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Fed-up with Blair's babes, Gordon's gals, Cameron's cuties, Nick's nymphets: challenging gendered media representations of women political leaders

Publication Date
  • L200 Politics
  • N200 Management Studies
  • Political Science


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to highlight gendered media constructions which discourage women's acceptability as political leaders and trivialise or ignore their contribution. Design/methodology/approach – Media analysis of UK newspapers, government web sites, worldwide web relating to the UK 2010 government election, women MPs and in particular representations of Harriet Harman and Theresa May. Findings – Media constructions of UK women political leaders are gendered and powerful in messaging women's (un)acceptability as leaders against embedded stereotypes. Being invisible via tokenism and yet spotlighted on the basis of their gender, media constructions trivialize their contribution, thus detracting from their credibility as leaders. Research limitations/implications – UK-based study grounded in opportune “snapshot” media analysis during election and resultant formation of UK coalition Government. Focus on two women political leaders, results may not be generalisable. Practical implications – Raises awareness of the numerical minority status of UK women political leaders, the invisibility-visibility contradiction and the power of the media to construct women leaders against gender stereotypes. Call for continued challenge to gendered leader stereotypes and women's representation in UK political leadership. Originality/value – Highlights power of media to perpetuate gender stereotypes of UK women political leaders.

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