Women, mothers, government ministers

One of the usual questions that journalists ask female government ministers, directors, artists and successful businesswomen is “How do you, as a woman, balance your family and professional obligations?”, means that, in addition to social engagement, women also play other roles – wives, mothers and daughters.

Successful women, on the other hand, often emphasize the support of their sons, husbands, daughters, mothers, fathers and bosses, while always stressing that family comes first. However, successful men are almost never asked such questions because it is understood that they are more focused on public affairs, finances and political responsibility and that their wives are in charge of organizing family life.

It is interesting to note that after the adoption of the Law on Gender Equality, the current Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, Gordana Čomić, announced that the Ministry would launch a public campaign asking men how they achieve work-life balance. In the meantime, the minister has changed her plans and now it seems that it is not that important who coordinates what, although there is a tendency in the media to portray famous men in a family light, states Dr. Emilija Radibradović, a Serbian literature and language professor and the author of the recently published book “Approved in Serbia: Woman, Mother, Government Minister”, which gives insight into sociolinguistic research of contemporary media.

In the book, the author analyzes the online media landscape in our country, starting from 2017, when for the first time in the history of Serbia, a woman became the head of the government. Her research period includes the formation of the Serbian government, which included the largest number of female ministers in its history, and the passing of the first Law on Gender Equality. In-depth systematic analyses include the articles published on the most popular news sites in Serbia and their “women’s” versions.  

“An overview of previous research establishes that the topics covered by “women’s” media are most often oriented around private, personal and family space. Fashion, nutrition, health, beauty, family, home, children, partner and spousal relations are the areas that dominate on these websites. The current affairs on such sites are also focused on the private lives of celebrities, i.e. “stars” of the domestic and foreign popular scene. Websites for women generally do not deal with politics, economics, business, or social issues of public importance. The so-called women’s media are more decorative. In other words, mainstream news media inform, while female media entertain, but also educate”, states Radibradović.

She also states that imperatives are typical verb forms for the “discourse” of women’s media. For example, with imperative forms used in the headlines and article titles on mainstream news platforms, the audience is directly invited to open the news link and visit that media. On “women’s” sites, the imperatives serve to directly instruct women to be accomplished in all fields, to be appropriately and modernly dressed, to be well-groomed, to look younger, more cheerful, thinner and aestheticized, and that their styling should be in harmony with their physical constitution, their skin tone and hair colour, as well as that the choice of make-up and hairstyle agree with the colour and shape of the eyes and lips, that the nose looks smaller than it is, the eyes bigger, the eyebrows fuller, the waist narrower and the legs longer. Women whose names and faces are generally known to the public are usually presented as role model and they usually come from the entertainment industry or, in exceptional cases, from the world of politics. While the colours of the “men’s” sites are darker and figures from political and social life dominate the photos, the colours used on the “women’s” sites are gentler and the photos used on these sites are usually of models and celebrities.

“Patriarchy ordered women to give birth, work and be a “natural delight” to her husband and the discourse of “women’s” websites reflects these orders, making the given roles desirable and easy, both linguistically and multimodally, with photos of attractive women smiling while performing the roles of mothers, housewives and lovers. A woman’s obligation to give birth to children is transformed into her greatest desire and happiness and pregnancy is an imperative that can be presented both indirectly and by mitigating means, i.e. by posing a question such as “Do you want a baby?”, which in correlation with the imperative “check if your name is on the list of the lucky ones”, implies that this is exactly the key to every woman’s happiness”, concludes Emilija Radibradović.

(Politika, 27.05.2024)


This post is also available in: Italiano

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