Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Framing Gender Politics: The New Zealand First List Controversy

Dr Susan Fountaine.

New Zealand's 1999 General Election campaign was historically significant because it featured two women contesting the role of Prime Minister. However, despite these high profile advances, a gender-based controversy occurred during the campaign when two New Zealand First women Members of Parliament (MPs) were ranked at unelectable positions on the party's list, and a highly placed female newcomer was charged with tax fraud.
This paper uses content and frame analysis to explore newspaper coverage of the list controversy. It reveals that the media's fascination with party leader Winson Peters led to an emphasis on personality, and consequently the women MPs' accusations of gender bias were interpreted as evidence of his personal failings, rather than potential factors contributing to women's political under-representation generally.
Drawing on the work of Iyengar (1991), the paper concludes that the episodic framing of the list dispute as "Peters' women troubles" did a disservice to women because it deflected attention away from other interpretations, such as sexism in political and social structures, and instead emphasised individual responsibility in the form of Peters' leadership.


Dr Susan Fountaine  (New Zealand)
Department of Communication and Journalism
Massey University

  • Framing
  • Gender
  • Election campaigns
  • Women
Person as Subject
  • Winston Peters Jenny Bloxham Robin McDonald Suzanne Bruce

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)