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Gillard copped media gender bias: report

AAP logoAAP 28/09/2016 Elise Scott

She was strong, she was invincible and she was woman.

And with that came an "abundance of gendered criticism" from mainstream media over Julia Gillard's rise to prime minister, new research has found.

The Australian National University PhD candidate paper, titled He's "taken back the reins" and she's "a backstabbing murderer", compares the ascension of Ms Gillard and Malcolm Turnbull to the nation's top job.

Researcher Blair Williams found a significant gender bias, with even positive pieces about Ms Gillard referring to her femininity.

"One said she had flawless skin, and also said she had many boyfriends, but the whole article was praising Gillard," Ms Williams told AAP on Wednesday.

"It's quite odd."

The study found 58 per cent of articles focused in some way on her femininity and 44 per cent insinuated it was not prime ministerial.

"There's a lot of positive articles that talked about her but didn't talk about her agenda."

Media described Ms Gillard's ousting of former prime minister Kevin Rudd as an assassination, backstabbing and attack.

By contrast, Ms Williams found Mr Turnbull on the whole escaped those labels, with coup, challenge and plotting the words most used to describe his unseating of Tony Abbott.

"I was waiting for the media to talk about it in the same way they talked about Gillard, the backstabbing, the murdering, and that never really happened," Ms Williams said.

Mr Turnbull was attacked by conservative commentators, she said, but his gender wasn't referenced.

The study compared articles from three papers - the Advertiser, the Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald - in the weeks following the leadership coups.

Ms Williams admits many other factors that were outside the scope of her analysis could influence media portrayals of the leaders.

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