En Køn Debat: En kritisk diskursanalyse af køn og politik i debatten om øremærket barsel til mænd

Nadia Schlosser Carstensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis seeks to examine the relationship between gender discourse in public debates and actions in the political field. I study the effects of the construction of gendered identities in discourse in the public debate about legislation regarding earmarked paternity leave. I have chosen to study the print media as the venue for the representation of the public debate, in order to examine the relationship between the media and the political field. The study is carried out through critical discourse analysis. This places the study within a social-constructivist paradigm, wherein social reality is understood as being constructed through discursive processes and linguistically founded. The study is thus based in the assumption that all meaning is produced through discourse. I have chosen Ernesto Laclau’s political discourse theory to form the basis of my analytical strategy and examine gender perspectives using Judith Butler’s theory of gender as performance. The discourse theory poses that all meaning is constructed through contingent discursive processes, including subject identities, and that it is through these processes that we understand and make meaning of our social reality. The struggle to determine meaning is what Laclau defines as the political, in the social reality. By analyzing part of the public media debate, the study finds two prominent discourses, both trying to determine the empty signifier ‘earmarked paternity leave’. The discourses assign meaning to the signifier in two different ways; the first, ‘more time for fathers’, seeks to fill the signifier as a political tool for equality, both for women and men, in the workplace and at home. The second, ‘the choice is yours’, seeks to fill the signifier as a means to force fathers to take paternity leave and, as an attack on the individual freedom of choice for families. However, both discourses assign a number of expectations to the subject positions ‘man’ and ‘women. The ‘man’ is constructed as someone who does not care much for spending time with his family and whose primary concern is his job and career. He is not expected to give up career advancement for the benefit of his family. The ‘woman’ is constructed as someone who would gladly give up her career to be a good mother, and she is expected to want to do so. If she would want to have a career, she would have to give up having a family, as she would not have time to both be a good mother and a good employee. The thesis concludes that the expectations of how men and women act and think, represented in the discourse in media debate about earmarked paternity leave, affect the political, in that it contributes to the legitimization of the current state of legislation, as well as hinder any new perspectives on how to solve issues of inequality in the workplace and the home.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages72