School Dress Codes and Sexism – Aimed at whom?

Gender stereotyping: discourse between contemporary beliefs and traditional customs

By Agnes Jeong

School dress regulations has always been a controversial existence, fuelling the constant debate on sexism. Society’s changing perceptions on gender inequality during the 21st century, has assisted in balancing gender power dynamics. Thus, discriminatory behaviour towards fe
males now create immense discourse between those who accept society’s shifting beliefs, and those who refuse to. Two ‘views’ journalism or opinion articles are Emily Lindin’s ‘Why Sexist Dress Codes Suck for Everyone’ and Laura Bates’ ‘How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture’. Although the articles portray their ideas in differing styles, they hold a mutual understanding that dress codes are sexist and thus, alterations should be made.

The constant reporting of struggles with school dress codes bring to light the negative effects and implications towards specifically females and transgender students. Dress regulations are considered a common feature of schools which aim to outline and describe what is unacceptable to wear. Some frequently cited inappropriate clothing are “short skirts, revealing tops, ripped or torn clothing, heavy chains and so forth” (Raby, 2010). Students that violate the imposed rules are often punished and deal with “discomfort, humiliation and shame” (Lindin, 2016).

dress-codesAlthough the anecdotes displayed on social media focus on the absurdity of dress code standards, the essence of this controversy lies on the arising concerns on “sex stereotyping and institutionalising sex discrimination” (Harbach, 2016). Due to the media’s focus on female students being directly affected by dress code regulations, majority of responses empathise with females and criticise the existing set of rules. However, conflicting opinions outline the claim that not only females, but all genders are being stereotyped and negatively impacted by the presence of regulations within schools. The constant exposure of issues concerning dress codes on the media, questions the absurdity of dress regulations and whether their existence is necessary.

Both articles negatively portray the issue of school dress codes which reflects the popular opinion of society. Bates’ piece explicitly expresses her strong feminist opinion on this issue, focusing on the inaccurate message that is being taught to students. Although Lindin is also an active feminist, her article provides readers with an objective view of school dress regulations and places emphasis on sexist actions against other genders, not only female students. Both articles are published on renowned platforms that ensure that their piece would be read by a large audience. The articles attempt to persuade their audience in differing ways but share the belief that school dress codes are sexist and something should be done to fix it.

These articles address the stereotypes in society that have always determined what clothes were deemed appropriate for genders. Since the late 20th and early 21st century, the media has made society aware of the strict regulations that deal with ‘new’ styles resulting in girls’ fashion being too “sexual or aggressive” (Pomerantz, 2007). Media channels, especially social media, has become a substantial platform in which those affected, are able to spread their personal “reportings on battles over public school dress codes” (Harbach, 2016). The developing presence of the media undeniably plays a significant role in defining the “roles and behaviours… most approved of and valued in society” (Ross, 2012, p.366).

The heavily publicised discourse surrounding the issue of dress codes, is claimed to have reproduced “dominant and oppressive forms of gender and sexuality” (Pomerantz, 2007). Feminist post-structural examinations conducted by Pomerantz (2007) reveals how the dress code policies identified girls as “irresponsible, deviant and in need of help.” Often, the imposed regulations are justified through the criticising of female students and how dressing inappropriately is “disrespectful toward oneself and others” (Raby, 2005). However, the absurdity and contradictory nature of this controversy has resulted in heavy media coverage and sparked much heated debate. The articles focus primarily on the sexist intents of dress codes to all genders and further questions whether its presence increases sexualisation within society.

Lindin criticises the existence of the dress regulations and provides her readers with evaluative claims and recommendations. Published on Teen Vogue magazine, Lindin is well aware of her audience being primarily female students. Her title and by-line, “Why Sexist Dress Codes Suck for Everyone” and “We need to keep speaking out against them”, explicitly reveals her opinion on this matter. From her title, it is evident she is informing readers that not only females but males are being affected by sexism. She then recommends to “keep speaking out,” reflecting the assumption that majority of readers will be holding a strong disapproval of dress codes and actions against the issue have already taken place.

Lindin’s disapproval of this issue is understandable due to her active participation in feminist rights. Creating the UnSlut Project, Lindin hopes that her own diary entries that she has kept since her 6th-grade memory of being called a “slut,” would aid in providing other young girls some perspective on sexist remarks. Further information on the UnSlut Project can be seen here: http://www.unslutproject.com/

Although she understands that the majority of her readers would be able to relate to this issue, Lindin positions readers to recognise the true purpose of dress codes and the broader spectrum of genders that are affected. The article begins by claiming that “not all dress codes are harmful” to demonstrate how the initial existence of dress codes did not intend to “feel like a sexist imposition.” She aims to provide readers with a valid and understandable reason for regulations through her objective approach and comparability to “unwritten ‘dress codes’ in different areas of life.” Lindin mentions the dress codes that exist “for different work settings” and “many upscale restaurants” which encourages the readers to believe that school dress codes shouldn’t be demolished entirely but altered.

