Review of related literature


The chapter will firstly discuss on variation in definitions and approaches to discourse analysis. Then the concepts of gender, gender stereotyping, and the theories of gender from feminist perspectives will be explored. The next part will focus on the relationship between gender and language focusing on sexist language in English and their various forms will be clarified with clear illustrations. This is followed by gender in mass media, including the way men and women are portrayed in sport media with evidences from previous studies and ended with the conclusion of the chapter.


Discourse is a term becoming increasingly common in a wide range of both academic and non-academic contexts. Discourse can be defined variously.

Cook (1989: 156) views discourse as "a stretch of language perceived to be meaningful unified and purposive", while Nunan (1993) maintains that discourse is "a stretch of language consisting of several sentences which are perceived as related in some way".

Kress (1985) defines discourse as "Systematically organized sets of statements which give expression to the meanings and values of and institution". Likewise, Parker (1992) sees discourse as "interrelated set of texts, and the practice of their production, dissemination, and reception, that bring and option into being"

Discourse analysis is a broad and complex interdisciplinary field as Brown and Yule (1983) explain that the term has focused on different aspects for different disciplines.

According to Schiffrin (1994: 1), discourse analysis is "a rapidly growing and evolving field" and "widely recognized as one of the most vast, but also one of the least defined, areas in linguistics" (p.5).

Fairclough has distinguished discourse into two primary senses; discourse as social action and interaction (language studies), and discourse as a social construction of reality (post- structuralism social theory) (1995, 18).

To conclude, with a broad definition, the term discourse analysis concerned with the linguistic analysis of spoken or written language which is "naturally occurring".

Approaches to discoure

Three approaches to discourse analysis according to their views of discourse will be identified and illustrated in the following subtopics.

Discourse: Language above the sentence

Structuralists (or formalists) view discourse as a particular unit of language. It is "language above the sentence or above the clause" (Stubbs, 1983: 1). Basically, in structural approaches, discourse is recognized as "a level of structure higher than the sentence or higher than another unit of text". In accordance with McCarthy (1991), discourse analysis is "a vast area within linguistics, encompassing as it does the analysis of spoken and written language over and above concerns such as the structure of the clause or sentence."

Discourse analysis is interested in ascertaining the constructive effects of discourse through the structure and systematic study of texts (Hardy,2001 in Phillips and Hardy,2002). Harris (1951), the first linguist to use the term discourse analysis, views discourse as the next level in a hierarchy of morphemes, clauses and sentences. However, this view has been criticized by some researchers arguing that the units used by people in their speech cannot always be categorized as sentences, or grammatically correct sentences. People generally produce units that have a semantic and an intonational closure, but not necessarily a syntactic one.

Discourse: Language use

Functionalists define the study of discourse as "the study of any aspect of language use" (Fasold, 1990: 65). This is consistent with Brown and Yule (1983), suggest that "the analysis of discourse is necessarily the analysis of language in use". They relate the analysis of language use to the analysis of purposes and functions of language in human life which cannot be separated. Their major concern is to examine how any language produced by man is used to communicate for a purpose in a context which can turn out into a more general and broader analysis of language functions.

Coulthard (1977: 7) argues that "discourse does not consist simply of grammatically well-formed utterances or sentences." This view is supported by Labov (1972), claiming that discourse analysis must concern with the functional use of language (cited in Coulthard1977).

Discourse: Utterance

The utterance based approach to discourse analysis was proposed by Schiffrin Deborah. She views discourse as "utterance" which was defined as "units of language production (whether spoken or written) that are inherently contextualized". This approach is the combination between two paradigms; structural and functional.

Schiffrin (1994: 42) asserts that "actual analysis of discourse reveal an interdependence between structure and function". Though, an analysis of language tent to be theoretically oriented toward either one of them, it practically ends up with both views.

She suggests that the appropriate approach to discourse analysis is "to examine structure in the light of functional requirement and function in the light of structural requirement" (Schiffrin, 1988: 361). She also claims that the combination of the two aspects of analyses may balance the drawbacks of one mode of analysis with the advantages of another. Similarly, Malinowski (1923: 307) affirms that an utterance has no meaning except in a 'context of situation'. Thus, to understand the meaning of utterance, we have to understand 'the socio-cultural context in which it is embedded'. Slembrouck (2005: 1) supports this notion since the study of discourse concerns with the analysis of language structures higher than the clause and also language use in social context such as conversation or written texts.

Hence, defining discourse as utterance seems to be balance both the functional emphasis on how language is used in context and the formal emphasis on extended patterns (Schiffrin, 1994: 40).

Text and Context in Discourse Analysis

According to Schiffrin (1998: 363), text is "the linguistic contents: the stable semantic meanings of words, expressions, and sentences." However, they are not inferred on the contexts in which those elements of language are used.

