Islamophobia and Media Portrayals of Muslim Women: A Computational Text Analysis of US News Coverage
International Studies Quarterly
Rochelle Terman | September 1, 2017
This article examines portrayals of Muslim women in US news media. I test two hypotheses derived from theories of gendered orientalism. First, US news coverage of women abroad is driven by confirmation bias. Journalists are more likely to report on women living in Muslim and Middle Eastern countries if their rights are violated but report on women in other societies when their rights are respected. Second, stories about Muslim women emphasize the theme of women's rights violations and gender inequality, even for countries with relatively good records of women's rights. Stories about non-Muslim women, on the other hand, emphasize other topics. I test these hypotheses on data from thirty-five years of New York Times and Washington Post reporting using a structural topic model along with statistical analysis. The results suggest that US news media propagate the perception that Muslims are distinctly sexist. This, in turn, may shape public attitudes toward Muslims, as well as influence policies that involve Muslims at home and abroad.