In order to support her claims that dress codes are sexist, Lindin provides the supporting justification that all genders are being stereotyped due to dress regulations. Although codes were imposed to regulate dress standards, abuse of power has led to them being “deeply sexist both in the way they’re enforced and in the logic behind creating them in the first place.” Lindin ethically appeals to her readers by placing emphasis on the sexist intentions that were existent when initially creating the rules. This shows the underlying assumption sexist actions should not be executed and the way in which rules are created and enforced must be for the good of society. Although this idea may be heavily supported by her readers, the claim may be considered a drastic slippery slope as it assumes that the regulations were made with the intentions to solely stereotype and sexualise genders.

Specifically, Lindin aims to inform her readers, an audience predominantly young girls, that dress codes are in fact impacting male students as well. Her sarcastic tone when referring to boys reflects the opinions of those who fail to view that all genders are being affected. She claims “I’m a feminist and I care about how school dress codes hurt straight, cisgender boys.” Her emphasis on boys that are “straight, cisgender” demonstrates her belief that her audience does not perceive males to be concerned by this issue. Lindin stresses how the existence of dress codes have shaped the expectations on boys so low and we associate them with “harass, grop(ing), and even assault.” However, this image has been so grounded within society’s perceptions that “we rarely hold them accountable” for their actions. The article demonstrates how society’s acceptance of negative traits and their ignorance to fix them is sexist to those being blamed, the females, as well as those who are being stereotyped, the males. Lindin promotes to her audience the drastic assumption that all male students are distracted by the female body to the extent in which they behave inappropriately. Although this claim is radical, it informs readers of the existing stereotypes on male students.

Lindin also repeatedly stresses her negative perception of dress codes and its tendency to stereotype sexes through her use of overtly evaluative words. An example would be how she asserts those targeted by dress codes experience “discomfort, humiliation, and shame.” Female students must encounter “ordeals of being scrutinised and judged” and when determined to be inappropriately dressed, are made to wear “shame suits” (Harbach 2016). The article enables readers to empathise with those being targeted and portrays schools as placing more importance in dress than education. This implies that schools are reinforcing immoral messages to students and encourages them to conform to the stereotypes that exist within society.

dress-code-2

To conclude, Lindin blatantly claims her recommendation that “our voices and our actions” should be utilised to “make it clear that we are people – not distractions.” As she assumes her audience shares her beliefs on this matter, she repeatedly asks them to continue “standing up for ourselves.” She is able to persuade her readers by her repeated use of “Let’s” which urges as well as includes her audience within her claim.  Therefore, Lindin communicates the idea that current dress codes violate universal ethical values on the topic of sexism.

Bates’ article similarly shares Lindin’s negative perception of school dress codes however expresses her opinion more explicitly. Evident by her title, “How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture,” the article is evaluative as well as causal, claiming that school dress codes are the catalyst for the existence of rape in society. Bates utilises strong negative diction such as “shame” and “perpetuate rape” to persuade her audience in which she assumes does not stand on the same page with her. Being published by one of the leading magazines, Bates believes the readers of Time Magazine would have opposing opinions from her prior to reading the article. The issue may be considered irrelevant to most readers who are mostly higher educated individuals attending office positions. In order to share and thus convert their perceptions, she repeatedly stresses on the issue’s importance. She claims “the school dress code debate will be dismissed by many for being minor or unimportant, but it is not.”

Like Lindin, Bates holds a passionate stance on feminism and sexism. She is the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project as well as the author of ‘Everyday Sexism’. She aims to take a step towards gender equality with her project. Her feminist background is reflected throughout the article with her strong negative opinion on the existence of school dress codes. If interested, further information on The Everyday Sexism Project can be read here: http://everydaysexism.com/.

Although Lindin expresses that school dress codes are sexist towards all genders, Bates focuses on the “strong sense of injustice” that is experienced by girls. Her primary claim is that school dress codes teach students the wrong message. To justify this, Bates compares the fundamental principles that are assumed to be taught in schools with what school dress codes are teaching students. Distinctly in the first paragraph, the article lists some of the “most powerful and lasting ideas about the world” such as “Hard work pays off. Success comes from working together. Girls’ bodies are dangerous and harassment is inevitable.” Bates adopts emotive language such as “dangerous” and “inevitable” to mock schools’ beliefs that certain clothing are “’too distracting’ for boy students” (Harbach 2016). The blatant negative attitude fuels Bates’ evaluative presumption and reflects a slippery slope as she implies schools have created dress codes because of this single belief. The article stresses on this message to outline the underlying assumption that the ideas that we learn from school are responsible in shaping the beliefs of children.

dress-code-3

To entice her audience in which she assumes are opposing her, Bates utilises a sarcastic tone to place emphasis on school dress codes and their inability to celebrate difference. The article claims that it feels “like such ‘codes’ are less about protecting children and more about protecting strict social norms and hierarchies that refuse to tolerate difference or diversity.” This aims for an emotive response, specifically anger, from parents as it implies schools are not protecting students and limiting their expressing of self-identity. Similar to Lindin, Bates aims to produce a negative response from the audience in order to gain support on this issue. By portraying schools in a negative light, it raises the question of whether schools are teaching students the appropriate ethical norms.

