Panel 1

Organizer: Birgit Sauer

“Framing Religious Difference and Gender. Intersectionality, Citizenship and Body Politics” (Panel Abstract)

Over the last two decades fierce debates about religious and cultural differences emerged across Europe. These public and media debates which led to policy debates and policy decisions challenged the notion of multiculturalism as well as fundamental values of liberal democracies, human rights and the rule of law. Female bodies were at the centre of such debates – be it in issues of Muslim women’s head and body covering, of genital mutilation or of forced marriage. One important characteristics of the public debates is the intersection of gender with religion, ethnicity/nationality – and the political (mis-)use of such intersections.

Are there solutions to these conflicts which do not violate human rights (such as religious freedom, gender equality) and which protect women at the same time? Is the participation of minority women in these debates and decision-making processes part of such a solution? How is citizenship re-defined in and through these processes? Framing and language are important strategies not only to put these issues and conflicts on the political agenda but also to suggest solutions – be they appropriate or not. The three presentations in this panel will discuss public framings of these „hot issues“ – frames about gender equality or women’s rights and autonomy, frames about Christian or European values. The three papers of this panel will discuss questions, which evolve around political regulations of such issues as well as more general considerations of how to deal with religious and cultural difference.

Sawitri Saharso

Harmful cultural practices: unsettling questions.

In my contribution I will focus on Harmful Cultural Practices (HCP’s) from different angles. The term refers to practices that are linked to cultural traditions that supposedly harm the well-being of women. The prototypical example is female genital mutilation (FGM). This example simultaneously illustrates that framing matters. Debates on HCP’s are politically charged; many prefer the term female genital cutting (FGC) because FGM would be too morally condemning. This raises the question: if we want to address as feminists HCP’s how can we speak across cultures about them?

In HCP’s often women’s bodies are involved. This is obvious in the case of FGM/C, but also sex selective abortion or abortion to save family honour or hymen ‘repair’ operations are performed on women’s bodies. HCP’s seem to violate the right to bodily integrity next to other human rights. In the debate on multiculturalism the lower limit for accommodation of minority traditions is usually that these traditions do not violate human rights. I always believed I agreed with this position. Yet, I came across a case of a man whose right to bodily integrity was being violated and found myself in sympathy with the government that tolerated this. Based on this case I am inclined to argue that the right of individuals to enjoy their culture may require that groups get special rights and that in order to preserve their culture groups may restrict individuals’ human rights. But where does this leave me regarding HCP’s? Is it ethically relevant that it is female bodies that are at stake in practices that are done in the name of culture?

I also believed that it is wrong to condemn HCP’s ‘ex cathedra’: ‘we’ decide that these traditions harm women’s rights and therefore we condemn them, irrespective of what the women in question prefer. Therefore I applauded that next to substantive approaches to tolerance that focus on the (harmful) content of a practice procedural and deliberative approaches have been developed in which the main question is whether the women involved freely choose to adhere to a practice. Yet, when discussing HCP’s the problem is that the conditions for autonomous choice may be severely restricted. The women in question cannot choose freely, yet can Western women? Next, I came across a case of (Western women’s) eggs sale in which the author compellingly argued that choice can not make an unethical act ethical. Should we therefore let go of the autonomy paradigm?

I will explain the questions, but do not have the answers. The audience may vote and thereby help me to find answers.

Sabine Berghahn

Die Kopftuchdebatte in Deutschland – nach der neuen Entscheidung des Bundesverfassungsgerichts: Alles wieder auf Anfang?

