The formation of the image of a particular culture or social class through the sphere of social media is a common trend in the modern digital space. The creation of stereotypes, biases, and fallacies is a negative consequence, but due to the prevalence of online communication and its accessibility, many people are ready to accept those ideas that are promoted. Regarding Saudi women who are discussed in both British and Saudi media, certain opinions have developed on the basis of religious, cultural and ideological aspects. These views are often associated with limitations and inequality, and human rights are discussed as an accompanying topic.
This literature review is aimed at assessing the representation of Saudi women on social media. As a rule, various reports and articles are propaganda in nature, based on the condemnation of the target audience’s social life and calls for establishing the legal system of gender relations. Finally, this research aims to show how media shape and represent people as well as how the use of the language could reflect ideological and political perspectives.
From a religious perspective, the representation of Saudi women in British media often reveals European condemning attitudes toward the Islamic order and laws. According to Al-Hejin (2015), one of the phrases that may be heard on BBC is “ghostly figures” when reporters describe Muslim women as submissive, silent and submissive (p. 35). In addition, the author notes that, based on the national survey, 69% of the UK population is confident that Islamic practices impose pressure on females and force them to be meek (Al-Hejin, 2015, p. 21).
Brown and Richards (2016) who also analyse Europeans’ perceptions of Saudi women support this view and argue that British stereotyped thinking reinforced by social media propaganda suggests a negative attitude towards conservative Islamic practices. According to the authors, in some BBC stories, Muslim women appear to be slaves without the right to choose (Brown & Richards, 2016). Consequently, the religious aspect is a significant background for the promotion of certain ideas.
In addition to religion, some topics regarding Saudi women are actively discussed in social media. For instance, Harun, Ismail, Daoudi and Thompson (2018) focus on the issue of driving restrictions. According to the authors who analyse British and Saudi channels, “two news outlets have a different way of portraying the restriction of driving on Saudi women according to their political agendas and ideologies” with overt condemnation by the UK agency (Harun et al., 2018, p. 466). At the same time, the population in question does not have any limitations in digital communication, as many people believe. As Guta and Karolak (2015) state, Saudi women have many social media accounts and lead an active online life. Thus, many stereotypes are based on the opinions of individual news publishers rather than real facts.
News Language as a Propaganda Instrument
The ways of displaying news articles largely form the look of the target audience. Mustafa-Awad and Kirner-Ludwig (2017) remark that in Western press, the overwhelming majority of headlines where Saudi women appear serve as a means of influencing the rest of the population. The authors note that the words “protest” and “activism” are the most commonly used nouns in discussing certain issues (Mustafa-Awad & Kirner-Ludwig, 2017). Lida and Avoine (2016) support this idea and note that in Western news media, the victimisation of Saudi women is discussed much more often than in Eastern ones. News headlines and vocabulary as a whole largely influence this correlation.
Social media serves as powerful advocacy resources in the context of representing Saudi women, and negative background is a common phenomenon. The religious topic is constantly raised, but other issues are also addressed, which, thereby, intentionally victimises the audience in question. The vocabulary of news resources often involves inciting hot themes, and this is also evidence of bias and stereotypes supported by Western media publishers.
The aim of this thesis is to examine how Saudi women are usually represented in Saudi and British media with reference to the analysis of the content of newspapers that are published in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. This aim will be realised through finding the answers to the following research questions set for this study:
- How do the Saudi press and the UK press represent Saudi women?
- Do they represent Saudi women in a negative way or a positive one?
- What are the adjectives that are used to describe Saudi women in newspapers?
- What aspects do these representations reflect in the political sphere?
Design of the study
Data sources selected for this research will be represented with the help of two 250,000-word corpora (500,000 words in total) in order to reflect the Arabic and British newspaper discourses on Saudi women. These corpora will be created for completing a complex corpus-assisted discourse analysis of five Saudi newspapers published in the Arabic and English languages and five British newspapers published in the English languages. The newspapers are to be selected randomly from the most popular Arabic and English press (Abid, Khazraji, & Fahmi, 2018; Haider, 2016). The selected texts need to be published online on newspaper websites during the period between January 2015 and September 2019.