Nunan (1993:6) views text as "any written record of a communicative event" which is distinct from "discourse" that refers to the interpretation of the communicative event in context. Further, Text may take a variety of forms, including written texts, spoken word, pictures, symbols, artifacts, and so forth (Grant, Keenoy,& Oswick,1998 in Phillips and Hardy,2002). Fairclough (1995, 17) also uses the word "text" for both spoken and written language, for instance; a newspaper article, a transcription of a broadcast and visual images and sound effects of television.

However, Texts cannot stand independently; they are made meaningful through connection to other texts. This is to say that texts would not be clearly understood without its context. Phillips and Brown (1993) point out that the processes through which the texts are made meaningful will be explored by discourse Analysis which involves the context of social reality. Accordingly, Fairclough and Wodak (1997, 277) argue: "discourse is not produced without context and cannot be understood without taking context into consideration"

While Brown and Yule (1983: 6) see discourse as language in use, and refer to "instrument of communication in context" they viewed text as a technical term which means "the verbal record of a communicative act".

Context, according to Schiffrin (1994), is a world filled with people producing utterance. The people here refer to one with "social, cultural, and personal identities, knowledge, beliefs, goals and wants, and who interact with one another in various socially and culturally defined situations."

From these aspects above, we can assume that discourse is much related to contexts. However, the clear distinction between structural and functional approaches is their view of text in relation to context. Structural definitions focus upon text while functional definitions emphasize on context. Vandijk (1985: 4) claims that Structural view disregards "the functions relation with the context of which discourse is a part." Basically, the two approaches make different assumption about the nature of language and the linguistic goals as well.

To distinguish descriptions between decontextualised data and contextualised data, Widowson (1973) suggests several pairs of terms, for examples, usage/use, sentence/ utterance, and text/discourse. Grammarians are concerned with rules of usage which are exemplified in sentences; discourse analysts with rules of use which describe how utterances perform social acts "a sentence is an instance of usage in so far as it is discoverable in an utterance, but in so far as that utterance makes a statement of a particular kind it is an instance of use." (Widdowson,1973 quoted in Coulthard,1977)

Bilmes (1986: 127) claims that "the meaning of an utterance is determined in large part by how it respond and how it is responded to, by its place in an interactional sequence".

In summary, discourse Analysis deals with the study of the relationship between language and contexts of use.

Spoken and Written Discourse

The distinction between spoken and written discourse is primarily referred to a difference of mode or channel of communication, in that spoken discourse utilizes sound or the transmitting medium of 'phonic substance' and written discourse is visual with graphic substance. Speaking and writing involve different psychological processes and becomes more complex when they are distinguished in terms of linguistic or discoursal features. They are grammatically, lexically, structurally and even functionally different.

Spoken discourse is regarded as typically transient and time-bound that has to be understood immediately. It happens in time and must be therefore produced and processed 'on line'. There is no going back and changing or restructuring our words as there is in writing (Cook, 1989: 115) while written is permanent and retrievable.

Coulthard (1977, 6) asserted that there are at least four main levels to organize any spoken text; phonology, grammar, discourse and non-linguistic.

Brown and Yule (1983) explain that we use speech primarily for interaction in order to establish and maintain our human relationships, whereas written language is used to work out and transfer of information or for transactional purpose.

Media Discourse

Colleen Cotter asserts that "the discourse of the news media encapsulates two key components: the news story, or spoken or written text; and the process involved in producing the texts." (cited in Schiffrin, 2003: 416) This statement shows that media discourse can be studied in terms of the texts itself, and also in terms of the process involved in the texts production. He views the text as the main focus of most media researchers, specifically when it encodes values and ideologies which effect on the larger world. He clarifies that the process, the second dimension, includes "the norms and routines of the community of news practitioners."

Accordingly, Fairclough's (1995:16) view on the language analysis of media is that "we need to analyse media language as discourse, and the linguistic analysis of media should be part of the discourse analysis of media." He affirms that discourse analysis is concerned with both texts and practices. Fairclough explains the meaning of discourse practices as how texts are produced by media institutions; received by audiences; and socially distributed. His view of texts, in accordance with Cotter, includes both spoken and written language. Further, Cotter suggests three basic approaches to the study of media discourse that are 1) discourse analytic, 2) sociolinguistic, and 3) nonlinguistic.

Bell (2005) has argued that over the next decade or so the decline of the print media will continue as more people turn to the internet for news and journalism. She mentions, "it is clear to me that the future of written journalism lies more in electronic distribution than it does with the print page" (Bell, 2005: 45). One of the challenges she stresses is how newspaper adapt to the migration of the readers going online in order to search for the news. It is confirmed that sport news will continue to be an important point of this news online. Generally, sport pieces written for the web appear to be shorter in length than those found in newspaper. We can also see a lot of sport-related material and fans websites generating amounts of information, content and comment.


The issue of gender is a challenging field to investigate. The study on gender in language can be seen in both spoken and written forms. This study will focus on written language of sports news articles in representation of male and female athletes on the selected corpus by online newspaper.


Gender is a term used to describe socially constructed categories based on sex. Most societies operate in terms of two genders, masculine and feminine (Coates, 1999: 3).

