Prof Heather Savigny
Associate Professor in Politics and Gender at Bournemouth University, and sits on the Executive Committee of the Political Studies Association.
Heather is co-editor of European Political Science, book reviews editor for British Politics as well as editorial board member for The International Journal of Digital Television. For 10 years she was co-convenor of the PSA’s Media and Politics Specialist group.
Section 1: Media Reporting
- The ‘horse-race’ contest dominated TV news election coverage
- News media performance in the 2015 General Election campaign
- Broadcasting: at the centre of the most managed election campaign
- The right man for the job: the gendered campaign
- What citizens are entitled to expect from TV election debates
- Girls on top, who knew? The unpredictability of pollsters and publics
- Immigration coverage and populist cultural work in the 2015 General Election campaign
- Winning and losing the ‘Battle for Number 10’: a linguistic analysis of the Paxman vs Cameron/Miliband election interviews
- Hot dog politics: Why comfort food makes politicians uncomfortable
- The kitchen as the new campaign battleground: changing notions of masculinity
When I went to vote, I had a ‘choice’ of five men representing national parties; I could not choose to vote for a woman (So I spoiled my ballot paper and wrote SNP). But why were there no female candidates available for me to choose from? Is politics still a ‘’? And how complicit are the media in shoring up masculine political power?
Where previous election coverage has sadly, not much changed in this election. that wives of male political leaders were viewed as more important than female politicians: Samantha Cameron still received more coverage that Harriet Harman and Teresa May. And showed that women politicians featured in less than a fifth of coverage.
Rather than challenge media stereotypes, politicians themselves have played into them.
Where press coverage of female politicians was inevitable, for example, following the leaders debates, we saw a reversion to form: The Metro reported that ‘ Sexy’ Leanne Wood has Twitter swooning with her accent; Nicola Sturgeon was subject to and reviled by the Daily Mail as ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain’ and had her face superimposed on a Miley Cyrus in a tartan bikini with the headline ‘Tartan Barmy’ by the Sun. Is this really how we talk about our female politicians? As , we perhaps need to stop and ask questions about the kind of gendered politics that is being conducted. Would we see a headline with ‘Sexy’ Osborne has Twitter swooning with his pecs? Or a picture of Cameron’s head superimposed over fictional character Ross Poldark’s abs? And if we think that sounds ridiculous in respect of a male politician, than why position female politicians in this way?
This issue matters because, not only can this kind of coverage put women off voting, and standing for office, but it also obscures the ways in which women’s issues are While economic coverage was in the campaign far less attention was paid to ; these women’s voices and their interests are drowned out.
It is easy to point fingers solely at the media; and indeed commentators have made a point of and not all media outlets can be tarred with the same brush as the Daily Mail. However, what has been less widely commented on in this context is the way in which political parties also play a role in what media cover. Extensive analysis of the ways in which politicians manipulate the media seems to go out of the window when it comes to this kind of coverage. Politicians go to great lengths to manage media appearances: so why are politicians allowing media to get away with this kind of behaviour and leaving it to journalists (independent and professional) and campaigners such as the to monitor this kind of coverage? Rather than challenge media stereotypes, politicians themselves have played into them. Labour’s ‘pink bus’ was a publicity stunt aimed at attracting women voters, yet that actually there was a 1% gap between men and women in the turnout at the last election. Gendered stunts are not necessary. We do need however: 1) proactive strategies to recruit women in to political parties; and 2) for those parties to represent women’s issues and 3) for media outlets to focus on the policies promoted by female politicians not their appearances. These are just three necessary conditions to improve women’s descriptive and substantive representation in politics.