Der Erste Senat des Bundesverfassungsgerichts hat mit seiner Entscheidung vom 27. Januar 2015 die Möglichkeit pauschaler landesgesetzlicher Kopftuchverbote für Lehrerinnen aufgrund einer „abstrakten“ Gefahr für die staatliche Neutralität und den Schulfrieden aufgehoben. Die inkon­sistente „Verlegenheitslösung“ des Zweiten Senats von 2003 gilt nicht mehr, rechtsstaatlich-liberale Normalität könnte wiedereinkehren. Notwendig ist nun eine Einzelfallabwägung zwischen dem individuellen Grundrecht der Betroffenen und einer „konkreten“ Gefahr. Jedoch stellt sich die Frage, ob das die 12 Jahre des konfrontativen Umgangs mit kopftuchtragenden Lehrerinnen und anderen Beschäftigten im öffentlichen Dienst ungeschehen macht. Ist die „bleierne Zeit“ des aus­bleibenden Rechtsschutzes für bedeckte Musliminnen, die mit Berufsverbot belegt, als Lehrerinnen sanktioniert und zum Teil entlassen wurden, wirklich vorbei oder ist inzwischen die staatlich-institutionelle Dis­kriminierung so eingeübt und zur Normalität geworden, dass sie als Verstoß gegen das Diskriminierungsverbot kaum noch öffentlich thematisierbar ist?

Denn weiterhin wird in Verwaltung und Politik das Kopftuch von vielen Zeitgenossen als Gefahr für die „Neutralität des Staates“ und den „Schulfrieden“ angesehen. Wie ist das angesichts des religionsfreundlichen Staat-Kirche-Verhältnisses in Deutschland zu erklären und was hält den konfrontativen Umgang mit dem Kopftuch der Lehrerin aufrecht? Gibt es auch gegenläufige Zeichen für Entspannung, Befriedung oder gar Akzeptanz des Kopftuchs?

Nora Gresch and Sophie Uitz

„Withdrawing Faces “

Although the so-called “veil-debates” have been a topic of public discussions in European countries since the mid 1980s, the debates about Muslim body covering have intensified since 2004 so that up to now, most European countries have actually regulated the wearing of Muslim body covering in the public sphere. Though, in the very recent years, the debates over Islamic body covering have changed: The politicization of the full face and body covering seems to have superseded the headscarf. Calls to ban the full face and body covering arose in many European countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Austria, in Switzerland, Italy and the UK. But so far only France and Belgium have introduced prohibitive regulations for full body covering in the public sphere.

In this paper, we argue that the veil-debates and policies negotiate and support a new concept of citizenship which implies and goes along with a re-drawing and re-structuring of the public sphere in current European societies. New requirements and preconditions for citizenship are negotiated and the veil debates are one of the discourses to put them in place. More specifically, the paper will explore the multiple layers of ‘Withdrawing Faces’ that are tied into these renegotiations of concepts of citizenship, all of them affecting the way in which Muslim women wearing a veil are able to participate in a public sphere as citizens.

It is our argument that the heart of the veil-debates negotiates questions of how we as citizens of European societies in the processes of current neo-liberal state transformation move, behave, represent and understand ourselves as citizens and thus re-structuring the public sphere.

 

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Panel 2

Organizer: Tuija Saresma, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (Research project Populism as Movement and Rhetoric, funded by the Academy of Finland), tuija.saresma@jyu.fi

“Right Wing Populism, Discourse, and Gender”

Populist parties have gained prominent significance in the contemporary political field, and there is a persuasive amount of analysis on right wing populism and its anti-immigration agenda in Europe. Gender, however, has been marginalized in the critical research on populism (Mulinari & Neergard 2012; de Lange & Mügge 2015), and “systematic research of the views of populist radical-right parties with respect to gender issues is scarce” (Akkerman 2015).

While we are currently witnessing an upsurge of focusing on gender in the research on populism (e. g. the theme number of Patterns of Prejudice, 49: 1–2, 2015, on Gender and populist radical rights politics, edited by Spierings et al.), and subject areas such as analyzing the ‘gender gap’ and the voting patterns of women and men (Harteveld et al. 2015; Spierings & Zaslove 2015), the charismatic female and male party leaders (Meret 2015) and the gendered conceptual metaphors (Norocel 2013) are being studied, the analysis on the gender issues of the right wing populist parties and the ideologies behind the publicly expressed proclamations is still mostly missing. There is, thus, a need for a discursive examination on how gender is performed rhetorically in the party programs and other official manifestos of the populist parties as well as in the unofficial comments of the party people published in the media, both traditional and social media.