Gender can be defined as the way society organizes understandings of sexual difference. Gender involves the way society creates, patterns, and rewards our understanding of femininity and masculinity. (Shaw and Lee, 2004)

According to Backlund and Ivy (1994: 7), "gender includes such aspects as personality traits but also involves psychological makeup, attitudes, beliefs, and values as well as sexual orientation and gender-role identity."

Thorne, Kramarae and Henley (1983: 16) explain, "Gender is not a unitary, or 'natural' fact, but take shape in concrete, historically changing social relationships"

Connell (1995) argued that gender is not primarily an attribute of an individual but a structure legitimizing patriarchy that informs practices and discourses. Gender refers to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between them. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes.

Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman or a man in a given context. In most societies there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, as well as decision-making opportunities.

In Humm's (1995:64) the dictionary of feminist theory, gender is defined as "a culturally shaped group of attributes given to the female or male." According to Humm, the 'cultural shaping' is on going, lifelong process which means that basically gender is unstable and multiple or 'non-unitary'. It takes place primarily through different discourses such as the discourse of male superiority, and of gender equity. It is considered a changing product of a given context, an as playing a role in constituting the social practices of that context.

Gender Theories

Gender study is not regarded as a new discipline of academic exploration. The scope has always been focused on feminist theories. Feminism seemed to be the movement to end women's inequality and oppression in almost every sphere throughout the world. Many feminists have viewed 'woman' differently as a gender term that depends on social and cultural factors. In the past four decades, from 1970s, there appeared to be three main approaches of feminist linguistic theories on language and gender. These three approaches include Deficit, Dominance and Difference.

Deficit framework

Robin Lakoff views women's language as deficient, uncertain and powerless forms. Her publication of Language and Woman's Place in 1975 is recognized as the first feminist theoretical model on language and gender. She argued that language is fundamental to gender inequality by pointing out the asymmetries of language used about women and men.

Lakoff (1975) emphasizes on the negative aspects of women's speech in comparison to the positive norm of men's language. She mentions that "most women who get as far as college learn to switch from women's to neutral language under appropriate situations (in class, talking to professors, at job interview and such)." This fact suggests that there is some pressure on women to use men's language. Although she does not prefer to use men's language, she will want to use it sometimes. Lakoff accepts that men's language is superior and takes it as the norm, she measures any difference on the part of women as ' deviation' (Spender,1980: 8)

Lakoff's work is on the basis that women's speech style is worse than men's. She claims some negative characteristics of women's speech patterns. These are some examples:

  • Hedging e.g. kind of , it seems, I think
  • Tag questions e.g. isn't it?, aren't you?, right?
  • Empty adjectives e.g. divine, lovely, sweet

The use of tag question is the best illustration which expresses uncertainty and tentativeness of women. Such notions emphasize the superiority of men over women in social status and prevent women to be treated as equals. This framework accepts men's language as the norm that reflects women's subordinated status.

Dominance framework

Dale Spender(1980: 143), who created a feminist theory of language, states that "males, as the dominant group, have produced language, thought and reality." Following the lines of Sapir-Whorf, Spender identified English language as "man-made". Her central argument is that language reflects and perpetuates to gender inequality; men's dominance and women's subordination. She supports a fundamental view of language as expressing structures that emphasize male power. Work within this paradigm such as the work of Zimmerman and West also viewed the male dominance and Spender's idea of patriarchal order.

Spender (1980: 142) reiterates that "it has been the dominant group-in the case, males, who have created the world, invented the categories, construed sexism and its justification, and developed a language trap which is in their interest". In a more specific sense, feminism involves a reaction to power imposed by a male-dominated system, or partriarchy. (Backlund and Ivy, 1994: 12).

Spender also posits that we have been programmed by the rules of society, and the construction of the view that males are inferior, is a consequence of our failure to repudiate these man-made rules.

Thorne and Hanley (1975: 15) explaine that " the culture of English speakers, men are more highly regarded than women. The male is associated with universal, the general, the subsuming; the female is more often excluded or is the special case."

Mario Pei (1967) writes in The Story of The English Language that "the English language is the result of a long series of accidents". But he makes an observation indicating that at least one constant has been operating: men have made the language (cited in Kramarae, 1981).

Difference framework

The basic concept of this perspective is originally from the work of John Gamperz. He explains the 'cross-cultural phenomenon' that girls and boys grow up in gender specific subcultures. Thus, they acquired different communicative goals and styles.

This theory was then postulated in Deborah Tannen's You Just Don't Understand (1990). She discusses this theory with an article that contrasts between male and female language in six different characters. She finally advised women to adapt their speech styles in order to improve their relationships with their male counterparts.

During the 1980s it would say that this model of language and gender became popular and gained ground over other models. Many theoretical works have focused on gender difference; more on psychological than political, economic or social issues. Variations on cultural 'difference' can be found in the works of Tannen (1991), Holmes (1995) and Coates (1996).

According to Coated (1986: preface) in Women, men, and language, "Linguistic differences are merely a reflection of social differences. And as long as a society views men and women as different and - unequal - then differences in the language of men and women will persist."

