Complicating the sexualisation thesis: the media, gender and 'sci-candy'

2014-06-26T11:19:11Z (GMT) by Fred Attenborough
General suggestions about the ‘sexualization of culture’ pay too little attention to the ways in which gender shapes the media’s representation of men and women as sexy men and women. As a result, claims to the effect that ‘we are all objectified now’ (i.e. that idealized–sexualized representational strategies are no longer limited to women’s bodies) have proliferated in recent years. In this article, however, it is argued that such claims result from too generic and undifferentiated an understanding of ‘sexualization’. Rather than thinking in terms of ‘the’ process of sexualization, this article seeks to foreground ‘a’ diverse array of practices that tend to coalesce under the heading ‘sexualization’. To do so, it performs a critical discourse analysis on a corpus of national UK newspaper articles in which both a male and a female celebrity scientist are profiled. A discussion of the referential strategies, transitivity choices and strategies of fragmentation and focalization on display in those articles leads not to the claim that ‘we are all objectified now’, but, rather, to the suggestion that the plural pronoun ‘we’ conceals and maintains a definite gender asymmetry.