Women's Hidden Agency in the News Coverage of the Tibetian Riots


  • Suvimarja Vuontela Centre of Peace Studies, University of Tromsø




Conflict, media, news, discourse, gender, agency


This mixed methods case study on the international newspaper coverage of women in the  Tibetan  riots  in  March  2008  analyses  to  what extent  women  are  represented according to prevailing gender stereotypes in conflict news. The study largely confirms news media’s gender bias, in that news media hides women’s agency. Women are either not included in the studied 62 articles from International Herald Tribune, China Daily, and  the  Tibet  Post  International, or represented according  to  prevailing  gender stereotypes, namely as passive feminine objects. Interestingly, Chi-square testing  reveals  that  the Tibet Post International, an online newspaper  run  by  Tibetan  exiles,  deviated from  the  general  tendency  by  representing remarkably frequent images of active Tibetan women. Around one-third (32 percent) of the Tibet Post  International’s articles  included press  photos featuring women and the clear  majority  (88  percent)  of  these  images represented  them  as  active.  However,  the qualitative  part  of  the study  tells  that  text  associated  with  the  newspaper’s  images  of active Tibetan women reduced these women’s perceived agency. When introducing text into  the  interpretation  of  these  images,  the  women in  many  cases  were  turned  into potential victims. This points out that text-image interaction is an often overlooked, yet integral part of assigning meaning in conflict news. 

Author Biography

Suvimarja Vuontela, Centre of Peace Studies, University of Tromsø

Suvimarja Vuontela holds an MA in Peace and Conflict Studies from the Centre of Peace Studies at the University of Tromsø. She currently works at the gender unit of UNDP Somalia based in Nairobi.




How to Cite

Vuontela, Suvimarja. 2012. “Women’s Hidden Agency in the News Coverage of the Tibetian Riots”. Nordlit, no. 30 (October):129-42. https://doi.org/10.7557/13.2376.