“THE LACK OF TALENT IS A VIRTUE IN A WOMAN”: INTERDISCIPLINARY CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE
Zhang, Liwei 1986-
There has to date been relatively little research from an interdisciplinary perspective into the ideological dimensions of how women’s achievements are reported in the Chinese media. This study seeks to address this lack of inquiry through an interdisciplinary analysis of the coverage in the Mandarin-language China Sports Daily, Heilongjiang Daily, and the English-language version of Xinhuanet, of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. A critical comparison of the conventions through which the success of representative male and female Chinese Olympians is depicted in textual and visual form in these three selected online newspapers reveals ideologies motivating the discourse which undermine fair representation of female achievement. As an interdisciplinary research project, this study deploys Critical Discourse Analysis as practised by Norman Fairclough in exploring the textual representations of the Olympians and cluster criticism associated with Kenneth Burke in examining the visual. While neither critic situates his work in a primarily or overtly feminist context, both provide strategies which serve the purpose of feminist criticism. Fairclough’s consistent attention to the pervasive influence of ideologies on discursive practice helps reveal deeply entrenched assumptions about gender roles in the most basic journalistic practice. Moreover, while Burke did not formulate his theories in a feminist context, his “guerilla tactics” (Japp 113), that is, the way that his methods can subvert an audience’s expectations regarding the ideologies driving a text’s persuasive practice, are a model for feminist rhetorical critics to uncover covert motivation in discourse and is useful to feminist criticism. The analyses of the news depictions of the Olympians reveal that there is a systematic use of language and images to portray male athletes as embodying the Olympic ethos of surpassing boundaries, while simultaneously appealing to cultural values which dissociate females from that ethos, and containing the celebration of female virtue within the confines of traditional domestic roles. The perpetuation of the discriminatory gender ideology is best understood in connection with Antonio Gramsci’s consent form of “hegemony” (12), whereby the audience consents to the authority of the traditional discourse presented in the media because it appeals to familiar understandings of authority. Media and the audience play reciprocal roles in perpetuating traditional expectations of appropriate behaviour for both genders. The unequal portrayal of female athletes in the news discourse demonstrates the extent to which Confucian ideology motivates public discourse in China, and that this ideology is so pervasive that its influence can even be detected in overtly anti-Confucian discourses. The study concludes by identifying other areas of popular discourse where an understanding of the perpetuation of traditional ideologies poses obstacles to the advancement of women in Chinese society.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeWills, Jeanie; Wason-Ellam, Linda; Mou, Haizhen; Humbert, Louise
Copyright DateOctober 2016
Critical Discourse Analysis