, was part of an investigation into the mistreatment and abuse of youths at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin.”

 “Australia will hold a royal commission into child detention in the Northern Territory after Abu Ghraib-style footage emerged showing abuse of detainees.”

 “Dylan Voller, then 17, who was subject to horrific abuse at two youth detention centres in the Northern Territory cities of Darwin and Alice Springs.”


Vision of the tear-gassing of six boys being held in isolation at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin in August 2014 has been obtained by Four Corners, exposing one of the darkest incidents in the history of juvenile justice in Australia.

 ‘The vision is part of an investigation featuring a chilling catalogue of footage revealing a pattern of abuse, deprivation and punishment of vulnerable children inside Northern Territory youth detention centres. “

 “Former corrections commissioner Ken Middlebrook last year defended the officer’s actions in the wake of a damning report by the Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner.”

All the publications have taken a very similar analytical approach in their articles, all choosing to use their own words in order to pass judgment on the footage of the alleged abuse: Evidence of this is visible in the many instances where the footage of the abuse has been described as “shocking” “disturbing” and even “horrific”.  The Telegraph goes to the extreme of comparing the mistreatment of the inmates to the to the torture and abuse of inmates in Abu Ghraib prison by the United States Army and the CSI during 2003. The ABC also makes their thoughts on the matter clear when they describe the incident as “one of the darkest incidents in the history of juvenile justice in Australia”.

The amount of attitudinal language used by the publications has clearly amounted to bias and slant in favour of the inmates and against the guards. Their explicit evaluations position the audience to adopt the same view, and this is quite telling as to just what the ideological orientations of the publications are – that the mistreatment/abuse/torture of prisoners is wrong no matter the circumstances. The fact that all four publications are so blatant in their evaluations also shows that they believe this ideological position, and the viewpoint being advanced is universally accepted and is therefore treated as a “given”. Regardless of whether or not this is the case, the publications have used a high quantity of evaluative language and this in turn takes away from the objectivity of the texts.

Although positive or negative viewpoints are allowed to occur in quotes, it is still important to consider what material the author has included or excluded from outside sources as these selections can also amount to bias. The quoting of outside sources can play a pivotal role in positioning the reader to take a negative or positive view of the participants or viewpoints included in a story. In order to be objective the author should include sufficient attributed material in order to adequately cover both sides of a story or issue. However, it s appears that two of the news publications analysed have not done this: included damning quotes from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and from the President of Human Rights Commission who said the conditions at Don Dale were worse than any she had seen in any asylum detention centres:

Like all Australians I was deeply shocked,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio. “I was shocked by the images and treatment of children.”

“The footage sparked calls for federal government intervention from both the Northern Territory Government and the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, who said the conditions were worse than those she had seen in asylum seeker detention centres.”

They also included a number of quotes from barrister John Lawrence who is representing two of the youths who referred to the incidents as “torture”.

“The NT Government’s tear-gassing and “torture” of children in detention at Don Dale is a “national disgrace that demands a national inquiry”, the Sydney-based law firm representing two of the youths said.” – Barrister John Lawrence

Whilst they provided many quotes condemning the actions of the guards,  only included one small quote at the end of the article from Correctional Minister John Elferrnink allowing him to comment on the incident and explain his side of events.

  “That demonstrates a lack of training,” he told Four Corners. “When matters come to me I make sure they’re investigated.” Since 2014 the government has extended staff training from four days to eight weeks.” – Correctional Services Minister John Elferrink.

The lack of representation from the guard’s perspective, combined with the inclusion of so many quotes condemning the guards – including many of those from a Barrister defending to of the youths who perhaps has reason to be bias – results in not adequately representing or covering both sides of the story. The Telegraph however were even more extreme in their underrepresentation of the guard’s perspective by including no attributed material relating to this whatsoever. In the same way The Telegraph were extreme in the underrepresentation of the guard’s perspective, they also overrepresented the perspective of the inmates in that they not only included a number of condemning quotes from Prime Minister Turnbull, Aboriginal MP Ken Wyatt and Unicef Australia but also from alleged abused inmate Dylan Voller himself and even his sister:

The Telegraph:

 “Like all Australians, I have been deeply shocked, shocked and appalled by the images of mistreatment at the Don Dale centre [in Darwin],” Mr Turnbull said.

 “ “I sat there at the end of it stunned,” said Ken Wyatt, an Aboriginal MP from Mr Turnbull’s ruling Liberal party.”

 ““There’s something that I have always associated Abu Ghraib or overseas imagery I’d seen of people in detention, but not here in Australia.” “

 “Unicef Australia said the treatment of the juveniles was abhorrent, cruel and “may amount to torture”. “

 “It showed him telling guards “I’m not a dog to you”, as he was forced into an isolation cell and strapped to a chair  for two hours after he threatened to harm himself.”

