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How middle-aged women are represented in forum discussions about the reality show, Bride Wannabes, by Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese audiences
Date: 23 October 2013 Time: 14.00 - 15.30 pm
Venue: BN SR 14
This is a RiGLS (Research in Gender, Language and Sexuality group) event. The speaker is Mandy Yu,
Abstract of the talk
This study explores the intersection between gender and age - more specifically discourses surrounding middle-aged women (culturally seen as 30s-40s) - in Hong Kong and Mainland China, which are underexplored in terms of the age group of women and geographical regions under investigation. My data are online discussions (in forums of the two societies) about the reality show Bride Wannabes, which was produced by a Hong Kong television station and broadcast in Hong Kong and Southern China in 2012. In the programme, five unmarried middle-aged women were taught how to equip themselves to find their Mr. Right and made to participate in matchmaking activities.
Considering my research scale, I only examine how Florence (probably the most unpopular participant) is referred to, using parts of van Leeuwen's (2008) social actor theory. It is found that both groups frequently nominate and categorise Florence in terms of her age, gender and appearance, often with negative appraisement, and semi-impersonalise her with her body parts. Another similarity is the traces of wine/XO in some impersonalised and categorised references, sarcastically comparing Florence to wine, i.e. the older, the more valuable/attractive. Discourses of 'Privileging of appearance - in women' (Sunderland, 2004) and 'Ageing - especially women's - being equal to bodily ageing' (Coupland, 2009) are evident and dominant in both datasets. A unique feature of the Chinese forums is the foregrounding of Florence's master's degree holder identity (in a negative sense) in some references, which seems to suggest highly educated women are marked and undesirable. Another difference is that in the Chinese group, all appraised references carry negative meanings, whereas in the Hong Kong group, despite dominantly negative, some are positive (e.g. pointing to Florence's independence), which seems to articulate resistance to the abovementioned dominant discourses.
Who can attend: Anyone
Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language
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