Bates further instils her disapproval of school dress codes by stressing on the ironic nature of their existence and purpose. The problem that she has identified with school dress codes is the unjust treatment towards female students. She claims that there is “a lack of any attempt to discipline boys for harassing behaviour” which shares with her readers the idea that girls are being regulated for the behaviour of male students. Bates expresses her disbelief of the way in which schools deal with inappropriate sexual behaviour towards women, as they dismiss testimonies with comments such as ‘he just likes you’ or ‘boys will be boys.’ These quotes are expressed in quotation marks within the article to emphasise the hypocritical and absurd acts of schools. Dress codes are most commonly justified by claims that inappropriate dress distract others, does not fit with the school’s image and is “disrespectful toward oneself and others” (Raby, 2005). By directly pointing out the flaws in the school regulation system, Bates persuades her readers with sufficient evidence.

Overall, these articles provide a strong negative perception of school dress codes and how it impacts students. The conclusions reached by both authors address the inappropriateness of the implicit messages that regulations teach children. By observing the differing styles of the articles, it is evident that society still remains divided; between those who accept emerging contemporary beliefs and those who are determined to practice traditional customs. The majority of responses towards this issue are in fact negative and some are more passionate than others. However, some perceptions remain objective in order to provide society with methodical and justifiable reasons on the presence of school dress codes.

 

References

Castillo, A 2015, The Sexism of School Dress Codes, digital image, The Atlantic, viewed 31 October 2016

Gaille, B 2016, Brandon Gaille, accessed 30 October 2016, <http://brandongaille.com/43-distressing-time-magazine-demographics/>

Harbach, M 2016, ‘Sexualization, Sex Discrimination, and Public school dress codes’, University of Richmond Law Review, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 1039-1062

Lake, R 2012, Judgements, digital image, Tumblr, viewed 31 October 2016

Larkin D 2014, Shame Suit, digital image, ABC News, viewed 31 October 2016

Pomerantz, S 2007, ‘Cleavage in a Tank Top: Bodily Prohibition and the Discourses of School Dress Codes’, The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, vol. 53, no. 4, pp. 373-386

Raby, R 2010, ‘Tank Tops Are Ok but I Don’t Want to See Her Thong’, Youth & Society, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 333-356

Ross, K 2012, The Handbook of Gender, Sex and Media, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, UK

A Reconfiguring of Rain Main

 

By Nicole Phillips

 Media representations of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have come a long way since Dustin Hoffman portrayed a card-counting savant in the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man. A significant increase in the
prevalence of ASD over the last decade has lead to wider media coverage of the autistic community. Yet, despite changing public perceptions of autism and a growing awareness of the condition, media representations of ASD espouse a prevailing view of ‘autism as problem’ (Jones and Harwood 2009). Many media portrayals of autism conger a dual stereotype, positioning readers to view people with autism as either ‘burden’ or ‘victim’.rain-jpegThe majority of hard news reporting in the aftermath of the murder/suicide of a family of four, including two autistic children,[1] propagates a negative evaluation of autism. Many reports offered a one-dimensional characterisation of the autistic participants in the story, discerned solely by their disabilities. The focus on facts about the children’s’ disabilities in media coverage implicitly speculates that their difficult behaviour was a motive for their parents’ actions. In order to recognise this representation as a wider trend, this article will consider both articles about the Davidson deaths, as well as a broad range of media coverage on people with autism. For a holistic approach, it will look at a range of headlines, news journalism articles, lifestyle articles and a current affairs report.

Before analysing mainstream media portrayals of autism, it is important to first understand the physiological features of this condition. Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterised by deficits in social interactions and communication skills, sensitivity to external environments and repetitive behaviours (autism.net.au). The term ‘spectrum’ encompasses the broad range and severity of symptoms that may affect people on the autism spectrum (Prochnow, 2014). Accordingly, autism forms a diverse community of people with different interests and identities. However, an analysis of communicative patterns in news journalism coverage of autism tells a very different story.

A quick glance at some of the news headlines published in the aftermath to the Davidson murder/suicide reveals a telling language pattern.

  1. Tragic mum was ‘broken’ – Courier Mail, 22 October 2016
  2. Inside the Darkness – Daily Telegraph, 22 October 2016
  3. A broken mum’s cry for help – com.au, 22 October 2016
  4. “She felt completely alone”: Tragic details emerge on Davidson family’s day-to-day life – Mamamia, 21 October 2016
  5. Davidson deaths: Was it all too much for tragic parents? Daily Telegraph, 19 October 2016
  6. Stress, despair in care of children with autismGippsland Times, 23 October 2016

What becomes immediately apparent is the focus that each article places on the profound struggles of a mother with two autistic children. Firstly, the headlines’ negative evaluations of the autistic community are implicitly communicated through the use of highly emotive language. An accumulation of negative Affect (Martin and White 2005) in the words “tragic”, “broken”, “cry” and “darkness” positions the reader to sympathise with the difficult plight of the Manrique parents, perhaps to the effect of justifying the act of filicide.

