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Uncovering the Coverage: Gender Biases in Canadian PoliticalReportingJoanna Everitt, PhDAssociate Professor of Political ScienceUniversity of New Brunswick (Saint John)Let me begin by saying that when I speak of gender bias in themedia, I am not accusing reporters, editors or even politicalcartoonists of being consciously sexist in the coverage that theygive to women in the political world. I don't think that anyonebegins their story thinking "how can I treat Belinda Stronach,Sheila Copps, Alexa McDonough or Kim Campbell as unfairly aspossible". No, I do not think that journalists are any moreconsciously biased than anyone else. But it is not the consciousbias that I am concerned about. It is the more insidiousunconscious bias that is the problem.We all have unconscious stereotypes that we use to frame ourunderstanding of how women and men should behave – and ofhow politicians should behave. Unfortunately, those stereotypesthat we so often hold of "women" do not map well over thestereotypes that we hold of "politicians". As a result, women whoseek elected office frequently face expectations that are verydifferent from the expectations facing male politicians. Thesedifferences are built into our evaluations of male and femalepoliticians and they are reflected in the media coverage that theyreceive. And, there is lots of evidence that the coverage thatwomen receive is very different from the coverage that menreceive.Now before I get into some of the results of our studies, let mefirst say that there are several factors that affect how politicalstories are covered. The first is that the news media are trying tocapture and maintain audience attention in an increasinglycompetitive media market. If you are not a political scientist, apolitician, a member of the media, or someone closely connectedto the workings of government, what makes you want to watchthe news? Well part of it is that there is something about thestories that get covered that grips you, some sort of conflict,
something unexpected or some sort of novelty that captures yourinterest and pulls you into the story. It is for this reason that thesenews values, conflict, novelty or unexpectedness are often playedup in the actual news reports.The second thing to keep in mind is that politics has traditionallybeen a male dominated field … and political journalism has alsobeen pretty male dominated. The result, we argue is that politicalreporting typically employs a masculine narrative that reinforcesconceptions of politics as a male preserve and treats the male asnormative. This basically means that the language that is used toreport on politicians and their activities tends to reinforce theimage that politics is something that men do. It does this throughthe images that it evokes, most explicitly through the use ofmetaphors. These metaphors describe elections as campaigns or

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