Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Negotiating Care Work: Gendered Network Structures of Pandemic Care Discourses on Twitter in Germany

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Abstract:  Precarious conditions of care work are contested and deeply gendered issues all over the globe. The Covid-19 pandemic both intensifies the (national) care crises and makes care work more visible as a public issue. In this article, we ask for the opportunities, structural conditions, and limitations of voice and visibility in emerging publics beyond established media organizations. Applying the concept of performative publics and using social network analysis, we reconstruct and compare the constitution of publics around the two German language Twitter hashtags 0#systemrelevant and #CoronaEltern. In a comparative design, we ask which actor groups and what kind of genders gain visibility, and in which speaker positions women, men, and non-binary people appear. The comparison of the two case studies reveals rather different network structures and asks for more nuanced, issue-based “medium data” analyses in the linkage of gender media studies and computational methods. Whereas the public discourse on professional paid care work resembles gendered power structures, the public discourse on privatized, unpaid care work shows shifted patterns concerning female visibility. These findings are discussed critically as gendered discourse spaces of professional and privatized care work stay rather separated and thus risk reproducing traditional private/public boundaries. Furthermore, findings emphasize the importance of “invisible” relational work which keeps hashtags running. Ratios of paying attention from women to men and vice versa are unequally distributed. Females either invest more communicative effort than males or receive less attention for the equal amount of reaching out to others.

Keywords:  care work; computational methods; Covid-19; gender inequalities; hashtag; media discourse; Twitter



© Miriam Siemon, Wolfgang Reißmann. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.