Henley and Kramarae (1991) argued that "the recent interest of so many researchers in studying male-female 'miscommunication' is a retreat from issues to do with power, and therefore represents a watering down of feminism."

Deborah Cameron (1995) suggests that both men and women face normative expectations about the appropriate speech style for their gender which she calls "verbal hygiene" and describes in her 1995 book. Cameron affirms that women have been instructed in the proper ways of talking.

Gender Stereotyping


To stereotype someone is to interpret their behavior, personality and so on in terms of a set of common sense attribution which are applied to whole groups. One crucial point is that the attributions are over generalized; even when they are not absolutely false, they are only partially true (Coates & Cameron, 1993: 8).

Dunnigan's (1982: 3) definition of stereotype is "a rigid impersonal model on the basis of which images or behavior are automatically reproduced" (cited in Michel, 1986: 15). She adds that "it is easy to see how the same concept can be used not only as a noun and an adjective, to qualify an image, attitude or type of behavior, but also as a verb, signifying the very act of creating a stereotype."

A stereotype is an individual's set of beliefs about characteristics or attributes of group. In general, stereotypic characteristics distinguish a particular group from other groups (Judd and Park, 1993). Stereotypes of femininity play an important role in informing our beliefs about women, men and language.

According to Lakoff (1987: 77), "stereotypes gain power and credibility through wide use in everyday talk and texts as a result of the fact that they are well-understood or easy-to-perceive." Lakoff's stereotype about women's language is inferior to that of men. Women are weak and uncertain speakers as their higher use of tag questions compared to men. In contrary to male speech, Lakoff claimed, are stronger and more forceful than female speech tat seem not capable of holding power. This encourages the men's powerful position in the world. (cited in Thorne and Henley, 1975: 11)

A stereotype rigidly confirms the belief that if you are a woman or a man, you are supposed to perform the specific roles, and do them well. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between stereotyping and traditional beliefs about male and female roles in society. This belief takes away their personal choices for their own interests and skills. It could also discourage men from participating in women's works (such as cooking, flower growing and child care) and it limits women from choosing some works that are "traditionally male" (such as pilot, engineering and athlete).

Gender stereotyping in the media

Stereotyping is seen every where in the mass media. According to Suseela (1998: 13), gender stereotyping occurs in a range of areas; careers, male and female intellectual abilities, personality, characteristics, physical appearance, social status and domestic roles.

For decades, stereotyping against women has existed in most societies in the world. Women are meant to take responsibilities in the houses as taking care of the house and the children while the husband is working out to make the money. In some countries, there are some laws that take away women rights such as a law which does not allow women to work like men do.

Gender stereotypes do appear in any kinds of media, both visual and printed ones such as films, television, books, magazines, and newspapers. Men and women are portrayed differently in behavior and status. Females are typically conveyed as passive, inferior or negative views while males are well represented as active, important and aggressive athletes. For instance, when women are portrayed in newspaper either in texts or photographs, they are more likely to include personal appearance, marital status. On the other hand, men are often depicted in professional or athletic roles.


Sexist Language

Many feminists have agreed that "our languages are sexist: that is, they represent or 'name' the world from a masculine viewpoint and in accordance with stereotyped beliefs about the sexes" (Cameron, 1990: 12).


Miller and Swift (1972) define sexist language as "any language that express stereotyped attitudes and expectations or assumes the inherent superiority of one sex over the other". Accordingly, sexism simply means the denigration of one sex and the exaltation of the other, or, stated another way, valuing one sex over the other (Backlund and Ivy, 1994: 7).

Language forms preserve old attitudes that expose men's superiority and women's inferiority. Spender (1980: 141) argues that "when there are a sexist language and sexist theories culturally available, the observation of reality is also likely to be sexist." She then writes that "out of nowhere we invented sexism" as we created the categories of male as norm and female as deviant (cited in Cameron, 1990).

According to Basow (1992: 141), "language plays a major role in defining and maintaining male power over women." This refers to the use of sexism and one form of sexism is stereotyping. He pointes out that women are likely to be described by their appearance, using adjectives, while men are rarely described that way. Moreover, there appear to be many forms of sexist language that reveal gender stereotyping in the media.

Sexist language cannot be regarded as simply the naming of the world from one, masculist perspective; it is better conceptualized as a multifaceted phenomenon occurring in a number of quite complex systems of representation, all with their places in historical traditions (Cameron, 1990: 14).

Forms of Sexist Language

Sexist stereotypes of males and female tend to deny the salience of women and over emphasize the important of men. In accordance with Michel (1986: 15), male and female characters are stereotyped to such extend that the glorification of men inevitably implies the degradation of women. Moreover, many forms of language uses in the presentation of males and females are obviously different.

Generic Terms

"One of the most familiar instances of sexism in English is the way that man, pronominalized as he, has been represented as synonymous with humanity." (Cameron, 1990; 15) The generic terms here refer mainly to a noun 'man' and a pronoun 'he'. A generic man is often used to refer to humanity; it is not sex-specific term as in this sentence "Men need power." Men here refer to all human beings.