The hyperbolic phrasing “completely alone” and “all too much” invoke an assessment of the autistic children as causing an unmanageable burden to their parents. The connotation of loneliness implicitly denies the value of the autistic children’s’ lives. The rhetorical question posed in headline 5 frames the parents as ‘victims’ of their children’s’ disabilities, while the negative connotation of “stress” and “despair” in headline 6 deflects blame from the parents. These difficult emotions are linked to the ‘care of the children’, reinforcing the stereotype of autism as problem.

The repetitive labelling of Maria Manrique as ‘mum’ in the headlines offers a sensitive, maternal image of an alleged accessory to murder. This is reinforced through the accompanying images of Maria happily embracing her two children. Readers are thus positioned to view the mother as an object of pity, therefore portraying autism as a misfortune.

mum

Perhaps this trend in headlines is simply a reflection of the peculiar circumstances of the Davidson tragedy? Yet, cast your attention to a wider net of news headlines, spanning different events and times, and a similar communicative pattern reveals itself.

  1. ‘Lost boy with Autism costs child care centre carers $35K’ The Border Watch, 19 August 2016
  2. ‘Explosion in autism diagnosis’ – The Australian, 25 July 2015
  3. ‘Parents of high-functioning autistic children desperate for help’ Lilydale & Yarra Valley Leader, January 11 2016
  4. Mother of an autistic boy who died tied to chair in shed ‘never wanted to be mean to him’ SMH, 17 November 2015
  5. Mother accused of chaining up autistic son in Blacktown was ‘desperate’ SMH, November 2015

The structure of headline 1 reinforces the stereotype of ‘autism as problem’. The boy is presented as the ‘active entity’, while the diminished community resources are the ‘affected entity’. Thus, he is negatively depicted as a source of financial strain. The term ‘explosion’ in headline 2 creates an image of autism as an uncontrollable disease or a cause for moral panic. Such terminology perpetuates a stigmatised narrative of ‘autism as problem’ and ostracises the autistic community from the rest of society.

The theme of a mother’s desperation permeates throughout a range of headlines, with a repetition of the words ‘mother’ and ‘desperate’. As discussed in relation to the first collection of headlines, the maternal emphasis positions readers to sympathise with the parent of a child with autism. This technique represents people with autism as wholly problematic.

This stereotypical portrayal is not just confined to headlines. Let’s turn now to a closer analysis of articles that exhibit negative evaluations of autism. The majority of reporting in the aftermath of the Davidson murder/suicide included facts about the severity of the children’s disability and the toll that this caused on their parents. A clear example of this communicative pattern is demonstrated in Rose Brennan’s hard news article ‘Davidson deaths: Was it all too much for tragic parents? This Daily Telegraph article uses multiple appeals to facts and emotion to represent the autistic children as unwanted.

“But some believe the demands of raising two intellectually disabled children may have become too much for Ms Lutz — a dedicated volunteer and fundraiser — and her husband Fernando Manrique, whose children’s severe autism meant they were unable to speak.

By including facts about the demanding nature of the children’s disabilities, the author shows implicit remorse for the parents and denigrates the sense of worth of an autistic child. The ‘belief’ asserted is not directly attributed to a source, but rather phrased as a vague speculation of motive, a notion purported to be held by ‘some’.

A clear polarity of positive and negative language emerges, with word patterns associated with ongoing struggle employed to describe the children, while language of praise and virtue is employed in relation to the mother. The affirmative adjective “dedicated” and the charitable connotations of the label “volunteer” and “fundraiser” elevates the mother to an admirable status. The dichotomous language between the two participants highlights the difficulties posed by the children, representing them as an abnormal social group.

The article continues to quote many neighbours who cite the devastating hardships experienced by the parents.

“She looked after them but I have to say she never looked happy. She always had a very serious look on her face. Thinking back now, she looked like she was in pain.”

“Maria used to tell me how hard it was on her and her husband,” she said. “She said it was a heavy thing on her heart and some days she found it impossible to cope.”

The selection of quotes focuses on the extreme difficulties experienced by the parents, reducing the characterisation of the children to their series of needs. The evocative language choice “pain” and “serious” appeals to emotion, with words like ‘impossible’ construing autism as a failure. This accords with Jones and Harwood’s study of Australian print media representations of autism (the first of its kind), which identified a normative genre of autism as “dangerous, tragic, debilitating and a heartbreaking, irresolvable ‘problem’” (Jones and Harwood, 2009).

Absent from the article are any facts pertaining to the individual identities of the children, such as their interests or idiosyncrasies. By negating to include positive attributes of the children, the writer offers a one-dimensional view of people with autism and prompts generalisations from the disability itself to the whole person (Jones and Harwood, 2009).

More broadly, a strong focus on the negative impact of autism on family members is evinced in a variety of news coverage. The ABC news article ‘Respite centre for children with disabilities opened by Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart’ (23 February 2016) recurrently emphasises the importance of respite for families caring for children with disabilities.

“The centre is purpose-built and the first of its kind in Canberra, allowing parents to have time off from caring for their children.”

