Female online participation in the Brazilian presidential campaign: Readers’ comments in two Portuguese newspapers as a case study

Silvia, Marisa Torres Da
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The Internet encloses unambiguous possibilities of public communication and debate, by creating new spaces for political expression and participation. As a potential deliberative section, readers’ comments in newspapers’ websites constitute a domain enabling citizens to express their views on a particular issue, reacting specifically to a news piece and discussing it along with other readers as well. From a gender perspective, studying the women’s participation in online debates becomes increasingly relevant to understanding the social aspects of Internet use. Some studies have demonstrated, however, that gender differences in online communication tend to disfavour women: women send fewer messages, receive fewer responses and often aren’t able to control the topic of discussion (Herring, 2000). This paper intends to take the debate around the Brazilian presidential campaign as a case study of the possibility of a “female” public sphere, attempting to analyse the way by which women discuss political issues online. Additionally, given the nature and characteristics of the main presidential candidates, our aim is also to understand whether questions about gender were important to the discussion or if the dichotomy male/female was suppressed in the public debate surrounding the campaign. In order to fulfil these purposes, our research focuses on readers’ on the Brazilian presidential campaign (September-November 2010) in the online versions of two Portuguese newspapers, Público and Expresso ​
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