Media representations of gender in the Scottish public sphere in the context of the 2014 independence referendum

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the mediated representation of gender in the Scottish public sphere in the context of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. In particular it focuses on media samples which centre on key political figures from the campaign. The study combines two corpora: articles from the Scottish press, and tweets from the social media platform Twitter. It uses a mixed methods approach combining content analysis and critical discourse analysis to explore the mediated representations of these politicians. It first looks to the patterns emerging from a large volume of data before moving on to a more detailed analysis of how language is used to construct discourses of gender. Findings show an overall conversationalisation of discourse but with more informal naming practices used for female politicians.There was also evidence of a personalisation of political figures, although in this case a higher amount of discussion focused on male leaders. Contrary to findings of comparable studies, both male and female politicians had similar proportions of mentions of their appearance overall, though this tended to focus on specific individuals. While appearance was used as a metonym for identity across both genders, this had gendered differences; in regard to men these discourses were used to criticise male dominance and “middle-aged men in suits”, while for women it was used to undermine their political competency, showing evidence of a double bind and media confusion around the terms by which women politicians should be assessed. The gender of the women was foregrounded in the media discourse more than men, which showed tensions around differentialist and egalitarian perceptions of their representation.Female politicians were presented as embodying a specific feminised style, with those that violated this represented in negatively gendered terms. Though there was evidence of contestation to male-dominated politics, discourses still reified traditional gender norms and situated women as outsiders to the political public sphere. Nonetheless, despite these resilient gendered narratives, the presence of contestation shows an expressed desire for a feminised Scottish public sphere.
Date of Award20 Mar 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorMichael Higgins (Supervisor) & Mark Peter Shephard (Supervisor)

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