“Marymead’s chief executive officer Camilla Rowland said international research had demonstrated just how important respite was the well-being parents, carers and families as a whole.”

The inclusion of facts about the importance of respite infers the stressful conditions of living with a child with autism. The appeal to authority is heightened in credibility through the formally enunciated source descriptor ‘chief executive officer’. As a result, the article foregrounds the difficulty caused by people with autism and differentiates them from normal, functional society.

The characterisation of autistic children as a source of familial strain is further evinced in Sharon Kennedy’s article Autistic behaviour is not bad behaviour, more awareness needed, mother says’. In a discussion of the poor mental health of parents of children with disabilities, the article states:

“At home, Raeden is very empathic and is aware that he causes his parents distress.”

Here, the writer has presented the autistic participant as the active agent that causes distress to his parents. While children’s behaviour is commonly a source of stress for parents, the structure adopted by the writer negatively assesses the autistic child’s behaviour as beyond normality. The sentiment is not expressed as a direct quote from the participant, but rather paraphrased so as to mould to the media-promulgated stereotype of autism as a burden.

Even articles covering positive events, such as increased government funding and community support for autism, are framed in such a way that they implicitly outcast the autistic community, thrusting them beyond the scope of ‘normal’ society. Amy Croffrey’s SMH article ‘Young chef with autism lands dream job at top Sydney restaurant Catalina’ covers a hopeful story about the increased integration of people with autism into the job industry. However, the textual arrangement of the article implicitly portrays the autistic participant as an outlier from the rest of the autistic community. The extent to which this event is presented as exceptional is revealed in the lead:

“A young man with autism has landed his dream job in one of Sydney’s top restaurants.”

The writer immediately establishes that the participant has autism, thereby positioning the audience to view his accomplishment as novel. Yet, the calibre of his achievement is soon undermined by the writer’s selective use of facts.

“His main duties include mixing, kneading and baking bread; preparing fruit; making biscuits; mixing marshmallow; washing salads; and plating up.”

boy-coo

The reason for including these otherwise mundane facts is only understood in the context of his disability, with the inference that his autism makes it difficult to undertake simple tasks. Hence, the author conveys a stereotypical representation of people with autism as simple-minded and less capable than others. The article is written from an angle that celebrates the restaurant for its acceptance of staff members with disabilities. The majority of quotes come from the owner of the restaurant.

“We take on first-year apprentices and Jack is every bit as good as them,” restaurateur Michael McMahon told Fairfax Media.

“The staff are wonderful with him and have made him feel very much part of the team. I get so much pleasure out of having him here and it makes you feel good.”

Several conclusions may be drawn from the writer’s decision to include the above quotes. Firstly, the explicit comparison between Jack and first year apprentices draws the readers’ attention to the possibility of him not being as good a candidate. Secondly, the reference to the staff’s inclusion of Jack infers that he would not otherwise be included in most situations. Thirdly, the emphasis on what the restaurant owner gains from the experience positions the reader to view Jack’s employment as an act of charity. Contrastingly, Jack’s voice is not heard in the article, effectively devaluing his perspective.

“Working in the kitchen of award-winning celebrity haunt Catalina in Rose Bay has been a “life-changing” experience for Jack Studholme, 20, from North Ryde.”

What appears to be an integrated quote from Jack is in fact a quote from his mother. This suggests that, despite his achievements in the kitchen, Jack will never be entirely independent of his family, therefore representing the autistic community an encumbrance on others.

The above analysis reveals a clear pattern of representation in hard news journalism. To avoid making sweeping conclusions about portrayals of autism in all media coverage, it is worth considering some more colourful reporting in this examination. A wider media trend of negative evaluations of autism becomes apparent in an article analysis from the Lifestyle section of news websites. Lifestyle journalism blurs the boundaries between stylistic conventions of fiction and objective reporting (Hill and Fenner 2010), and is therefore more saturated with visible evaluative meanings.

Harriet Alexander’s feature article Stress, despair in care of children with autism” opens with the poignant metaphor:

“They say that the mother of a child with autism experiences a level of stress comparable to that of a combat soldier. Grace Fava certainly did.”

Alexander’s appeal to analogy, in which she compares rearing a child with autism to combat warfare, constructs an immediately negative characterisation of autism. The attribution of this perspective to the indistinct source “they” treats the negative assessment of autistic children as axiomatic. The article adopts a highly negative tone, with appeals to emotion and meditations on the uncertain futures for people with autism.

“But for other parents, the chances of their children ever coping in mainstream society is remote.”

Here, the connotation of ‘mainstream society’ suggests that people with autism are isolated due to their divergence from the norm. The word ‘coping’ implies that people with autism cannot live meaningful lives.

A similar rhetorical style is employed in Emma Reynolds lifestyle article “Mothers reveal what it’s really like to have a child with autism”. The word ‘really’ in the headline seems to frame ‘autism’ as an unknowable entity. Reynolds’s implicit representation of autism as abnormal becomes apparent from the first par:

“WHEN we think about having children, most of us don’t want to consider that our babies could be born different. For parents whose kids have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), that possibility quickly comes into sharp focus.”

