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Angela Rayner (Member of Parliament) and the “Basic Instinct Ploy”: Intersectional misrecognition of women leaders' legitimacy, productive resistance and flexing (patriarchal) discourse

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Sharon MavinORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This paper interrogates a shift in patriarchal media discourse related to women leaders' recognition and legitimationin the UK. We conduct a multimodal discourse analysis of an online newspaper article about the UK politician andDeputy Leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner, and analyzed public responses. Understanding the media as ameans to distribute power and enable the challenging of norms, we contribute a theory of intersectional misrecognitionin media's representation of women political leaders. This reveals an enduring and dynamic subordinate status ofwomen leaders, shown specifically through the intersection of gender and class. We theorize that while women leaderscontinue to be misrecognized in the media, destabilizing their legitimacy, there is a demonstrable flexing of patriarchaldiscourse combined with stronger and accelerated resistance to ongoing sexism. We identify this resistanceas productive in its call for consequences and a redistribution of cultural values, reflecting a discursive shift towarda productive resistance of resilient gender norms, evident in the intersection of gender with class. Intersectionalmisrecognition has value in making inequalities explicit for women leaders and where there may be productive tensionswith potential to mobilize for change.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stead V, Mavin S, Elliott C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Gender Work and Organization

Year: 2024

Volume: 31

Issue: 1

Pages: 152-170

Print publication date: 01/01/2024

Online publication date: 26/08/2023

Acceptance date: 22/07/2023

Date deposited: 11/04/2024

ISSN (print): 0968-6673

ISSN (electronic): 1468-0432

Publisher: Wiley


DOI: 10.1111/gwao.13050


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