Similarly, Generic he is used traditionally to refer to persons in general, including both male and female. However, Robertson (1990) cited in Mills (1995: 88) observes that when the supposed generic pronoun 'he' is used, people tend to visualize male participants.

Miller and Swift (1979: 55) claim that "given the male norm, it become natural to think of women as an auxiliary and subordinate class."

Although this terminology should operate as a generic, many feminists and linguists regard them as gender-specific terms (Mills 1995; Spender 1985; Cameron 1985). According to Mills (1995), "man is commonly used not as a true generic, but rather as a gender-specific term." Similarly, Spender (1985) suggests that when we use man term in reference to both sexes " is clear that the visibility and primacy of males is supported." Feminists have concluded that man only means male.

Addressed Terms

There are various ways to address people which are commonly different between males and females.

Personal Titles

The English personal titles, until recently, consisted of 3 terms: Miss and Mrs. for women and Mr. for men. These addressing terms are obviously lack of parallel for men and women in terms of practices. Women's titles convey whether they are single or married while the only men's title, Mr., doesn't reflect their marital status.

A new terms Ms. Was introduces for women in order to erase this asymmetry which would parallel Mr. a few decade ago. Talbot (1998) observes that this practice has succeeded in United State, but less succeeded in British. The term tend to show specific meaning of feminist, so the network representing title choices would be as this figure.

First and Last Names

Lakoff (1973) writes in Language and Woman's Place that there is a general tendency at work, e.g. business, university, hospitals, and in media commentary to use first names sooner in referring to and addressing women rather than men, even where women are equal to men. Thus, she argued that language is a clue to social inequities. Miller and Swift (1979) show many evidences in their book that women were often called by their first names while men's last names were uttered. They suggested that the news media frequently reflect this feeling. One of many instances they observed was about a new elected Governor Ella Grasso of Connecticut. Her respond to a reporter's question about the name she wanted to be called was that "People usually call me Ella." (p.25) This incident suggests that even women of high social status are normally called by their first names.

Reference to Relationship

One of different ways to mention male and female is that while males are identified purely in terms of gender, females are introduced based on their relationship to a male. For example, daughters take their father's surname or as wife of another as in Sara, John's wife, but not John, Sara's husband.

The findings of Rasiah's (1999) study on "Gender bias in newspaper" supports this notion. The analysis at the word level showed a vast difference in the frequency counts between both sexes. The word 'wife' occurs more frequently than 'husband' as he gave the reason according to the sexist practices that "women are often looked upon as attachments to, or possession of their husbands, the men."

Masculine Terms

Masculine terms or what Backlund and Ivy (1994: 19) call "man-linked terminology" refer to words or phrases that contain the word "man" in them, but are not gender-specific. Backlund and Ivy (1994: 79) show that there appear to be many forms of such terms. Many of them tend to be suffix'-man', most of which refer to occupational names, such as postman, businessman, chairman, and gunman. 'Man' is also used as a prefix as in mankind, 'man-power' and 'man-hours'; moreover, this term includes expression like man the phones. Besides, the words with man attached or embedded like manager, manipulate emancipate and menstruation are not sexist (Maggio 1988, cited in Backlund and Ivy, 1994:79).

Pynton (1985: 50) examine the terms used for men and women in two reference sources; the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and the Macquarie Dictionary. He found in both sources, the ratio of man words to woman words is nearly 3:1.

Feminine marked Terms

There are many words that are considered gender neutral terms, commonly used for both male and female. 'Professional' is one of gender-unmarked adjectives which obviously has different connotation when apply to women (Cameron 1990; Lakoff 1975; Romaine 2000). When we heard the sentence 'he is a professional', we automatically think of an occupation that the man is fluent. In contrast, when it becomes 'she is a professional', most people tend to assume that she is a prostitute. This phenomenon can be explained according to Lakoff (1975: 30), "a man is defined in a serious world by what he does, a woman by her sexuality...."

Furthermore, Talbot (1998, 216) includes some gender unmarked nouns of occupational names such as doctor, driver and writer. She suggests that people tend to assume to be men so that the word 'lady' or 'woman' is used to precede those terms in order to be clear that they are women as in 'lady doctor'.

Accordingly, Lakoff (1975; 23) asserts that the term 'lady' tends to make the subject matter trivial. She claims that "since in the professions the male is unmarked, we never have man (male) doctor." Moreover, Rasiah's (1999) study showe that the use of marked forms when referring to women and unmarked terms for men are a clear indication of gender bias making women as deviant and men as norm.

Gender Specific Terms

This form of sexist language contains different terms for male and female. Such suffixes like -ess, -ette, -enne, or -trix was attached to the male terms to form female versions as in actress, bachelorette, comedienne and adventuress. Eakins and Eakins put their opinion on the diminishing effect of feminine suffixes that:

The male terms carry the suggestion of added power or competency. Or, put in another way, adding a feminine marker ending may detract from connotations of potency that such a word normally evokes in people.