The negative connotation of the word ‘different’ distinguishes autistic children from the rest of the ‘normal’ population of babies being born. The broad generalisation elicited in the collective noun-phrase ‘most of us’ suggests that the reader will align with the author’s perspective of autism. This negative evaluation is further demonstrated through appeals to fact.

“More children than ever are being diagnosed with autism, research revealed last month, and families report that these kids have a poorer quality of life and more emotional and behavioural problems than their non-ASD peers.”

The comparison between children with autism and ‘their non-ASD peers’ infers that the only way to live a happy, productive life is for autistic children to be cured of their condition. This representation is further elucidated through Reynolds’s intense appeal to emotion.

“When Talia Tamou found out that her son Jaylen was on the autism spectrum, she cried for three days.”

The inclusion of the above anecdote likens a mother’s discovery that her child has autism to a descent into grief. This media representation is consistent with researchers who assess that having a child diagnosed with a disability will be perceived as a ‘loss’ (Waltz, cited in Jones and Harwood 2009).

Lastly, we shall turn our analysis to a more explicitly attitudinal text type, investigative journalism. Rather than presenting straight news, current affair programs provide ‘analysis and commentary relating to current events’ (Commercial Radio Australian 2010). A Current Affair’s story “Living With Autistic Kids” follows the lives of Kate and Neil, the parents of four autistic children. The program’s negative assessment of autism becomes apparent from the host’s sympathetic assessment, “These are the ones when they say the line: there’s always someone worse off.”

The story evokes emotion from the viewer through sad, non-diegetic piano music that is overlayed with the screams of a child with autism in the midst of a “sensory overload meltdown”. An accumulation of low angle camera shots on the autistic children establishes their inferior status and positions the viewer to take pity on them.

A montage of “meltdowns”, as revealed in this long shot of the child fighting with his mother, perpetuates the stereotype that people with autism are inherently aggressive and violent.

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-08-47-amThe program is edited to emphasise the tragic conditions of this family, with cuts between an old photo of a superficially happy, ‘normal’ family and footage of the mother struggling to dress her inconsolable child. This is accompanied by the reporter’s emotionally loaded conclusion, “This was not the life they chose but the life they were given,” which expressly characterises autism as a calamitous misfortune on all families.

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-08-16-amscreen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-07-16-am

The media affords an important framework for discourse around social difference. Media representations of autism develop and reinforce the way that people understand the disorder, particularly for individuals encountering their first exposure to the notion of autism. The terminology and textual arrangements adopted by media texts in reporting on the autistic community shapes public perceptions of people with ASD. The above analysis demonstrates the wholly negative representation of people with ASD in the media. A stereotypical portrayal of people with autism as abnormal, burdensome and incapable becomes overwhelmingly apparent across a variety of news media texts. Perhaps we have not come as far as we thought since Tom Cruise was burdened by his onscreen brother’s incessant need for routine and his unreasonable affiliation with Qantas. Almost 30 years on, and we’re still waiting for a media reconfiguration of Rain Man.

ray-jpeg

Word Count: 2377

Resources:

Academic Literature:  

  • Jones, S. and Harwood, V. (2009). Representations of autism in Australian print media. Disability & Society, 24(1), pp.5-18.
  • Prochnow, A. (2014). An Analysis of Autism Through Media Representation. International Society for General Semantics, pp.133-149.

[1] NB: I have used the terminology ‘autistic’ and ‘people with autism’ interchangeably in this essay. The politically correct terminology is highly contested in both academic circles and among the autistic community, with no settled option.

Proposal for Media Analysis Article 2

By Andriana Simos (z061608, F10A)

  1. The topic/subject area or personality you are proposing to deal with in your 2nd written assignment.

For my second assignment, I will be analysing the different representations of Deborah Thomas who is the chief executive of Ardent Leisure, the owner of Dreamworld. I will focus on her as a personality as she has recently come under fire following the Dreamworld ride tragedy. Specifically, I will look at a mixture of both “objective” and “subjective” articles in order to show the various opinions and attitudes towards Deborah’s “performance bonus” just days after the accident.

  1. How many articles will you be dealing with? Provide the headline of the items and links.

I will be dealing with 4 articles. These include:

  • ‘Dreamworld accident: Theme park’s future ‘in doubt’ after four deaths’ by Rachel Olding and Felicity Caldwell on October 28, 2016.

http://www.smh.com.au/queensland/dreamworld-accident-theme-parks-future-likely-in-doubt-after-four-deaths-20161028-gsdbf0

  • ‘Dreamworld Accident: Ardent Leisure chief executive Deborah Thomas donates bonus to Red Cross’ by Rachel Olding on October 27, 2016.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/dreamworld-accident-ardent-leisure-chief-executive-deborah-thomas-donates-bonus-to-red-cross-20161027-gscgl4.html

  • ‘Why should Dreamworld owner’s boss keep her $800 000 bonus? She earned it’ by Anthony Keane on October 27, 2016.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/why-should-dreamworld-owners-boss-keep-her-800k-bonus-she-earned-it/news-story/3656b7039435ea5866206c96ff878aba