 “ “I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to the community for my wrongs and I can’t wait to get out and make up for them.” – Dylan Voller

            “Kira Voller, the sister of Mr Voller, said her family released the footage because “he deserves his life back”.”

 However, going against the the pro-inmate rights trend that we have seen so far in the articles. Interestingly, the ABC and Sydney Morning Herald are fair in their selections of attributed material. Both publications provide a healthy amount of condemning quotes from people such as the Northern Territory Children’ Commissioner, lawyers defending the inmates, Human Rights lawyers and Amnesty International i.e.


“ “We all sort of looked at each other in shock that there was kids in these cells, because there was signs of life in there but we didn’t know who was in there or what was happening, or how long they’d been there,” Mr Sharp told Four Corners. – solicitor Jared Sharp”

 “ “The UN’s expert on torture has said there are no circumstances that justify young people being held in solitary confinement, let alone prolonged solitary confinement,” Ms Barson told Four Corners.”

 “ “I think the NT and in particular Don Dale has a long way to go to ensure their practices are compliant with Australia’s obligation on the convention against torture and against the right of the child.” Human Rights Lawyer Ruth Barson.”                                                                                                                   

 Sydney Morning Herald:

 “Amnesty International later described the conditions the children were forced to endure as “disturbing”.

 However, unlike and The Telegraph both the ABC and the Sydney Morning Herald both also provide quotes from people such as Former corrections commissioner Ken Middlebrook, NT Corrections Minister John Elferink and the union representing the centre’s workers defending their actions:


“Former corrections commissioner Ken Middlebrook last year defended the officer’s actions in the wake of a damning report by the Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner.”

 “I am not in the business of overuse of force. There were two sprays from an aerosol In the area. Now it wasn’t overuse of gas,” Mr Middlebrook told the ABC at the time.”

 “ “I congratulate again, and place my support behind, the staff who made this decision. The staff worked hard, Fluffy the Alsatian worked hard and, as far as we are concerned, it was a problem that was solved quickly,” Mr Elferink told Parliament.”

“ “It was a system that needed improvement. It was a system that had fundamental problems, which is why I’ve worked so hard to improve it and it has been improved,” he said.

 “That was a circumstance that clearly demonstrated to me that something had to be done, which is what the Vita Report was all about.” – NT Corrections Minister John Elferink

 “The union representing the centre’s workers told the ABC that blame should not be attributed to its members, who had received inadequate training.”

 “In response to the report, which was completed by Dr Bath’s successor as NT Children’s Commissioner, Colleen Gwynne, the former commissioner for corrections, Ken Middlebook, defended the officers’ actions, saying the report was inaccurate, “shallow” and “one-sided”.”

It is clear how the choices the Sydney Morning Herald and The Telegraph have made in regards to what quoted material to include in their stories has amounted in slant and bias being present in the text. The attributed material they have selected would definitely be influential in positioning the reader in favour of the inmates and against the guards. However, conversely, the ABC and the have been uncharacteristically fair in their representations and therefore, purely from an attributed material perspective, readers would be more capable of coming to their own conclusions when reading these texts.

The images and visual resources used in news journalism can also be extremely influential in positioning readers to support a certain view. In this case, unsurprisingly the four publications have all chosen to use real footage and images taken from the Four Corners program. The Sydney Morning Herald, and the ABC all chose to use the full video of the altercation between an inmate and several guards involving tear gas, whilst The Telegraph opted for a still image of Dylan Voller strapped in the mechanical restraint chair – as well as their video Sydney Morning Herald and also included a similar picture.

Video used by Sydney Morning Herald, and the ABC.

Image Sydney Morning Herald and


Image used by The Telegraph:


All these images are fairly damning and all paint the inmates to be the victim; however, the still pictures of Voller with the mask over his face would be particular unsettling for most readers and immediately invite them to a negative view of events. Admittedly, it is interesting to note that whilst The Telegraph have used a still image that includes the guards acting on the subject by strapping Voller to the chair, and the Sydney Morning Herald have chosen a picture without the guards present. It could be said that by doing this are subtly trying to remove blame from the guards. However, judging from how damning they are towards the guards in the report I do not deem this to be the case. Additionally, whilst the the image may not directly place blame on the guards, it does so implicitly by purposely painting the inmate as a victim. Although it could be argued that these four publications only chose these images as they were perhaps the most interesting and eye catching, without a fair report to accompany – which these images do not –  then they would definitely have played a significant role in painting the inmates as victims.