Maggio (1988: 178) quoted in Ivy and Backlund (1994: 80) states a similar view: feminine suffixes "perpetuates the notion that the male is the norm and the female is a subset, a deviation, a secondary classification...." This sexist form of language implies that terms left unmarked refer to male only.

Mills (1995) compares pairs of gender-contrastive terms that are male-specific and female-specific. She found that the male terms have retained their original meaning while most of female terms convey sexual connotation. As these following pair terms:

The pair Master and Mistress obviously have diverged meaning. While master refer to a man who has acquired consummate ability in some field, mistress is restricted to its sexual sense of 'paramour' (Lakoff, 1975: 29). One of the most prevalent word pairs are bachelor and spinster. When a woman is called spinster, she seems to be insulted like an old maid. On the other hand, the term bachelor is perceived to have positive connotations of freedom and independent.

Ordering Terms

Generally, when pair terms appear in both spoken and written forms, it's a male terms that comes first and followed by a female term; for example, husband and wife, brother and sister, king and queen.

Ivy and Backlund (1994:86-7) suggest that male terms are almost always precede female terms except in these three cases.

  1. Traditional greeting ; "ladies and gentlemen"
  2. Reference to the bride and groom
  3. Reference to someone's mother and brother; "How are your mom and dad doing?"

The way of the terms ordering in English can be seen that a preceding term is more important as Miller and Swift (1979) state "using such an order of words carry the implication that men are the priority."

Derogatory Terms

Derogatory Terms are used to refer exclusively or primarily to members of one sex rather than the other provide a revealing index of the social construction of femininity and masculinity and constitute powerful collective sanctions against behavior that violates gender roles (James, 1998). Words associated with males more often have positive connotations as they convey notions of power, prestige and leadership. Female terms, on the other hand, are often negative since they convey weakness and inferiority.

Practically, there are more derogatory terms for women and those terms are more negative than those for men. Mills (1995: 116) questions why certain endearment terms or 'terms of affection' as called by Talbot (1998) can also be used to diminish them such as dear, honey, sweetheart. However, she added that the meaning of these terms depended on both relationship of the persons and contexts of communication.

Miller and Swift (1979) give an example of a female term 'bitch'. They have claimed that when a woman is called a bitch, the intent is to derogate her since the term technically refers to a female dog.


Ivy and Backlund (1994) state, "....using animal, food and plant terms as label for men and women can be interpreted as demeaning of sexist." Similarly, Lakoff (1975) observe that when people are referred to metaphorically by animal names, they always convey sexual reference when apply to women. In analyzing vocabulary, Nilsen (1977) found that women were portrayed in a passive metaphor by various types of food and plants, e.g. cheesecake, sugar, and wallflower. Moreover, negative connotations like animal words were also used to describe women. On the other hand, the animal terms for men were related to strength, such as, buck and wolf.

It could be summed up that sexist language serve to justify and exacerbate women's position of dependence, subordination, and inequality in society.

Gender neutral language

Addressed Terms

Many researchers such as Miller and Swift (1979) and Mills (1995) suggest that instead of using first names for women and last names for men, it is better to address women with both her first and last names. Moreover, they suggest avoiding using the three titles Mr/ Mrs/ Miss that reveal marital status of women. An alternative titles would be the use of Mr/ Ms.

Generic pronoun 'he'

Miller and Swift (1979) suggests the use of plural form 'they' instead of using the generic pronoun 'he' to refer to both male and female. They add that this form had been in use as singular pronoun for hundreds of years. Moreover, Mills (1995) suggests to change the generic 'he' to's/he' or 'she or he'. Another alternative is converting the form of sentences into passive in order to avoid the use of the third-person pronoun. Besides, Cameron (1998) suggests the use of 'she' as generic pronoun as Mills (1995:96) claims that 'she' can be seen to contain 'he' within it. It can also foreground the effect of other so-called generic use.

Generic noun 'man'

The avoidance of using the generic noun 'man' is suggested by many researchers. Miller and Smith offers some guidelines to solve this problem that are using neutral alternatives such as human or human being, whereas Mills (1995:100) suggests the term humanity, human or people. Other neutral alternatives she suggests are firefighters and reporters instead of using firemen and newsmen.

However, there was positive changes in some of printed media to eliminate sexist words. In the 1982 edition of Roget's Thesaurus, for example, the word mankind has changed to humankind. In the same year, the use of nonsexist language was mandated by the American Psychological Association in its journals and conference presentation. (Michel, 1986: 143)

Feminine Marked Terms

There have been suggestions to avoid the use of feminine markers such as the suffix '-ess', unless it is relevant to state the person's sex (Miller and Swift, 1979). Mills (1995: 101) suggests eliminating the terms lady or female in occupations as in lady doctor and female scientist. In accordance with Miller and Smith, they claim that jobs open to both sexes should be of neutral terms as they suggest rephrasing the word congressmen, with members of congress.