In this panel, the focus is on the discourses that represent and reproduce certain – often explicitly conservative – beliefs and presumptions about gender and the ideal gender order that is based on understanding gender as a biologically determined dichotomy of the two sexes, as well as the gendered and gendering representations and discursive performing of politicians in the media. The presentations explore the representations of the populist ideologies of anti-feminism, anti-immigration and anti-Islam minded opinions, the gendered rhetoric and style of the charismatic leaders of the populist parties, the problematics of dividing people to ‘us’ and ‘them’, and the relationship of gender and ethnicity, racialization and cultural racism in the populist right wing politics. Since gender is often intertwined with ethnicity, class, sexuality, and religion in the populist discourse, many of the presenters apply the concept of intersectionality as the critical recognition of the workings of power in positioning people hierarchically in certain social categories, and as a methodological tool in analyzing the intertwining and negotiating of complex and interdependent power hierarchies (Crenshaw, 1991; McCall, 2005; Ferree, 2011; Karkulehto et al. 2012).

Tuuli Lähdesmäki (University of Jyväskylä, Finland, tuuli.lahdesmaki@jyu.fi)

Ov Cristian Norocel (CEREN University of Helsinki, Finland, cristian.norocel@helsinki.fi)

Tuija Saresma (University of Jyväskylä, Finland, tuija.saresma@jyu.fi)

The populist representations of ‘us’ and ‘others’ in Finland and Sweden: A comparative study of intersectional differences in populist parties’ newspapers

Finland and Sweden share the ideal of a Nordic welfare state whereby gender equality is a central tenet of the system. In both countries, a new kind of parties promoting populist or even radical right views has gained prominence in the last elections. While there are similarities in the agendas of the Finns Party and the Sweden Democrats, the parties differ with regard to their political histories and agendas, and modes of expressing discriminatory or even racist views.

While ethnicity and racialization are broadly discussed in the research on populism, gender and sexuality often remain under-researched, although in populist reasoning, views on nation, ethnicity and migration, social class, culture and language, gender and sexuality are interdependent in complex ways. In this comparative study, we examine how the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘others’ is articulated in terms of gender, class, ethnicity and race in the party newspapers: Perussuomalainen (Finland) and SD-Kuriren (Sweden).

More specifically, we analyse how the meanings of various identity categories are performed intersectionally, whereby intersectionality refers to the interrelations of hierarchically organized and constantly negotiated social categories and subject positions that are performed in order to construct the ‘us’ and ‘others’ distinctions. The aim is to compare the representations of gender and other intersecting categories of power in the discourse of the Finnish and Swedish populist parties, and to find out how the cases differ, considering the two slightly dissimilar societal and cultural discussion climates.

Piia Varis (Tilburg University, The Netherlands, pvaris@uvt.nl)
True Finns, anti-feminism and gender equality

This paper focuses on the case of the True Finns party in Finland, and anti-feminism as a feature of their populist discourse. More specifically, the paper looks into how ‘traditional media’ mediates and frames this anti-feminist discourse, and offers a ‘site of engagement’ for further discursive action – appropriation, evaluation and recontextualisation of the anti-feminist discourse, particularly through discussions in the online comment section in the newspaper. The data for this paper thus consists of not only the newspaper articles highlighting anti-feminism, but also reader engagement with this issue. Apart from the anti-feminist stance, the paper examines the accompanying discourse of gender equality ‘gone too far’ and the ‘appropriate’ gender roles and indexes of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ assigned in the interviews. The paper focuses specifically on the most popular daily newspaper in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat, and the particular case of The Finns party secretary interviews from 2013 and 2014 in which she assumes a strong anti-feminist stance, calling upon e.g. ‘tradition’ and the views of the ‘average Finn’ in support of her stance. The paper thus attempts to contribute to the existing analysis of populist discourse in Finland (see e.g. Lähdesmäki & Saresma 2014), discussions on the role of traditional media in framing and making visible certain discourses, and, as online environments have become an important arena for debate, the paper also touches upon the role and features of online environments such as newspaper comment sections in the dissemination, debates on and legitimation of specific discourses in the public sphere.