The final key issue when considering “slant” or “bias” in an article is what instances of factual descriptions have been included that are likely to influence a reader to take a particular point of view. This is perhaps where the articles have been the most subjective in what they have chosen to include. All four articles are full of factual descriptions of accounts of the abuse of the children in Don Dale, so much so that they essentially make up the majority of the articles. However, amazingly, there is only one instance where the reason for Dylan Voller being incarcerated is included. is the only publication that included Voller’s offences:

“Since he was just 11, Mr Voller has been charged with offences including aggravated assault and robbery.”

In most cases including convicted criminals, the reason as why they have been incarcerated is commonly included as it is seen as an important factor in the story and something of great interest – so much so that the exclusion of such information could only be deemed as deliberate. Including this sort of information reminds the reader that subject in question is in fact a criminal; conversely, excluding this information portrays them as a completely innocent, passive victim. Whilst the exclusion of this one fact may seem minor compared to the numerous incidents of bias I have already highlighted, its profound effect on the additional positioning of readers is so great that I believe it is the most compelling piece of evidence that shows news publications have not been objective in their reporting of these events.

Despite the majority of publications not being prepared to place blame directly on the guards when it came to the more serious mistreatments – perhaps out of fear of defamation – combined with the fact that and the ABC were uncharacteristically fair in their use of attributed sources, my findings have been quite clear: From my analysis, it is evident that these four news publications have not been objective in their reporting of abuse at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and have gone well beyond the accepted bounds of news reporting. The random nature in which I selected the four articles also suggests that this is perhaps how this subject matter is typically dealt with more widely in the media. It could be argued that no news media text, no matter how thoroughly examined prior to publication could be deemed purely objective; however, the extent of the slant and bias included in the articles analysed is so extreme that it could not possibly be the result of the author’s world view accidentally manifesting itself in the text. What I have not addressed thus far though, is why these media publications have chosen not to adequately represent both sides of the story and paint the guards in a negative light. A general conceived sympathy for the inmates seems to be strong motivation for these newspapers and the general media. Despite myself agreeing with the world view put forward in this instance – in that abuse of prisoners is wrong – the next time a news publication chooses to be bias in their representation of a person, event or institution their reasons may not be so noble. The messages the popular newspapers engender in its reporting are critical and therefore they must always remain objective, so as to not abuse the trust of the reader and allow them to come to their own conclusions.


(Clark, k., (1998). ‘The linguistics of blame: representations of women in the Sun’s reporting of crimes of sexual violence’. In Cameron, D., The Feminist Critique of Language, London: Routledge, pp.183–97.

Code War? If only it was that simple…

The Hyundai A-League (HAL) was founded in 2005 following the 2002 Crawford Report, which found Australian soccer (“football”) required a systematic overhaul to reach professional status and stay afloat financially. The league catalysed the growth of football in Australia, both financially and in terms of participation, as seen in the 2015 report by Outside90. Such growth has helped the HAL negotiate what is expected to be its most fruitful broadcasting rights deal in history. Yet, this growing popularity has also resulted in a spike in unduly biased media scrutiny — namely from News Limited publicationsand a consequent code war between other Australian sports. These publications have attempted to sully the reputation of Australian football by hyperbolising the ostensible ‘hooligan problem’ that pervades the sport. On the contrary, they have neglected issues involving the sports they invest in. For example, News Limited owned the National Rugby League until 2012, while the AFL’s six-year, $2.5 billion broadcast deal with Fox Sports highlights News Limited’s vested interests.

With this in mind, my paper will discuss 1) the contrasting perspectives of football fans in Australia, and 2) how these portrayals are used to propagate — particularly right-wing — agendas. My first article is It’s Time To Stop the Football Louts by the late Rebecca Wilson, which was published in The Daily Telegraph November 22, 2015. The article brought conflicting responses — support and ignominy — from all divides of the code war. Mike Cockerill’s A-League: Idiotic fans don’t just attend games, other sports shouldn’t throw stones from glasshouses is a response in The Sydney Morning Herald to Wilson’s article. In short, Wilson’s article portrays football fans in a negative light in her opinion-laden piece, while Cockerill defends’ fans behaviour and argues they are pawns used as a pretext to denigrate football’s growing status in Australia. Before I continue, it is pertinent to preface my analysis with my perspective (not unlike Alia Imtoual did with her paper): I am an avid football fan and the Sydney Correspondent for a football website. I believe this does not make me deliberately biased, rather an informed individual that is able to consider historical contexts in analysing the two articles.

