Demirhan, Kamil & Çakır-Demirhan, Derya (2015). Gender and politics: Patriarchal discourse on social media. Public Relations Review 41(2), 308–310.


Social media is an alternative communication space embedded with opportunities for free and equal participation. However, it perpetuates the dominant discourses on society. This study analyzed Twitter for the production of patriarchal discourse on women under the hashtag; “a woman has to be.” This study supports the idea that social media needs the dynamism of alternative digital publics and alternative discourses to challenge the dominant power relations as well as improving democracy.


This study used content analysis of 636 tweets under the hashtag of “#BirKadındaMutlaka” (which means ‘a woman has to be’) when it was a trending topic in Turkey in 2013. The tweets had an original opinion about the topic and contained the words a woman “has to be” or “must not be.” Tweets were classified according to discourse categories about the social roles of woman: i) domestic roles, ii) professional roles, iii) physical beauty, and iv) moral values.

Key Findings

  • 94% of all tweets analyzed contributed to the patriarchal discourse.
  • People who shared tweets under the hashtag appeared to think that a woman has to be a good wife, a good mother, a good housekeeper; a woman has to have an occupation, earn for family, be well educated and skilled, and have an intellectual capacity; a woman has to be beautiful, strong, and healthy, to have a good appearance and being attractive, and being well-dressed; a woman has to be good, faithful, and respectful to social values and national symbols, devoted, modest and mature.
  • All these views disseminated on Twitter produce and re-produce knowledge on women roles and support patriarchal discourse. Furthermore, the low opposition level indicates the absence of the alternative discourses.

Implications for Practice

This study makes it clear that social media is a field in which the dominated discourses in the society have been perpetuated. It also reveals that social media can be a tool of challenging to the patriarchal norms of society. This means that every anti-sexist discourse on social media created by users will have its effects on the society. Social media can be a good starting way of challenging some traditional gender roles and sexism. Public relations professionals should take the gender issue into account when they create content on social media. They should avoid using sexist language which can perpetuate traditional gender roles.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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