Laura Parkkinen (Åbo Akademi University, lparkkin@abo.fi)
The ethos of Marine Le Pen in French press and discourse of feminism/islam in her speeches

My paper deals with ethos feminine and the stereotypes of women. I examine the ways Marine Le Pen been presented in French press and media (TV5) 2014. Being a leading right-wing politician, Marine Le Pen has been presented as a “celebrity”, “starlette”, “mother”, “blonde”, “batave” (French word describing the Dutch). She has been described by al television commentator as entering politics like “Obelix to magic pot”. She is often described as Jeanine, mi-woman, mi-masculine, daughter of (fille de) and her outfit is presented.

In her public appearance, Marline Le Pen utilizes feminism. She does not, however, “see herself as a feminist”, but is using feminism in positioning herself against “others”, for example discussing the question of veil.

More generally, my paper analyses how the ethos feminine has been used in constructing the dediabolisation of populist right wing politics. How are ethos feminine and feminism are used in right-wing-populism of Front Nationale?

Emilia Palonen (University of Helsinki, Finland, emilia.palonen@helsinki.fi)
Ágnes Heller vs. Orbán government: a gendered debate on cultural populism

We are used to discussing populism as an ideology, but if it is not merely an ideology behind nominally populist parties. A better picture can be seen through ‘populist dynamics’. The aim of Jobbik and Fidesz is to mainstream ideas of Hungarianness that by creating a contrast to multiculturalism and Europeanness, anti-liberalism and anti-intellectualism, and through that establish an idea of Hungary and what is it to be Hungarian, as an empty shell to be filled with particular content. An emblematic figure of this criticism became Ágnes Heller, a transnational Hungarian Jewish female philosopher.

Based on research of newspaper reporting (EMIS archive of Hungarian newspapers), this paper looks at the way in which she was involved in the scandal around philosophers in the beginning of the second term of Fidesz government, and how she responded to the problem. It explores what the debate has got to do with gender and how it mirrors gendered representations in Fidesz rhetoric. It explores also Heller’s own position that it was an anti-semitic attack.

Especially following the ultimately unfounded allegations, extreme right populism, alongside the illiberal democratic measures of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz government, is the target of the Hungarian philosopher Ágnes Heller’s rhetoric. She counterbalances it with a picture of a more inclusive Europe, and articulates her own position as a Hungarian Jewish intellectual.

The research is based in the understanding of ‘populist dynamics’ drawing from Ernesto Laclau’s theory. It particularly explores the notion of cultural populism – as a populist dynamic.

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Panel 3

Martin Stegu (WU / Vienna University of Business and Economics)

Discrimination through language: feminist and queer positions – Introductory remarks

After contextualising the term “discrimination” more broadly, we will concern ourselves primarily with gender-related discrimination through language. The emphasis will be on “language” rather than “discourse”, i.e. linguistic structures that are reflections of hundreds or thousands of years of negating and discriminating against particular social groups, and that, therefore, still carry potential for discrimination today. The panel deals with linguistic structures that make women, LGBTIQA+ people and people who do not identify with a specific gender or sexual orientation invisible; we ask the questions of how we use, could use and should use language on an individual level as well as in terms of language planning.