Wilson’s article was published during the HAL’s 10-year anniversary celebrations. This context, coupled with the provocative title – “It’s Time To Stop the Football Louts” – shows her intentions to sully the reputation of football by referencing past eras where the sport was saturated by gang-related firms. It is no surprise that Wilson has portrayed football fans in this light; in her 2016 article, It’s time for the FFA to get tough and ban RBB thugs, she uses a plethora of negative connoting words to label the fans as “bad boys” that “[cannot] behave for 12 months”, “criminals” and “perpetrators.” Such language is unduly biased, as statistics show it is a significant minority of football fans that commit miscreant behaviour. Furthermore, this language — which implies fans attending football games are vagabonds with the sole intention of committing crimes under the pretext of passion — mirrors her lexicon used in the main article I have chosen. Epithets such as “football louts” and “rats in the ranks of clubs” supports her primary framing of football fans. These are aided by her elected image which depicts a security guard chasing a flare that has wondered onto the field of play, as well as the 198 mugshots of fans banned from the games. The photos of the fans are not flattering — rather, they add to Wilson’s insinuations that football is inundated with criminals.

Wilson compares football fans to fans of other codes to highlight the apparent contrasts in behaviour. By referring to other fans as “a few drunk cricket yobbos” and “a small base of Bulldogs fans” instantly relegates their behaviour to actions society should expect as a result of inebriation. These innocent behaviours, she argues, “belies the savagery of hundreds of A-League fans.” One can infer that, according to Wilson’s portrayal, violence at football games mirrors organised crimes, while the misbehaviour at other sports is incidental. Such a portrayal is dangerous for two reasons. Firstly, football in Australia has historically had a negative image because 1) it was first played in Australia when the post-WWII European migrants brought it to Australia, and 2) the violence that arose in the 1980s and 1990s due to the ethnic-based clubs, pre-dating the HAL. Secondly, The Daily Telegraph’s predominantly right-wing, conservative viewership may have a propensity to supporting other sports which have traditionally been dominated by athletes with Anglo-Saxon roots. Therefore, Wilson links hooliganism with ethnicity to add racial undertones to the code war. If journalists are supposed to be the fourth estate, I would argue Wilson is acting irresponsibly and envenoming relationships that already exist in society by portraying football fans as hooligans.

On the other side of the divide lays Cockerill’s piece. Cockerill, one of football’s most respected journalists, responds to Wilson’s portrayal by labelling fans as “supporters” and the “hooligan…idiotic fringe” to separate authentic fans from the miscreants. Furthermore, Cockerill refers to the football community as “tribes in football” to engage with the negative labels and subvert them to portray football fans as united against hooligans. This is supported by his title, where “idiotic fans” again distinguishes the good from the bad and also positions himself as someone who is against belligerent fans. His analogy of “throw[ing] stones from glass houses” implies the apparent hypocrisy of other codes criticising football, thus simultaneously defending football and attacking other codes.  This subversion is further evident when he applauds the FFA for banning miscreant fans — “might actually suggest the game doesn’t tolerate bad behaviour and is trying to do something about it” — before even suggesting that perhaps the governing body has been too heavy-handed in dealing with hooligans. He also cites the Western Sydney Wanderers offering convicted fans the opportunity to appeal their fans, which he labels as a way of correcting “unfair…bans”.  In doing this, Cockerill establishes two things, 1) football fans’ misbehaviour that the code is dealing with, and 2) said issue is being pounced upon by journalists such as Wilson from publications such as The Daily Telegraph.

As I did with Wilson’s article, it is important to cross reference this piece with other works by Cockerill to highlight his perspective on the wider issue. Most telling is in his 2016 piece, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou wants fan to embrace the ‘fire which burns endlessly, where he summaries the fan-driven football culture with “passion, excitement, obsession”. Contrary to Wilson’s denigrating descriptors, Cockerill chooses these words to portray football fans as victims of innate feelings and Murdoch media’s false characterisations. He elaborates on passionate behaviour as “the size of the fight of the crowd,” distinguishing it from “bad behaviour”. This passion can be seen in his use of the Red and Black Bloc (RBB) — the Western Sydney Wanderers active support group — that are regarded as the benchmark of the league. Furthermore, he has elected the RBB because they were at the centre of Wilson’s criticism, whereby he is attempting to put a positive spin on their negative portrayal. It seems Wilson and Cockerill’s agree that all fans have a right to be passionate. Furthermore, both writers denounce hooligans in sports — albeit to varying degrees. Therefore, I explore a second aspect of my paper: that the apparent pandemic of football hooliganism is exaggerated in the media as a pawn to push right-wing agendas.