  • ‘Dreamworld deaths: Can the company’s leaders save the now-maligned theme park?’ by Antoinette Lattouf on October 28, 2017.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-28/dreamworld-deaths:-can-leaders-save-the-now-maligned-theme-park/7975370?section=analysis 

  1. Brief outline of the articles you will be analysing.
  • This article by Olding and Caldwell is an “objective” news report article where the writers try to provide an “unbiased” report on the events as well as the way in which Ardent Leisure has handled the situation. However, regardless of the notion that the article is meant to be objective, it is clear that the writers have chosen specific words such as “backtracked” and “in doubt” in order to position the readers to think about the management in a certain negative light.
  • This piece is another “objective” news writing article, however, its focus is more on Deborah Thomas as an individual. The choice of words and images portray the idea that many people think she handled the situation badly and that the bonus announcement was poorly timed.
  • This article by Keane is a “subjective” opinion piece which surprisingly differs from the other two articles. It suggests that all the criticism surrounding Deborah is not justified as “business” must go on and she “earned” her bonus. He admits that although the timing may be wrong, it is really out of Deborah’ hands as the AGM legally needed to be held.
  • This article is “objective,” however, its choice of words is quite attitudinal and suggestive of the writer’s negative viewpoint of the “public relations disaster.”
  1. What do I anticipate to be my final conclusions?

By analysing all of these articles (both objective and subjective) it will become clear that most writers have a negative opinion of how Ardent Leisure and Deborah Thomas handled the Dreamworld tragedy. Specifically, the choice of words and images position the audience to take a negative view of Deborah and the group.

However, it must be mentioned that Keane’s more “subjective’ piece has a more positive evaluation of the situation and as a result, I will conclude that although some articles do portray Deborah in a negative light, there are also articles which are more positive. Therefore, the readers are able to read these articles and form their own opinion on the issue as the articles being published are not only negative.

media analysis article 4

Gender Bias in Media Communication Regarding Female Politicians

Some 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 pieces \ seems to suggest that female politicians face numerous struggles, particularly on the campaign trail.

The article probably goes to option 2.

Staff Writer. 2016. Triggs’ integrity questioned by Coalition MPs. [online] Available at: http://www.news.com.au/national/coalition-grills-human-rights-chief-julian-triggs-over-misleading-senate-committee-evidence/news-story/fa3d0d00d588c3572b8b0738629bb835 [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].

Le Messurier, D. 2016. PM contradicts Abbott over the gun law. [online] Available at: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/current-affairs/leigh-sales-grills-tony-abbott-his-tweet-about-gun-laws/news-story/bbcd902299b7ed29cfd86f3aa25063ba [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].

Dunlevy, S. 2016. Govt pushes on with Medicare payment overhaul. [online] Available at: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/turnbull-government-presses-on-with-medicare-payment-

Media Analysis 4 — Proposal on the media portrays NRL differently to the Hyundai A-League

Drawing upon a variety of online and physical sources, I will hope to conclude that publications such as The Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph have a propensity to negatively report on The A-League (because of their investment in other sports); while SBS and Fox Sports are likely to portray a more bipartisan portrayal (due to their own investment and reputations).

I will pay particular attention to Rebecca Wilson, who incited vitriol amongst sports fans due to her article in 2015 that released the identities of more than 100 football fans banned from grounds.

I will also compare the language used by the media when talking about the two sports. Here, I will hope to conclude the media is biased in portraying football as a sport that cultivates hooligans, while propagating the benefits of rugby league.

Drug consumption room in Australia

Minghan Zheng

For this assignment, I will be analysing the opinion pieces regarding the legalisation of drug consumption room in Australia. In order to govern the problem of the drug epidemic, some politicians have expressed the idea of drug consumption room. Drug consumption room enables people taking in a safety place, and under the supervision of health care professionals.

I will focus on the debate around this topic. These are the articles I have found so far:

SMH: ‘Why Australia needs drug consumption rooms’

SMH: ‘Sydney needs drug consumption rooms to help beat ice scourge’

Sunshine Coast Daily: ‘WATERCOOLER: Are ‘drug consumption rooms’ the answer?

Brisbane Times: ‘The safe room’

ABC News: Drug experts plan Australia’s first ice smoking room despite Government opposition

Media Analysis Task 4: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Vanessa Liang Xuan Wu z5079754 Friday 1030

In the final assignment, I will examine how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is portrayed in the media. She is an award-winning author that is regularly identified in the media as a feminist following her TEDTalk titled: “We should all be feminists.” which was later sampled for use in a Beyonce song. I think that she will be an interesting subject for analysis due to her multiple identities such as a writer, speaker, fashionista, feminist, women of colour etc.

Here are some articles that I am considering:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – the feminist who sells make-up

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

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

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Is The New Face Of Boots No7

Black Lives Matter – Kalgoorlie Race Riots

Assessment 4 Proposal

I will be analysing the media coverage of the Kalgoorlie race riots in late August regarding the manslaughter charge of a white-man over the death of a 14 year-old Indigenous boy Elijah Doughty.

