Public lecture by Prof. Linda Steiner: “Why and How Does Gender Matter: Accounts of Failed Theories”

When: Thursday 8 July 2011 at 10:30Am

Where: HK207, College of Hakka Studies, National Chiao Tung University

About the speaker:

Linda Steiner is Professor of Journalism at the University of Maryland and director of graduate studies and research in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. In August 2011 she will become president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), an increasingly international organization and the largest scholarly association for faculty teaching journalism and mass media. Her most recent book is the co-edited Key Concepts in Critical Cultural Studies. Other recent books include the co-edited Critical Readings: Gender and Media; and the co-authored Women and Journalism. She has served as editor of Critical Studies in Media Communication and currently serves on the editorial boards of seven journals. She served as an Associate Editor for Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. Other AEJMC service includes as chair to the Standing Committee on Research; co-chair of the Task Force on Publications; and chair of a task force on ethics, which produced an ethics code dealing with research, teaching, and service.

About the talk:

Several theories, concepts and perspectives have been used to ground and defend arguments about the difference that gender makes in media professions and workplaces, although, as I will show, attempts to demonstrate each theory empirically have been flawed at best, wrong at worst. Although I’ll highlight arguments made by/for/about women journalists, these approaches, at least hypothetically, apply to arguments made about why and how sexual orientation, class, or race/ethnicity do or do not, or should or should not matter to other communication professions. I will first mention perspectives based on presumed sex/gender differences, the notion that women have different skills and natural talents that are either complementary to or better than men’s, including both evolutionary psychology and cultural feminism. References to patriarchy and to potential for women to repress their feminine sensibility as a result of internalized sexism were then offered to explain why women did not do journalism differently. Critical mass, a notion borrowed from nuclear physics, that change occurs when an irreversible turning point is reached. The notion of critical mass was taken so seriously in journalism that one heard discussions of a Pink Ghetto, i.e., the claim that women’s successful incursion into journalism would negatively and inevitably change journalism, including by lowering salaries and thereby pushing out men. When critical mass failed, scholars often turned to various ideas about professionalism, including the so- called “Topping-Out Factor,” the notion that change could only come from the top, from management, and the Glass Ceiling. Finally, I suggest that feminist standpoint epistemology re presents gender as a notion that is not sexually deterministic but emerges at the intersection of complex historical, material and cultural/social conditions and experiences.