In having portrayed football fans as violent hooligans, Wilson attempts to inflate the issue into something synonymous with the code. She uses medical adjectives such as “endemic and acute” to position herself as an intelligent writer, while simultaneously hyperbolising football hooliganism to compare it to a terminal illness that is crippling football and wider society. This continues with her apparent sympathy for the police who are “hamstrung” by the hooligan who have created a “cultural problem within the sport that worsens each season”. This last quote is particularly important as it builds on her earlier portrayal of fans by framing it as a growing issue, and it is here that context and agendas must be considered. This article was published following the 2015 AFL season which was marred by Adam Goodes, an indigenous Australian player, being booed at games after he called out a fan’s racist remarks. Eddy McGuire, the chairman of Collingwood and a radio host, exacerbated the issue by suggesting on national radio that Goodes should be used to promote King Kong.

As well as this public relations nightmare, the News Limited publications also have an investment in the AFL as seen in their latest aforementioned broadcasting rights deal. It is further apparent when, in 2008, then editor-in-chief of The Gold Coast Bulletin – a News Limited publication – was appointed as a board member of the The Gold Coast Suns in their foundational year. This is a clear example of a conflict of interest, thus further highlighting the bias that pervades Australian sport in favour of Australian Rules Football and Rugby League. Regarding the latter, News Limited owned a 50% stake in the National Rugby League until 2012, and the Melbourne Storm were owned by News Limited until the end of the 2013 season. Contrarily, HAL franchise, Gold Coast United, were owned independently by mining magnate, Clive Palmer and no club in the league has had ownerships affiliated with the media. While this does not relate to Wilson, per se, it shows how News Limited are invested in other sports that rival football, therefore highlighting their agendas that perchance Wilson would either have to adhere to or happily comply with.

Conversely, Cockerill frames Wilson’s article as another biased attack on the football fraternity, dismissing her article as having “the familiar whiff of discrimination” and implying the article’s “raison d’etre…[was] clickbait”. By challenging Wilson’s journalistic integrity — “florid language and the aggressively myopic undertones of the article in question — Cockerill discredits not only her portrayal of football fans, but also those done by her colleagues. For example, he calls out Alan Jones’ “odious comparison to the terrorism in Paris” to show the blatant absurdity and partisanship employed by Murdoch-owned media. Another example is his interjection in “Right, of course” to respond to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione’s criticism of football’s culture. By doing this, he has deflected criticism that belied the code not only from right-wing media, but also Subordinate Authorities.

With this in mind, I come to the next part of Cockerill’s piece: attacking the media bias against football in Australia. Cockerill does this by asking readers a question — “Why was the list leaked? — before answering it, in short, by attacking “the establishment…[that] has never understood, accepted, or liked [football]”. This “establishment” is further evident when he questions the violence statistics at other sports. “We don’t know,” he concludes, “because nobody has leaked that information yet. That’s no surprise.” Not only has Cockerill positioned himself as a pro-football writer than is championing the virtues of the game, he is also raising the fact that perhaps there is a conspiracy against the sport. In citing these conspiracies — which include Wilson’s article, Alan Jones on radio, NSW Police — Cockerill has portrayed fans as victims in a wider code and racial war:

“These people…like Jones…[a]re united in their distrust, and dislike, of a game which represents the world beyond our shores”.

This links to my earlier analysis of Wilson’s article which addressed the Anglo-Saxon readership of The Daily Telegraph as well as the lack of Balkan and Mediterranean players in Rugby League and Australian Rules Football.

In conclusion, it is clear that football fans are being portrayed in two contrasting ways depending on the media organisation. My analysis of Wilson’s right-wing article shows how News Limited  criticises fans of others codes to protect the sports they are invested in. On the other hand, Cockerill’s article seeks to defend football fans and the sport, arguing that perchance there exists a conspiracy that seeks to thwart the growth and influence of football.


Cockerill, M. (2015). A-League: Idiotic fans don’t just attend games, other sports shouldn’t throw stones from glasshouses. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: [Accessed 15 Oct. 2016].

Cockerill, M. (2016). Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou wants fans to embrace the ‘fire which burns endlessly’. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: [Accessed 26 Oct. 2016].

Imtoual, A. (2005). Religious Racism and the Media: Representations of Muslim Women in the Australian Print Media. Outskirts Online Journal, 13(1).

May, B. (2016). Analysing the growth of the A-League | Outside90. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2016].

The World Game. (2016). A-League seeking bumper TV deal. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Oct. 2016].

Wilson, R. (2015). Time for denials is over: stop the louts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Oct. 2016].

Wilson, R. (2015). It’s time for the FFA to get tough and ban RRB thugs. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2016].

Gender Bias in Media Communication Regarding Female Politicians

  • Staff Writer. 2016. Triggs’ integrity questioned by Coalition MPs. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].


