Vendors rescue destitute mother, The Nation

Date: January 1, 1970
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This article provides learning tips on sources and perspectives, portrayal of women.
This article provides learning tips on sources and perspectives, portrayal of women.

Trainer’s notes
This article illustrates how the media portrays women who are poor and living with disabilities. Successful women living with disabilities are seldom portrayed in the media. Women living with disabilities often are in the media when the news criteria of ‘out of the norm’ or ‘victims’ are used.

Who is ‘missing’ in the media and how they do come onto the news agenda, can convey the media’s gender and class biases. The media constructs reality by perpetuating the notion of ‘ideals’ in ways that reinforce traditional gender roles; which create ‘standards’ women and men should aspire to; and, which perpetuate stereotypes. Those who are not in a certain class or in positions of prominence are often invisible in the media’s reality.

The story only quotes a social worker (female) and the chair of the vendors association (male). The woman’s voice is silenced in the story with others ‘speaking on her behalf’.

Whenever the woman is referred to in the story, she is described as a ‘blind mother’ or ‘destitute woman’. She is portrayed as a ‘helpless’ victim who needs to be taken care of by others, and as a mother who is unable to look after her children. The headline reinforces this message – her destitution and motherhood are highlighted.

Both the vendors and the woman living with disabilities are portrayed in the story as people on the margins of society.

Training exercises

Exercise one: Read the case study and discuss the following:

1.      Who speaks in the story?
2.      Who does not speak?
3.      What perspectives are conveyed by the sources in the story?
4.      How is the mother portrayed?
5.      What stereotypes are conveyed in the article?

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