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Title:Tracing notions of "women's places" in society: An analysis of selected press coverage of Hillary Rodham Clinton
Author(s):Detman, Linda Ann
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Denzin, Norman K.
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Women's Studies
Sociology, Social Structure and Development
Abstract:My research explores contemporary renderings of women's places in society through a critical, poststructuralist, feminist reading of selected press coverage (culled primarily from the New York Times, Washington Post, and New York Post) of Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) during the 1992 American Presidential campaign. The texts produced about and around HRC from January 1992 to the inauguration in January 1993, focused on a variety of issues that fit under the rubric of 'women's place in society,' including the family, working women, egalitarian versus traditional relationships, women in politics, and marriage. Questions about the appropriate places for women linked up with a variety of dualistic categories that then contoured and limited understandings of these issues. HRC functioned for these particular media as a site for exploring such issues, and for discussing, challenging, constructing, and reinforcing understandings of women's place in society. My work attempts to answer the question: how did a public discourse on women's places in society play itself out around HRC?
Feminist scholars have paid considerable attention to the depictions of women in literary works, advertisements, films, television, magazines, and romance novels. A close examination of women's depiction in the news has been unexplored, beyond relatively unsophisticated attempts to quantify for example how many times a woman has a byline, or is a subject in a story. This work seeks to fill a niche in the literature by tracing the shifting discourse on women's place in society, using HRC as a case study.
In this work I explore the reliance on dichotomies (i.e., feminist/traditionalist, career/family, working woman/mother, among others) in news stories that focused on HRC. I found that these oppositions consistently constructed HRC as a threat not only to the mythic position of the First Lady, but more broadly, to accepted notions of appropriate femininity and masculinity. I then consider the ramifications of using such binaries in news articles, that purport to document an "objective" reality, for simplifying and obscuring the complexities among women (and men).
Both men and women come to understand our lives and actions through socially sanctioned discourse, a discourse shaped in part by the news media's depiction of reality. While we are not passive victims of whatever the media place before us, to paraphrase Marx, we are certainly not always in control of the conditions that mold our consciousness. It is important to know the contours of a discourse in order to then understand how it contributes to individual and social subjectivity, constructs lived experience, and shapes stereotypes and expectations about appropriate actions. It is my hope that my examination of the texts around and about HRC contributes to that project.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Detman, Linda Ann
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9625128
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9625128

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