There are two aims to the panel. First, in the individual contributions, we want to approach the phenomenon and term “discrimination” itself; second, particularly in the final discussion, we want to grapple with a fundamental problem in Applied Linguistics: how can we mediate between “folk linguistic” understandings and queer-feminist approaches that are often said to be “divorced from reality” and, in our case, radical? Where should Applied Linguistics fulfil its ambitions absolutely, and where can we allow for compromise?

lann hornscheidt (humboldt university berlin)

linguistic discrimination and its relation to linguistics

In my presentation I will try to give some ideas on the relationship of linguistics, language and discrimination. I will favor a constructivist model of language use and intersectional discrimination structures and sketch out a possible future development of research on discrimination and language.

I will start my presentation with how the concept of discrimination is negotiated in pragmatics/feminist linguistics/anti-discriminatory language planning. Which concepts and words are used to analyze and understand structural discrimination and language use, subject formation, action and social positionings? I will discuss how different forms of anti-discriminatory linguistic research – or language and gender studies – re_produce certain norms which in themselves are normalizing views on what language and discrimination is. I will make these comments on the background of intersectionality theories. In my presentation I will give concrete examples for activists’ linguistic change strategies and linguistic argumentations to that.

Claudia Posch (University of Innsbruck)

“Binnen-I be gone” – a new wave of refusal with old arguments

This contribution takes a look at two recent debates in the Austrian media on the topic of feminist language changes in 2014. The one is a more general debate about different forms of anti-discriminatory language and if any of the suggested forms should be standardized by the Austrian Standards Institute (ÖNORM 1080). The other debate is about the addition of the word “daughters” to the Austrian national anthem, in which previously only “sons” had been mentioned. Both debates occurred simultaneously and interconnected in the media. The debates were somewhat different from previous debates in that the tone, especially of online comments, became very aggressive. This paper seeks to investigate these two debates by using a discourse-historical framework with a special focus on argumentative patterns used by the commenters.

Christoph Hofbauer (WU / Vienna University of Economics and Business)

Attitudes towards gender-fair language and discrimination: empirical findings, theoretical reflections, practical recommendations

Based on two studies on gender-fair language conducted at the Vienna University of Economics and Business (with more than 1,300 participants, students and staff), this presentation will give an overview of selected discrimination aspects relevant to gender-fair language. Original statements of the participants are presented; the context is illustrated and links to theoretical frameworks are outlined.

Since gender-fair language tries to reduce male language structures in favour of other gender identities, it can be considered a tool to counteract gender discrimination and consequently, as a contribution to gender equality. Accordingly, certain respondents feel discriminated against when gender-fair language is ignored or not deployed, because they are not addressed directly. On the other hand, other participants feel discriminated against when gender-fair forms are used: Certain men fear a loss of power, while certain women see themselves reduced to their gender/sex. Rightfully, the question remains whether there is a way to satisfy both parties.

Summing up, this presentation addresses different aspects of discrimination and related questions, and tries to elaborate possible options and answers.

 

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Panel 4

Organizer: Natalia Krzyżanowska

Centre for Feminist Social Research, Örebro University, Sweden

natalia.krzyzanowska@oru.se; http://www.oru.se/Personal/natalia_krzyzanowska

‚Gender, Language and Politics – East and West’ (Panel Abstract)

This panel aims to explore the multidimensional meaning of gender as a socially- and linguistically-constructed category fundamental for various facets of socio-political transformation in East and West. Through its interdisciplinary approach, the panel highlights the multiplicity of ways in which gender (as a social phenomenon), language (as a tool of communication, incl. visual/multimodal) and the political (understood as “terrain upon which verification of equality confronts the established order of identification and classification”, Rancière J. Aux Bords du politique, 1998) are intertwined in the processes of social transformation and change. Looking at practices that are political and/or politicized in nature – yet are located within social fields as diverse as politics, arts, education, the media or social movements – the panel looks at research conducted on a wide variety of topics and issues. These include, inter alia, discourses of higher education policies, narratives of migrant experiences, discourses of LGBT movements, news-media language or narratives of visual and performing arts all of which point to various trajectories of genderlanguage- politics relationships conditioned by socio- and politico-economic transformation. The foci of the panel allow highlighting that, in the course of ongoing transformations, gender often becomes debated and even radically contested with both pro and contra radical positions of consent and dissent formed across social fields and discourses in the processes of  negotiating the notion as well as undermining its salience for politics, economy and society.