Mass media, not refer only to television, radio, and the press, but also literature, textbooks, films, and advertising, is considered a primary channel to study of gender representations in our society. Numerous works of gender research have indicated that the mass media have portrayed men and women differently. They tend to support traditional attitudes by highlighting negative images of women, while men are depicted as positive role portrayals.

Men and Women in the Media

Kramarae (1981: 99) asserts, "women are low in economic and social status, and their language is not considered the medium of technology, business, politics, or science. Women have little representation at decision-making levels of state, business, and cultural institutions." According to UNESCO's (1994) study on employment and decision making influence of women in the media reveal that very few women are employed in the decision making post of the mass media industry and their portrayal is limited to a few dominant roles.

Besides discrimination in the social, economic and political field, women are also negatively portrayed in the media. The mass media, including radio, television, the press, literature and textbooks, tend to support traditional attitudes on gender and portray demeaning and derogative images of women. This reflects unchanging attitudes in our society.

It has been unanimously agreed that the women images depicted by the media constitute difficulties to eradicating discrimination against women and "a main factor in preserving traditional sexist attitude towards them" (Unesco, 1980: 52). The following deals with the media's portrayal of women in general and specifically the newspaper's portrayal of women.

Davidson and Gordon's (1979) studies shows that women were underrepresented by the media, as they points that

Activities in which males are engaged embrace a wide range, including activities that are stereotypically masculine and those that are not linked to gender. Females are shown in a narrow range of settings and activities; they are restricted basically to activity stereotyped as uniquely feminine and do little that is not sex-typed.

Textbook and dictionary are types of media that present a world in which most people are male. Helgeson (1976) and Miller and Swift (1976) agree that many recent studies investigating dictionaries and textbooks show that male language is views as the norm, and females language as subordination. The researchers usually argue that these presentations "both reflect and strengthen the day-to-day evaluation men made of women" (cited in Kramarae, 1981: 100).

As Ong (1999) carries out a study in order to examine gender representation in the current Singapore primary English coursebooks. The analysis showed that females were underrepresented compared to males in terms of characteristics, speakers and protagonists. This finding can be supported by Michel (1986:21), proposing that the positive heroes of children and adults alike are more often men than women. Accordingly, a study carried out by Baker and Raner (2007) investigated the portrayals of female and male superheroes in children's cartoon. They revealed that a trend toward defining superheroes is traditional masculine terms.

Another instance from literature works was found in Gender bias and stereotyping in K.S. maniam's short stories by Leela Menon (2006). The analysis found that there were more gender biased statements made against female characters than male. These findings enhance male's superior and female's inferior roles.

Sexist Language in the Media

Miller and Swift (1972) suggest that the media use language in a sexist way. For example, the headlines of newspaper tend to identify the sex of doers if they are women or girls. In accordance with Murray (1973), she states that "language reflect archetypical assumption that all people are male until proven female."

Some instances of the press media that clearly showed in terms of numbers are from two reference sources; the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and the Macquarie Dictionary. The interesting findings found in both sources are that the numbers of the terms for men are three times more than those for women (Pynton, 1985).

According to Gallagher (1981) women appear to be consistently presented in a few dominant images or kind of absence and are underrepresented and occupy less important roles than men by mass media all over the world. Moreover, Michel (1986:17) states that "....textbooks and children literatures: women are represented and valued only in their emotional, maternal and domestic roles..."

Ramesh Nair (1999) conducted a study of sexism in local magazines; two English magazines in Malaysia. The findings showed that there were more sexist terms for women than men and the terms used for women were identified to have a negative connotation. The analysis also indicated that men and women are portrayed along stereotypical lines.

Moreover, the study entitled "Gender bias in newspaper" was done by Rasiah (1999). This study dealt with women as portrayed in all English publication of the NSTP for the first four months of the year 1998, focusing on the sexist elements of gender bias at both word and sentence levels. The analysis showed similar results to the first mentioned research that women were less and negatively portrayed compared to men in the media. Similarly, Sandman (1977) claims that most newspapers still portray women as the sex objects and glamour girls which usually happens in the field of advertising.

Nilsen (1972) found in her paper "Sexism in English: A Feminist View" that Women are valued by their body; physical characteristic and age while man's mind and activities are valued. Moreover, language used shows passivity of women roles. For example, the way females are identified with pets (pony tails, dress in halters), some referring terms that show relation to men (husbands, fathers or brothers), or even the passivity of female's name with foods (honey, peach, and Ivy).

In addition, adjectives are also used to convey females and males in sexist ways. There was also an obvious difference between the adjectives used to describe both sexes. In analyzing the adjectives for stereotyping females and males, Porreca (1984) reports that in the coursebook she studied, in describing women, the categories of physical appearance seem to accessively associate women with attractiveness. This choice of attributes to describe female and male implies that males are associated with power.

Gender and Sport Media

Mass media seem to shapes and reflects the attitudes and perception of our society. Women engaged in sports affects the way female athletes are perceived and also tells us something about the status of women in the society.

