Qingru Xu [Grady MA Student] (2016), “Gender, Nationalism, and Individualism: How Chinese Media Construct Tennis Elites During International Sporting Events ,” International Communication Association Annual Conference (ICA), Fukuoka, Japan, June 9-13.
Abstract: Li Na is a former Chinese professional tennis player, who is the first and only Grand Slam singles champion from Asia and is regarded as the region’s tennis pioneer and trailblazer. Extensive qualitative research shows that media tend to assign female athletes a primary status as girls, wives, or mothers, rather than as athletes. In addition, the media representation can also be affected by nationalism and individualism. Media representation is not something that is constant; instead, it is continually challenged or reinforced by a changing society. A textual analysis approach was adopted and framing theory was employed as a theoretical framework. This study is aimed at exploring how Chinese media managed and constructed one elite athlete’s (Li Na) identity within the context of gender, nationalism and individualism during 2014 Australian Open. Research showed that, in this case, gender was not the overriding factor of media representation of female athletes, and media tended to construct Li Na in masculine terms. Furthermore, individualism was strongly applauded, while collectivism was criticized as losing sight of athletes as people, instead treating then like machines. This shift in the media representation of Li Na can reflect the dramatic social change in China during the last three decades.