  • Le Messurier, D. 2016. PM contradicts Abbott over gun law. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].


  • Dunlevy, S. 2016. Govt pushes on with Medicare payment overhaul. [online] Available at:


          There has been a plethora of literature written on the subject of gender difference in media.  This field is so well-studied that it has become almost saturated; it contains a body of knowledge so significant that it is easy to become lost.  However, there are areas of concern within this particular field of study that pertain directly to the media, and these are fascinating glances into the long-held societal beliefs and archetypes of any community. The purpose of this discussion is to develop an understanding of the differences in characterizations of female and male politicians in the media; while Australia will be the central focus of the discussion, expansion into other realms will also be considered.

A number of recent news articles will be discussed and analyzed for textual and linguistic differences.  These articles will then be compared based on diction and structure—and the differences between the characterizations of male and female politicians will be discussed in the context of the current-day academic literature on the subject. Most literature seems to suggest that female politicians face numerous struggles, particularly on the campaign trail (Baird 2004).

Female politicians are more likely to be criticized based on appearance, and female politicians are also more likely to be personally attacked for their political views than their male counterparts, according to the current research (Brooks 2011; Badaheur 2013; Herrnson, Lay and Stokes 2003). This discussion will investigate how insidious these differences are in everyday news media, and what their general effect has been on the evolution of women’s role in politics.

Women in the Media: Characterizations of Political Women in Modern Media

Around the world, politics has long been a game that has focused on men and the interaction of men who share positions of power (Baird 2004).  Women who are in powerful positions must be very careful in the way they present themselves and the power that they exude; these women must be simultaneously powerful enough to command presence and attention, but also feminine enough to not draw the ire of the media (Baird 2004).  As can be seen in the discussion of a number of recent articles from the Associated Press and other Australian news sources, the characterization of male and female politicians is subtly but clearly very different.

A Staff Writer from the AAP wrote an article on the Human Rights Commission president Gillian, a woman who is not even a career politician (Staff Writer 2016). This writer reports on the words Professor Triggs used during her hearing, and then reports that Triggs “…believed that she had been quoted inaccurately in an interview…” (Staff Writer 2016). The response to Professor Triggs’ statements was harsh: politicians were calling for her to be recalled, and some even claimed that these kinds of misstatements were proof of her character (Staff Writer 2016).  In this document, a diction and textual analysis will be used and compared with words used to describe male politically-active figures.  The purpose of this analysis is to examine the current media presentation of men and women in positions of authority, and examine the ways that these characterizations are different.

Le Messurier (2016) also writes a brief article about a political incident that occurred recently, which focused on Tony Abbott—Abbott is, of course, a male politician, which is what makes the issues associated with his personification very interesting indeed. LeMessurier (2016) is also claiming that he was misquoted or misrepresented in some way; this was one of the primary reasons for choosing this pair of articles for the initial comparison and textual analysis—both individuals are experiencing similar factual treatment for the press (claims of misquoting and truth-twisting), but their words and their personalities have been treated in very different ways (Le Messurier 2016).

Le Messurier (2016) examines the issue with Mr. Abbott in great detail, but one of the most interesting and the treatment of Professor Triggs is very quickly apparent.  Le Messurier (2016) writes “Tony Abbott has claimed he was ‘misrepresented’…” (Le Messurier 2016).  In this case, Le Messurier (2016) uses extensive quotation of Mr. Abbott throughout the piece; the Staff Writer who crafted the other piece, however, integrated very few direct quotes from Professor Triggs (Staff Writer 2016).

Interestingly, Professor Triggs is being attacked in the media because she dared to claim that many of Australia’s male leaders do not have an excellent grasp of many of the political issues that they deal with on a daily basis (Staff Writer 2016). While she is not an elected official, she acts in a political capacity, and it is natural that the press would run her words. However, many within the government and outside of it are calling for her to be recalled or even fired as a result of her statements—many of which she has since qualified and attempted to better explain (Staff Writer 2016).

Alternatively, in the Dunlevy (2016) article, much can be learned about the way that both male and female politicians are treated in the text.  It is important to note that none of these authors are openly disparaging towards female politicians as a whole; however, despite the tacit support for female politicians and political activity, there are still very clear differences in the way that male and female politicians are treated within the text (Dunlevy 2016). There are even differences in the ways that the photos of female politicians are used in the text; these differences are very interesting, and they go beyond this small collection of articles. It is the contention of this discussion that there is an undercurrent of difference in expectation for male and female politicians in Australia and the world as a whole; in fact, gender differences that are very pronounced in society at large can be characterized as even more pronounced in the political world (Brooks 2011; Badaheur 2013; Herrnson, Lay and Stokes 2003).

