Framing Competence: African Women Leaders’ Representation in US News Media

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Journal of Communications, Media & Society
This study examines the media representations of African women presidents (Ellen Johnson-Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Joyce Banda of Malawi and Sahle-Work Zewde) in two US newspapers: The New York Times and Washington Post, six months into their first terms in office. Addressing the dynamics of Western representation, this paper examines how the newspapers negotiated the representation of African women leaders through the lens of framing. Informed by qualitative content analysis, the findings indicate African women leaders were predominantly framed around competence, and stereotypes in ways that invoke socio-cultural concepts about marriage and domesticity as essential in women’s upward mobility to leadership spaces. This paper makes the argument that such gendered representations normalize these stereotypes as the global standard for women leaders and symbolically annihilate women who do not meet such criteria. This study extends the body of literature by applying feminist media concepts on traditional media, specifically newspapers, and representation of the Other, thus merging concepts of framing, feminism and transnationalism.
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