Media Coverage of Gender Role: The Case of All-female Operated Flight Crew of Ethiopian Airlines, 2015

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Addis Ababa University


Looking at the digital world, people use different platforms to share their thoughts and stories they think are impactful. The mainstream media being the principal means of communication, it plays a huge role in setting agendas and constructs people’s views towards their environment, culture, different social groups, and so many other issues. That’s why the issue of media representation becomes very critical over the years. People become wary of how the media portrays particular groups, communities, experiences, ideas, or topics from a particular ideological or value perspective. Women have long been victims of stereotypical representation, and the different forms of misrepresentation led to a prejudiced view of women as the ‘incompetent’. Although the media is experiencing a change in recent years, women still tend to be represented as inferior, seen primarily through body images and sexual connotations produced by the mass media ruled mostly by men. This is evident when reading the headlines that are chosen to analyze in this study. This analysis is aimed at probing the representation of gender role through the choice of lexical items in representing the female aviators in this historic flight. To do so, the study applied Social constructionist view as its theoretical framework guiding the overall approach. According to Social constructionists, people's values and beliefs are socially constructed, context-specific and jointly produced in reference to certain time and place. Also, language plays the leading role in the creation of reality, since perception can only go forward within the frame of communication. For instance, language played it part to the existing inequities by establishing different stereotypical terms and categorizations. By using discourse analysis, this study attempted to look into how Ethiopian media covered the all-female operated flight and negotiated gender issues during this historic incident and whether the representations challenge the patriarchal privilege. Assuming social constructionist view, it isbelieved that these images of the gender representation in the news reporting affect our perception of what a man or a woman is and what they are capable of. Discourse analysis looks into social relationships, especially considering the notions of power and dominance in society and their implementation within discursive strategies in general. Therefore, this particular research referred to abuse of social power and dominance via the print and broadcast media and the discourse used by the media. The researcher only considered primary data and interpretations i.e. news articles covering the incident. A total of four Amharic news articles and one television newscast were taken for analysis, the reason behind choosing Amharic articles is that it is the official and wieldy used and relatively easily accessible compared with publications in another language. Since the study is focused on textual analysis, it depends on the information available in the articles and the TV newscast. The findings of the analysis indicate that the representations are somehow stereotypical and that the choices of the naming categories are quite patriarchal. Some characters occasionally challenge these stereotypical representations yet, the outcome is rarely successful. The articles also illustrate the different conceptualizations of women’s work and how they continue to inform debate to this day. Therefore, Conclusion suggests that women pilots in their attempt to gain a foothold in the male-dominated field of aviation face various hurdles of discrimination, prejudice and underrepresentation, and the media used these restrictive views on their flying abilities to their disadvantage. Also, this research implies that the media are still in the male’s domain more often