Generally, in each of the articles that were discussed, an interesting trend emerged.  Female politicians’ statements were quoted—that is, whole sentences and larger pieces of information from their writing and from interviews were included in the text (Staff Writer 2016; Dunlevy 2016; Le Messurier 2016).  Male politicians had quotes that were integrated into the text; the authors of the news articles seemed to feel more comfortable integrating male politicians into the very fabric of the text. In addition, female politicians and politically active women who made mistakes and misstatements to the press and to other politicians were lambasted as having questionable character. However, when male politicians—like PM Tony Abbott, for instance—made ostensibly grievous misstatements to the press, no character questions were asked regarding his personality and his efficiency for office (Staff Writer 2016; Dunlevy 2016; Le Messurier 2016).

Theoretical Framework

One of the most interesting trends suggested by the literature is that the way that women are portrayed in the media—particularly female politicians—and the way that they are compared to their male counterparts is actively changing (Braden 2015).  While female politicians used to be heavily lambasted for failing to “look the part,” today there is more of a focus on appearance in general—that is, both male and female politicians must conform more strictly to particular appearance guidelines, but these guidelines do not change based on gender (Esser 2013; Kittilson and Fridkin 2008; Braden 2015).

This document has presented a limited analysis of the ways that female candidates are treated in contrast to the ways that male candidates and politicians are treated, but the research seems to suggest that there are still very distinct differences between female and male political candidates—particularly insofar as a conceptualization of their character and personality traits are concerned (Street 2004; Esser 2013; Kittilson and Fridkin 2008; Braden 2015).

          Gender Roles

Western society as a whole is moving away from traditional gender roles for men and women, but it is still more acceptable for women to take up the mantle of male gender roles than vice versa (Street 2004; Esser 2013; Kittilson and Fridkin 2008; Braden 2015).  Thus, it is sometimes easier for a female politician to be seen as strong and masculine within the context of an event or within the context of her campaign than it is for a male politician to be seen as sensitive (Braden 2015). Gender roles might be relaxing in today’s society, but they have not been abandoned completely.  Female politicians still face questions if they are too focused on their career and not focused enough on their family or their appearance (Brooks 2011; Badaheur 2013; Herrnson, Lay and Stokes 2003).

Female politicians who are married with families often find the need to publically play the role of wife and mother, regardless of the actual structure and makeup of their family unit (Brooks 2011; Badaheur 2013; Herrnson, Lay and Stokes 2003). If, for instance, a female politician has a husband who is the primary caregiver for their child or children, that politician will still need to present the appearance of being a significant influence in her children’s’ lives, or face potential backlash within the press (Adcock 2010).  In the articles discussed here, it is easy to see how quickly the press moves to question the character of women active in the political world: potential misstatements to the press are enough to call Professor Triggs’ entire testimony before the government into question, for instance (Staff Writer 2016).

          Celebrity and Politics

The growth of the media in all different forms in modern life has had an interesting effect on politicians as a whole. To a certain extent, politicians have always led public lives; however, now politicians live much more publically than ever before. In many ways, politicians have become celebrities, existing for the entertainment of the masses, and the masses thrive on drama and excitement (Badaheur 2013; Herrnson, Lay and Stokes 2003).  In generations past, if a politician were to make a political gaffe in a statement to the press, it was likely to get some press, and it is even possible that the politician might face significant repercussions.  However, today, the Internet never forgets: every mistake is tossed to the people, where they are analyzed and re-analyzed over and over again. The media might hint at differences between male and female politicians, but people with more extreme viewpoints might take to Twitter or Facebook or another social media platform and begin to spread memes, images, and articles that attack female politicians for their politics (Braden 2015).

The article associated with Professor Triggs is an excellent example of the new-media machine. The article was written by an anonymous member of the press corps, who then turned it loose to the Internet; the Twitter account of Senator Abetz is even quoted in the article (Staff Writer 2016). By clicking through to Twitter, it is easy to see—using the search parameters “#triggs”—that Professor Triggs is being lambasted and even having her character attacked as a result of this article and the subsequent articles written.  Some examples are below.


The Role of Masculinity as Standard in Politics

Interestingly, one of the side-effects of integrating female politicians into the mainstream seems to be that there are now similar expectations for male and female candidates—but female politicians are also largely held to the standards of their male counterparts, rather than vice versa (Caldas-Coulthard 2003). Rather than being able to be both feminine and powerful, female politicians often must take up the mantle and the appearance of masculine power—this is the kind of power and prestige that allows a female candidate to be elected into office (Brooks 2011; Braden 2015).