Erzsébet Barát, University of Szeged, Hungary

A man's face is his autobiography - A woman's face, her work of fiction?’

The presentation, the title of which uses the quotation marks ironically around the quote by Oscar Wilde, aims to contribute to the gender-language-politics relationships identified as the central concern of the panel from within the disciplinary field of critical studies of discourse. It looks at ways in which practices of gendering come to be articulated in the particular event “Face of University” contest. It is, in fact, a beauty contest for women organized for the promotional purposes by the University of Szeged, Hungary. Looking at the local media coverage of the event, I will explore the processes of negotiating the meaning of the very concept (face of university. Revisiting the history of the contest, starting in 2003, I can explore the changes in the university leadership’s strategies, the ways they try to undermine the salience of the politics of the event and how that disposition relates to the specific context of Hungarian higher education policies.

Katarzyna Kosmala, University of the West of Scotland, UK

Bringing in the political in cultural production: Nomadic routes between former East and former West.


In my paper, I will draw on the research realised for my edited collection Sexing the Border: Gender, Art and New Media in Central and Eastern Europe (CSP, 2014) that represents a timely intervention in both critical discourses on video/new media art, as well as examination of gender in post-Socialist contexts. The paper will look at sites for the emergence of a critical episteme in cultural production born out of diasporic and nomadic experience, including migration, temporary re-location or an ‘exile’ from so-called ‘former East’ to so called ‘former West’, as well as a sense of being inbetween. Drawing on my volume, the paper will explore how encounters between art and technology have been implicated in the representation and analysis of gender, critically reflecting current debates and gender politics across the region and Europe more widely. The consolidation of the global financial crisis as well as the reframing of the socio-political will frame it along with economic ‘transition’ from post-Socialism in European spaces that have led to a strengthening of critical political discourse in contemporary art practice and cultural production, a discourse also based on a remobilisation of feminist politics and the re-writing of histories. With an overarching desire to demonstrate the rich context and diverse heritage of different parts of Europe, in particular, the region of Post-Socialist Europe that also extends to Western Europe, the examples of artists’ works and curatorial projects discussed will shed light on various geographical locations and its transitory nature, through diasporas in art production, theory development and showcasing. I will explain how such positionality can become a form of resistance, materialised in complex and diverse responses to Capitalism’s institutionalization and the proximity of the market to the art world.

 

Frances Trix, Indiana University, USA

Five-Thousand Hanging Skirts: How Women Remember War Rape in Kosovo

In the 1998-1999 war in Kosova, an estimated 20,000 Albanian women and girls were raped by Serbian military and especially paramilitary soldiers. Until now, there was no effective way of remembering this. Albanian culture is traditional and such matters could not be mentioned for fear of the social stigma. Almost all Albanians in Kosovo are Muslim and this adds to the social conservatism. In addition the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague was particularly ineffective in dealing with rape in Kosovo. The few Kosovar women who had been convinced to testify as anonymous witnesses found their identities were revealed back in Kosovo by Milošević’ team. They felt betrayed. A Kosovar woman artist, Alketa Xhafa-Mripa, originated the art installation of 5,000 skirts and dresses that were hung on clotheslines in the footfall stadium of Prishtina 12 June 2015, anniversary of the end of the war. “The laundry is washed clean, like the women who are clean and pure – they carry no stain,” asserted Xhafa-Mripa. In this paper I describe the gathering of skirts and dresses across Kosova, the participation of families in the hanging of the garments, and the meaning accorded this display in a football stadium – the most male of settings. I analyze the speech of the female president of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, at the presentation, a speech in which “rape" is never mentioned. I also discuss what happened to children born of pregnancies from that time.


