‘No smiling, please, Ms Prime Minister!’: Constructing a female politician on the cover of a news magazine | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1757-1898
  • E-ISSN: 1757-1901



This article examines the practices of constructing gender in the media by elaborating on one specific journalistic work process: the cover photography of the Finnish Prime Minister for a weekly news magazine. We draw from gender theory and Goffman’s concept of social performance in asking how gender is constructed in journalistic work. Women leaders must both prove their capability as politicians and manifest their femininity. Our case study explicates how this double discourse emerges in the photographic studio and how journalists struggle with two parallel scripts they try to follow: one of journalistic neutrality, and another of feminine beauty. The metaphor of two scripts follows Goffman’s idea of social performance with actors performing frontstage and backstage roles. Our ethnographic account shows that journalistic work processes can be ambiguous. We argue that gendered media discourses affect journalistic work in ways not visible in media representations. Thus, to understand these mechanisms, a more ethnographic approach is needed in media research.


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