Female politicians must appear powerful in moderately masculine ways:

  • strong posture,
  • strong diction,
  • and an appearance of aloof behavior are all important for the success of female politicians (Braden 2015).

Interestingly, and perhaps paradoxically, female politicians are also expected to be “softer” than their male counterparts in some ways (Brooks 2011). When something traumatic happens to a community, female politicians must exude a sense of power—but not too much power, or these individuals risk being ostracized by the press and by the community as a whole for being unfeeling and too removed from the suffering of the people (Brooks 2011). In terms of the presentation and perception of power, it is clear that female politicians are required to walk a very fine line between commanding power and being seen as feminine individuals (Street 2004; Esser 2013; Kittilson and Fridkin 2008; Braden 2015).

If female politicians stray too far from the line, they can easily be ousted from their position by the media, which is immensely powerful in colouring the public’s perception of politicians (Brooks 2011; Badaheur 2013; Herrnson, Lay and Stokes 2003). In the article regarding Tony Abbott, Mr. Abbott was quoted extensively, and some of the diction he used was quite aggressive—towards other politicians, the press, and even towards the government in general (Le Messurier 2016).  However, PM Abbott’s character was never attacked during the course of the article; although he claims that he was misquoted by the press, he and Professor Triggs do not share the same consideration by the press or the people as a whole. He seems to be given the benefit of the doubt, while she is lambasted for the misunderstanding and is accused of lacking personal integrity (Staff Writer 2016; Le Messurier 2016).

Discussion and Conclusions

The subtlety of the differences between the treatment of male and female politicians seems to suggest that these differences are the result of ingrained bias on the part of society as a whole (Adcock 2010).  While there are still many people who believe that men and women are not and should not be equal, the vast majority of people have moved beyond this kind of thought; however, western society is still only two to three generations removed from a time when women could not vote, let alone hold office (Adcock 2010).  It makes sense, then, that female politicians would be sometimes unfairly affected by the lingering bias of society as a whole. Interestingly, there seems to be a general trend for both male and female politicians that put more weight on issues like appearance than ever before (Campbell and Wolbrecht 2006).

Female politicians face a difficult battle with the media, but research seems to suggest that the battle is ever-evolving. In today’s world, bias and inequality between the sexes is nearly so cut and dried as it might have been in the past. Women are no longer barred from holding office or voting, for instance; there are no legal restrictions that bind women and keep them from pursuing their own dreams and goals. However, this does not mean that bias and gender differences have been completely bled out of society as a whole (Gauntlett 2008).  In the (admittedly limited) sample of news articles taken from modern-day news sources, differences between the treatment of male and female politicians can be seen quite easily.



Adcock, C., 2010. The Politician, The Wife, The Citizen, and her Newspaper: Rethinking women, democracy, and media (ted) representation. Feminist Media Studies, 10(2), pp.135-159.

Badaheur, N. (2013). How Male And Female Politicians Are Treated Differently. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].

Baird, J., 2004. Media tarts: How the Australian press frames female politicians. Scribe Pub.

Braden, M., 2015. Women politicians and the media. University Press of Kentucky.

Brooks, D.J., 2011. Testing the double standard for candidate emotionality: Voter reactions to the tears and anger of male and female politicians. The Journal of Politics, 73(02), pp.597-615.

Caldas-Coulthard, C.R., 2003. Cross-cultural representation of ‘otherness’ in media discourse. In Critical Discourse Analysis (pp. 272-296). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Campbell, D.E. and Wolbrecht, C., 2006. See Jane run: Women politicians as role models for adolescents. Journal of Politics, 68(2), pp.233-247.

Dunlevy, S. 2016. Govt pushes on with Medicare payment overhaul. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].

Esser, F., 2013. Mediatization as a challenge: Media logic versus political logic. In Democracy in the Age of Globalization and Mediatization (pp. 155-176). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Gauntlett, D., 2008. Media, gender and identity: An introduction. Routledge.

Herrnson, P.S., Lay, J.C. and Stokes, A.K., 2003. Women running “as women”: candidate gender, campaign issues, and votertargeting strategies. Journal of Politics, 65(1), pp.244-255.

Kittilson, M.C. and Fridkin, K., 2008. Gender, candidate portrayals and election campaigns: A comparative perspective. Politics & Gender, 4(03), pp.371-392.

Le Messurier, D. 2016. PM contradicts Abbott over gun law. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].

Staff Writer. 2016. Triggs’ integrity questioned by Coalition MPs. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].

Street, J., 2004. Celebrity politicians: popular culture and political representation. The British journal of politics and international relations, 6(4), pp.435-452.