To be effectively used in discourse analysis, a corpus of data should be representative in terms of the information that can be gathered with the help of this corpus to address the set research questions (Biber & Reppen, 2015; Wodak & Meyer, 2015). Therefore, the first step in designing the data collection and analysis procedures will be the determination of lists of Saudi and British newspapers that regularly mentioned Saudi women and related issues in their articles (McEnery & Baker, 2015). Five newspapers will be randomly selected from the list of Saudi newspapers, and five newspapers will be randomly selected from the list of British newspapers. The retrieval of data for the set time period will be continued till creating two 250,000-word corpora with the information published in the Saudi and British press that represents Saudi women. The creation of two corpora should be organised with the help of entering data into Sketch Engine (Jones, Chik, & Hafner, 2015).
Methods of analysis
After entering all the data (500,000 words in total) into Sketch Engine, it is necessary to conduct a preliminary text analysis of data regarding the representation of Saudi women in two different corpora of information with the help of identifying particular keywords. Such corpus analysis allows for determining keywords related to the studied topic and point at the most typical mentions of Saudi women in press referring to both corpora (Tannen, Hamilton, & Schiffrin, 2015). However, in order to compare and contrast how Saudi women are represented in Saudi and British press and to analyse the used adjectives and the link between representations and politics, it is necessary to conduct a discourse analysis (Salahshour, 2016; Wang, 2018).
It is possible to state that discourse analysis is useful to determine what linguistic approaches are used by the authors of articles mentioning Saudi women in order to create their certain image (Weisser, 2016; Wodak & Meyer, 2015). As a result, conducting corpus analysis and discourse analysis, it will be possible to study the corpora in detail and answer the research questions regarding specifics of representing Saudi women in the Saudi and British press. Therefore, the conducted analysis will be helpful to respond to the questions and meet the research goal.
Abid, R. Z., Khazraji, A., & Fahmi, N. H. (2018). A proposed holistic approach to the critical analysis of online news reports. International Journal of English Linguistics, 8(2), 222-232. Web.
Al-Hejin, B. (2015). Covering Muslim women: Semantic macrostructures in BBC news. Discourse & Communication, 9(1), 19-46. Web.
Biber, D., & Reppen, R. (Eds.). (2015). The Cambridge handbook of English corpus linguistics. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Brown, L., & Richards, B. (2016). Media representations of Islam in Britain: A sojourner perspective. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 36(3), 350-363. Web.
Guta, H., & Karolak, M. (2015). Veiling and blogging: Social media as sites of identity negotiation and expression among Saudi women. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 16(2), 115-127.
Haider, A. S. (2016). A corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis of the representation of Qaddafi in media: Evidence from Asharq Al-Awsat and Al-Khaleej newspapers. International Journal of Linguistics, 4(2), 11-29. Web.
Harun, F. N., Ismail, M. M., Daoudi, A., & Thompson, P. (2018). The driving restriction on Saudi women: Critical analysis of modality in Arabic online news discourse. Journal of Fatwa Management and Research, 13(1), 466-487.
Jones, R. H., Chik, A., & Hafner, C. A. (Eds.). (2015). Discourse and digital practices: Doing discourse analysis in the digital age. New York, NY: Routledge.
Lida, A., & Avoine, P. A. (2016). “Deviant” women in English Aarab Media: Comparing representation in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Reflexión Política, 18(36), 34-48.
McEnery, A., & Baker, P. (Eds.). (2015). Corpora and discourse studies: Integrating discourse and corpora. New York, NY: Springer.
Mustafa-Awad, Z., & Kirner-Ludwig, M. (2017). Arab women in news headlines during the Arab Spring: Image and perception in Germany. Discourse & Communication, 11(5), 515-538. Web.
Salahshour, N. (2016). Liquid metaphors as positive evaluations: A corpus-assisted discourse analysis of the representation of migrants in a daily New Zealand newspaper. Discourse, Context & Media, 13, 73-81. Web.
Tannen, D., Hamilton, H. E., & Schiffrin, D. (Eds.). (2015). The handbook of discourse analysis. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
Wang, G. (2018). A corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis of news reporting on China’s air pollution in the official Chinese English-language press. Discourse & Communication, 12(6), 645-662. Web.
Weisser, M. (2016). Practical corpus linguistics: An introduction to corpus-based language analysis. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Wodak, R., & Meyer, M. (Eds.). (2015). Methods of critical discourse studies. New York, NY: Sage.