Are we projecting gender biases to ungendered things? Differences in referring to female versus male named hurricanes in 33 years of news coverage

Computational communication research(2023)

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Hurricanes are ungendered phenomena that are ascribed with gendered names. We examined if news information about the hurricanes are presented using gendered language. This work helps identify if people use gender stereotyping when referring to gender-neutral entities, and what these stereotypes might be. We use methods from natural language processing, qualitative text analysis, and statistics to analyze how gender is expressed in disaster-related news via text-level indicators: (1) pronouns, (2) lexical, syntactic, and semantic features of words related to hurricanes, and (3) types of sources quoted. Our sample contains news articles on 47 hurricane events from 1979 to 2012 from two weeks before to two weeks after landfall. We find that: (1) hurricanes are mainly referred to by gender-neutral pronouns, however, (2) when gendered pronouns are used, female-named hurricanes are five times more likely to be referred to by a gendered pronoun than male-named hurricanes, (3) adjectives and verbs used in discussing female-named hurricanes are on average more negative than those used for reporting on male-named-hurricanes, and (4) governmental sources are most frequently quoted as authority voices (voices from citizens and non-governmental entities are catching up), and a majority of these voices do not directly mention hurricanes with gendered references.
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Key words
gender biases,news coverage,female
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