Jennifer M. Wei, Soochow University, Taiwan

A Critical Discourse Analysis of gender stereotype comments on Taiwanese Female Politicians

In this presentation, we propose to apply critical discourse analysis (Wodak 1997) to study gender stereotypical comments (Heilman 2001) on Taiwanese female politicians. Our hypotheses are that progressive social movements such as democratizations and the liberalization of the media may have an impact on changing ideas and ideals of femininity and masculinity. Moreover, we argue that a candidate’s deviating from the binary gender line—positioning oneself as either a man or woman candidate—may also change and challenge expectations of gender stereotypes. These social and political factors may destabilize normative expectations toward males and females, thus challenging existing gender stereotypes. Our data are taken from voters’ comments on some of the most prominent female politicians posted on the Internet. We will study these comments to find out how the global trends of increasing female participations in politics may influence local gendered ideologies. We are interested in the following questions:
1) Are female candidates subject to sex stereotypes as women in general?
2) Does political ideology play a role in how a fe/male candidate would be criticized?3) How do global images of female politicians interact with the local discourse of gendered stereotyping comments?
4) What are some of the linguistic mechanisms endorsing/sanctioning the actions of a candidate?
By applying critical discourse analysis to these comments, we should be able to see if and how changing gendered stereotypes influence female participation in politics. The results should be of benefit to the study of politics and gender in general and to the sociolinguistics of gender.

 

 

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Panel 5

Organizers: Elisabeth Holzleithner, Eva Flicker
”Gender and Visual Politics in TV-Series”

Elisabeth Holzleithner, University of Vienna
Televisual feminism? Interrogating OITNB


Tba

Eva Flicker, University of Vienna
Commander in Chief” and “Borgen” – female leaders in a transcontinental teleVISIONal viscourse


Televisual role modelling of female characters and the discourse about the small number of women in political leadership creates a viscourse on body, gender and power in fictional media. Women coming into presidency are topic of TV-series. Two of them have been broadcasted globally in many countries: “Commander in Chief” (USA) and “Borgen” (Denmark). In 2005 the first woman came into TV-presidency of the United States after the president´s death.  18 episodes over two TV-years from 2005-2006 make us follow a woman as “Commander in Chief”, confronted with international political conflicts and family crisis. The storyline presents the reactions on the “new” gender in the presidency. In 2010 “Borgen” starts to tell the story of a female Danish politician who unexpectedly also becomes the first Prime Minister. 30 episodes from 2010-2013 present ups and downs of a woman in the middle of politics, media, intrigues and family life. Both TV-characters confront us with political accidents: women coming into presidency was not expected, but an effect of unpredictable circumstances and of women rejecting a subordinate position.  The paper focusses on central aspects of the characters including their ambivalence, and discusses contrasts and equivalents between real-life in the political arena and gendered leadership on TV. Do TV-series offer visionary perspectives on society?

Greta Olson, University of Giessen

The Gendered Politics of so-called Quality Television

This talk troubles the collocation of “quality” with post-network serial dramas concerning violent white US American men. Accolades concerning these serials being “tragic,” “Shakespearean,” or “Dickensian” are highly gendered and reveal an implicit hierarchization of genres. Serials concerning dramatizations of violent struggles for hegemonic masculinity such as The Sopranos (1999-2007) and Breaking Bad (2008-2013) are the only ones considered to have the gravitas to be termed “tragic,” whereas women-centered comedies and melodramas are relegated to the critical sidelines. Value judgments about “quality,” on the one hand, deny these serials’ melodramatic elements in an attempt to renegotiate television’s traditional association with the domestic space, femininity, and seductive consumption. On the other hand, they function to undo the work of feminist media criticism.

 

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