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The Coverage of Women in Media

A content analysis on the portrayal of women in the Harvey Weinstein revelations, in The New York Times and The New Yorker, from October 5, 2017 to January 5, 2018

The New York Times and The New Yorker revealed sexual abuse and harassment allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize for their role in uncovering the story. Their reporting had high societal repercussions due to the large number of women who came forward, the fame status of some of them, as well as it leading to the birth of the #MeToo movement.

The existing literature shows that women are traditionally under- or misrepresented in the media. They are depicted in a stereotypical or gendered manner, and their sexual violence allegations are sensationalised, decredibilised or described as being individual misconduct incidents by obliterating broader issues of gender inequality and cultural misogyny. This thesis investigates whether similar media patterns emerge in the Harvey Weinstein revelations.

This research is based on a qualitative content analysis of The New York Times and The New Yorker articles that were published over the first three months of the coverage of this topic. It focuses on two categories: ‘personal descriptions’ and ‘characterisation of sexual abuse and harassment’.

The results show a shift from the way women are traditionally portrayed. The coverage highlights the gravity and magnitude of the allegations and the systemic patterns of abuse that led to the silencing of the victims for so long. The women are not characterised as passive victims who solely exist through the lens of the abuse committed against them: they are identified by their professional credentials and are given the platform to tell the events from their own perspective. They are also depicted as being ‘brave’ and further humanised by the mention of the emotional and professional consequences of the abuse. This study therefore suggests that new research frameworks are needed to more adequately analyse the media coverage of women in relation to sexual abuse.