CoverIntroductionKey Civics and Government ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyCritical Media Literacy GuidesTopic 1. Foundations of the United States Political System1.1 Social Media Policies and Community Standards on YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and More1.2 The Internet as a Public Utility1.3  21st Century Women STEM Innovators1.4 Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal Families1.5 Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsTopic 2. The Development of United States Government2.1 Declarations of Independence on Social Media2.2 Media Marketing and Government Regulation of Self-Driving Cars and Electric Vehicles2.3 Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the Media2.4 Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American Musical2.5 Bill of Rights on TwitterTopic 3. Institutions of United States Government3.1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of Government3.2: Writing an Impeachment Press Release3.3: Members of Congress' Use of Social Media3.4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls3.5: Website Design for New Political PartiesTopic 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens4.1: Immigration in the News4.2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and Film4.3: COVID-19 Information Evaluation4.4: Women Political Leaders in the Media4.5: Online Messaging by Special Interest Groups4.6: Digital Games for Civic Engagement4.7: Social Media and the Elections4.8: Images of Political Leaders and Political Power4.9: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political Debates4.10: Celebrities' Influence on Politics4.11: Political Activism Through Social Media4.12: Media Recruitment of Public Sector Workers4.13 Deciding What Books Students Read in School4.14: Images of Teachers and Teaching4.15: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be Named4.16: Representing Trans Identities4.17: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 20214.18: Music as Protest Art4.19: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media4.20 Brands and PoliticsTopic 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions5.1: Prohibition in the Media5.2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social Media5.3: Civil War Era News Stories and Recruitment Advertisements5.4: Representations of Gender and Race on U.S. Currency5.5: The Equality Act on Twitter5.6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents Aloud5.7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsTopic 6. The Structure of State and Local Government6.1: Native American Mascots and Logos6.2: A Constitution for the Internet6.3: Military Recruitment and the Media6.4: Your Privacy on Social Media6.5: Pandemic Policy Information in the Media6.6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in Politics6.7: Gender-Neutral Marketing of Toys 6.8: Environmental Campaigns Using Social Media6.9: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the Pandemic6.10: Online Campaigning for Political Office6.11: Advertising the Lottery Online and In Print6.12: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital Democracy6.13: Protecting the CommonsTopic 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy7.1: Press Freedom in the United States and the World7.2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All Sides7.3: Investigative Journalism and Social Change7.4: News Photographs & Newspaper Design7.5: How Reporters Report Events7.6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media Platforms7.7: YouTube Content Creators7.8: Fake News Investigation and Evaluation7.9: Paywalls and Access to Online News7.10: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print Media7.11: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons7.12: Women Reporters in the Movies7.13: Design a 21st Century Indie Bookstore 7.14: Greenwashing and the Media7.15: AI Writing Tools and Political Information

6.6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in Politics

How many times have you heard the statement “You Guys” spoken almost automatically as part of everyday conversation, as though everyone present is a member of one gender? To object or try to correct the statement seems hopeless. Few speakers take the time to use gender-inclusive or gender-neutral terms such as “folks,” “everybody,” “friends,” “y'all,” or “team.”

Words, and the meanings we assign to them, matter hugely in how people think and act not only in everyday conversations, but in how the media covers women and men in politics. Consider how the media writes and talks differently about political campaigns and job performances of women and men in government positions such as mayor, representative, senator, or judge. A commitment to equality under the law and justice for all is harder to sustain when the words used are specific to a male gender.

Women of the 116th Congress
Women of the 116th Congress | Public Domain

Does language use by the media impact people's attitudes and behaviors? Does it matter if news reports or reporters say "policemen" or "law enforcement officers" or "firemen" or firefighters" or if they describe women and men in politics differently?

A recent cross-national study established that genderless language or gender-inclusive language combats negative stereotypes toward women while promoting broader career opportunities for females in traditionally male-dominated fields, including politics (Perez & Tavits, 2019).

You can explore more about gender-inclusive, non-binary, and anti-racist language in state constitutions, laws and materials in Topic 6.6 of our Building Democracy for All eBook.

In the following activities, you will examine the use of gendered language in media coverage of women in politics while envisioning how people's views might develop if more genderless language were used instead in politics and in everyday interactions in schools and society.

Bonus Media Literacy Activity: Examine the use of Gendered Language on Television Shows and YouTube Channel Streams

Choose a particular woman in politics, a specific election, or a specific political job where women’s presence is still minimal/rare (e.g., Hillary Clinton and the 2008 or 2016 election; Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, or Amy Klobuchar and the 2020 election; or the women justices on the Supreme Court, past and present - Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonya Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett).


Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Examine the use of Gendered Language on Television and Youtube Channel Streams by Bryce Souza, Andrew Hill, Brigid Murray

Bonus Media Literacy Activity: Examine the use of Gendered Language on Television Shows and YouTube Channel Streams

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Examine the use of Gendered Language on Television and Youtube Channel Streams by Bryce Souza, Andrew Hill, Brigid Murray

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Identify additional protections provided by the Massachusetts Constitution that are not provided by the U.S. Constitution. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T6.6]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7

CC BY-NC-SA: This work is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, which means that you are free to do with it as you please as long as you (1) properly attribute it, (2) do not use it for commercial gain, and (3) share any subsequent works under the same or a similar license.