Woman hot candidate (2017)
Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
Svenska Dagbladet’s headline “Woman hot candidate to succeed Hultqvist”. (2017)
Okay. Let’s unpack the baggage of this gender wreck.
1. A gender-stereotypical pattern in political media coverage is that women are mentioned by first name only, men by last name or the full name. Åsa Lindestam, as her name happens to be, got neither!
2. The headline “Man hot candidate to succeed Hultqvist” would have been completely incomprehensible. Because the norm – the “neutral” politician, especially one with expertise in “hard” issues like defense policy – is still a man. And this is how norms are recreated. By pointing out deviants.
3. But wasn’t it newsworthy that a woman could take over as defense minister, then? Nope! The Minister of Defense before Peter Hultqvist was called… hold on to your hat… Karin Enström. And her predecessor’s name was… 🥁🥁🥁 … Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd.
Åsa Lindestam would have been Sweden’s fifth defense minister who is a woman, if Hultqvist had been poked and she had taken over. So maybe the gender shock effect should have worn off?
4. But can it not spread a good effect then, SvD’s headline? “Look, women can, too!”
Well, no. They put the focus on her gender instead of her skills. No other qualities are apparent from the headline, so the reader can only assume that it is because of this that she is suitable for the job. Not because she, for example, was a member of the Riksdag’s delegation to NATO’s parliamentary assembly and sat on the defense committee for 16 years.
5. Mismatch with the image! As an interesting twist, the image itself is not a gender stereotypical at all, but quite the opposite. Lindestam is shown as active, hyperfocused and determined. An image that conveys her competence. While the headline anonymizes her from it.