Many studies, both quantitative and qualitative, have been conducted to examine how women are portrayed in various types of mass media in comparison with men, specifically in sport media. Numerous studies have investigated media coverage of female athletes in popular sports magazines, newspapers, radio and television (Bernstein 2002; Billings 2005; King 2007; Harris & Clayton, 2002). All of these studies show underrepresentation of sportswomen compared to their male counterparts.

The absence of female athletes in sport media coverage supports the traditional attitude that sport is male-dominated institution. In recent years, women have increasingly participated and advanced in sporting events and more female athletes have been represented through newspapers, magazines, television and other media. A clear example has been showed in the Olympic Games for women's increasing numbers in sports that changes attitudes towards them.

Nevertheless, at the same time, male athletes continue to receive more coverage than females in almost around the world. Bernstein (2002) reports according to researches on women, media and sport that during the 1980s and most of the 1990s, "the media persisted in covering mainly male athletes". Consequently, women become minority and practically invisible in most of sports coverage.

A study conducted by Duncan and Messner (1990) examined gender in televised sports in Los Angeles television sports news during summer 1989. The findings showed that the percentage of airtime devoted to female athletes on three network affiliates sampled in the six weeks was notably lower than for male counterparts. The analysis shows that in 2004 women's sports received 6.3 percent of the air time, compared to 91.4 percent for men's. These numbers reveal a decline in women's sports coverage since 1999, when 8.7% of the airtime was devoted to women's sports. In summary, these findings indicate that women's sports were underreported in television sports news without revealing any significant change over times.

One of related researches entitled "Diverging Discourse: Gender difference in televised Golf announcing" focuses on how men and women are depicted and referred to in sport media. The researchers, Billings, Angelini and Eastman (2005: 155) became interested to investigate this type of sport since there has been no research examining on a televised announcing of male and female golfers and golf as well as tennis is "the only professional sports that men and women can play in the same group at the same time". However, they found that male and female golfers were portrayed in different ways. Women were more likely to be described in terms of the reasons they succeeded or failed, while men's power personality and athletic skills were likely to be described.

Sexism in sport media

From a feminist perspective sport has been viewed as a sexist institution that preserve the traditional beliefs that show men as superior and masculine in orientation for a long time.

An existence of sexism in sport coverage becomes a huge issue in our society. It is known that most of the female athletes even in professional sports have not been fully supported, not only in terms of finance but also psychology. Consequently, they have attempted to make themselves recognized in some way that will encourage media attention; that is by their attractive appearances and dressing to make them more appealing to the public's eyes. This is consistent with Gallagher (2001, 24), pointing out that "women have always been a big selling point for the commercial media around the world" which produces both positive and negative sides to this.

For example, Duncan, M.C. (2000) reveals in her study "Gender in Televised Sports" that commentators use different language to report on male and female athletes. While men are referred to using positive terms as "strong," "brilliant," and "aggressive," women are more often described negatively as "weary," "frustrated," and "choking." Moreover, they are likely to call the male athletes only by their last names, and to call females by first names only.

Another analysis reveals gender bias through the way that female athletes were portrayed by the daily printed media (Huggins's paper, 2007). An Australian newspaper 'The Age', on 26 March, 2007, reported on the success of a female swimmer at the World Swimming Championships by printing the headline "It is so fantastic! Girls beat the world to grab first gold". Even though the athlete in that report and those female athletes are in adult ages, they were still referred to by girls. The portrayal of women in such a sexist way has encouraged notions of women's inferiority.

One of the studies of sexist practice used by sport media is conducted by Messner et al. (1990) on the athlete's names in tennis commentary. They found that commentators referred to female players by their first names (52.7%) more often than referring to male players (7.8%). This finding is in accordance with Pfister's (1989) study of the coverage of the Olympics by German newspapers. He reveals that women were often addressed by their first names, nicknames or a fantasy names, whereas surnames were used to introduce men. This phenomenon is perceived as displaying a 'hierarchy of naming' reinforces the persistent gender bias.

Besides, image or photograph is an obvious element, other than the printed texts, in conveying sexist idea in the sport media. In particular, when female athletes are the focus of media attention, the images often become sexualized and their sport achievements become marginalized. One distinctive study that can be a clear evidence to this issue is the case of Anna Kournikova, who is one of the most photographed sporting celebrities in the world.

Bernstein (2002) and Harris and Clayton (2002) both agree by their analysis of Kournikova's sport coverage that the female tennis player has often been framed on attractive appearance rather than her games and athletic abilities. The studies do confirm that the media tend to focus on the female athletes as sex objects rather than serious sport performers.

The fact of women's under-representation combined with stereotypical depictions in sport media constructs and maintains gender bias and inequality. These clearly confirm the persistent of sexism in the media and social communication in our social reality.


In this chapter, the definitions of the basic approaches and concepts that will be used as frameworks in the analysis of data were explained and illustrated. These include discourse analysis, sexist language, gender and media and other relevant issues. In addition, many studies that related to each concept were discussed specifically in the field of media discourse focusing on sport media.

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