In general I have found that the media coverage operates to delegitimise the reason why the protest occurred – but focus instead on the violence that was used and the charges that were given to those involved.

Some of the articles I will focus on include

West Australian article ‘Windows smashed at Kalgoorlie court as boy’s death stokes racial tensions’, by Tim Clarke, Tayissa Sweetlove and Dylan Caporn.

SBS article, ‘Violent protests interrupted proceedings at Kalgoorlie Courthouse on Tuesday following the death of 14-year-old Indigenous boy’.

ABC article ‘Elijah Doughty death: Seven people charged in aftermath of Kalgoorlie riots’ by Nicholas Perpitch and Courtney Bembridge

Guardian Article, ‘Tell the world we want justice’ Elijah Doughty’s death exposes Kalgoorlie’s racial faultline’ by Calla Wahlquist

Vegan Children: The moral debate

Alexandra_Refenes_z3463041_MDIA2002_F10A_Assessment Task Four Step One

 Assessment Task Four: Media Analysis Article Two

Preliminary Proposal

The following proposal briefly summarizes my analysis of several journalism articles regarding vegan children. It is my intention to compare and identify how they position the reader to either favour or oppose this contentious issue. In addition, I shall analyse how different characters are portrayed in each text as either negative or positive influences with respect to my chosen subject.

Veganism is an alternative, plant-based diet that excludes the consumption and use of all animal products including meat, dairy, eggs and honey. Growing in popularity, this lifestyle choice has recently been placed under scrutiny as many parents are choosing to raise their young children on this strict diet. Moral and ethical debate has inevitably sparked in society regarding the health and welfare of children, whilst questioning the parenting skills of many.

I have found four particular articles online that provide comparative views of this social issue:

  1. http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/babies/vegan-mum-who-allegedly-fed-baby-only-fruits-and-nuts-charged/news-story/44dc79d095c0cdef8b8e5b3699578899
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/07/11/italian-baby-fed-vegan-diet-hospitalized-for-malnutrition/
  3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/10/italian-baby-kept-on-vegan-diet-taken-into-care-after-being-foun/
  4. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3858060/Raising-vegan-baby-Theres-right-way-wrong-way.html

Published in October this year, article number one reports how “a vegan mum who allegedly fed her baby only fruits and nuts has been arrested and charged”. The father of the child took the 11-month-old to a local Child and Youth Services organisation in Pennsylvania. A pediatrician claims that the child was suffering from a severe rash and in risk of septic shock. This article shines a negative light on the mother whilst the child is seen as the victim.

The second article from The Washington Post was published in July this year and discusses the hospitalization of an Italian baby who has been removed from parental custody after being raised on a vegan diet. Similar to the above article, administering a vegan diet for young children is reviewed as an unfit lifestyle choice. The author draws upon professional medical advice to support their argument that veganism is not appropriate for children, as they do not receive necessary vitamins and nutrients that are vital for growth. The article also includes columnist advice from different sources that approve plant-based diets in general can be good for children. Providing that parents have undertaken adequate research to ensure that their children are getting the calories and nutrients that they need.

The third article specifically discusses the news story of the Italian baby who was fed a vegan diet by his parents and taken to hospital for malnourishment. Published in July this year, it includes specific facts about the case and mentions the hospitalization of other children in Italy over the past 18 months.

Finally, the fourth article, also published in October this year, is titled “Is it safe to raise a baby as a vegan? Experts reveal whether the plant-based diet can be healthy for young children”. This particular news story discusses the contentious issue by including information for and against the chosen lifestyle choice. It alludes to the hospitalization of vegan babies in Italy (as discussed in the above articles) and draws upon the story of Pennsylvania mother Elizabeth Hawk who was charged with endangering her 11-month-old son by restricting him to a vegan diet. This story provides both for and against argumentation regarding vegan diets for children by drawing upon professional opinions.

With respect to this data, I anticipate that each author will rely on authoritative opinion and facts to back up their given viewpoint. It is my intention to draw upon such conclusions and compare how different media outlets portray various social issues and people. The overall layout of my analysis will begin by introducing the topic and then proceed to individually dissect each article to determine how the authors position the reader to agree with or disapprove the discussed issue. I will then conclude by drawing upon similarities and comparing differences between each text.

Media Analysis 2 Proposal: Mahar, z5059357, H12A

IS VEGANISM SAFE FOR OUR CHILDREN?

For my second media analysis article I will be looking at recent articles exploring the idea of whether veganism is nutritionally safe for children. A case of a malnourished vegan infant in Italy, and the recent proposed bill to jail parents enforcing veganism on their children garnered worldwide media attention, and these stories have been a catalyst for a slew of articles examining whether veganism is a nutritionally viable diet for children.

I will explore articles published this year by both popular news and nutritional news outlets and by websites endorsing a vegan lifestyle. I anticipate that my key conclusions will be that while there are articles both for and against raising vegan children, many more endorse an ‘ethical’ childhood, as long as it is carefully structured and optimised for a growing body.