Dr Liza Tsaliki
Associate Professor at the Department of Communications and Media Studies, School of Economics and
Political Science, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Section 4: Diversity and Division
- Hillary Clinton’s evolving gender appeals
- The ‘nasty’ politics of risk, gender and the emotional body in the US Presidential election
- Why Trump’s male chauvinism appeals to some voters more than others
- Trump’s ‘promised land’ of white masculine economic success
- Attempting to understand Hillary Clinton’s favourability ratings
- A very queer Presidential election campaign: personal reflections from an LGBT perspective
- Love didn’t trump hate: intolerance in the campaign and beyond
- The blue-collar billionaire: explaining the Trump phenomenon
- Belonging, racism and white backlash in the 2016 US Presidential Election
- The theology of American exceptionalism
- Organizing in Trump’s America: the perspective of the disability community
- Why are the German-Americans Trump’s most loyal supporters?
Empirical research regarding the role of gender in positions of leadership (either corporate or political) has shown consistently over time the glass ceiling that many women face, and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Race has stirred the controversy regarding the gender dynamics of high office even further.
However, despite the growing success of women at the highest level of political power in recent times, gender – and in Hillary’s case, age, too – continues to impact heavily upon women’s opportunities to run for office (and win), and it would seem that the US is lagging behind other nations of the developed and the not-so-developed world on this. In fact, long before her, there have been other American women who paved the way for Hillary 2016. To name but a few, , Pat Schroeder had a brief time as a Democratic nominee in 1988 before her subsequent ‘emotional’ withdrawal from the race, and Sarah Palin was nominated for the Republican V.P in 2008. In short, the . Having served as secretary of state, it’s true that . If nothing else, . In one advertisement she actually employed to press this point. What she is being criticized, and sometimes ridiculed, about is her looks, body shape, attire, being ‘menopausal’ and fragile – in essence all those things that tap into stereotypical gender characteristics the presidential candidate Hillary does not have in abundance: youth, health, stamina, sexiness. For her critics, Hilary is a ‘flawed’ candidate for national political leadership not just because the US presidency is perceived as a ‘masculine’ task, to be carried out by a male leader; but also because she is seen to betray ‘traditional’ female characteristics, while having acquired more ‘masculine’ ones along the way (decisiveness, toughness) – hence we understand why ‘’ has stuck in the popular imagination. In fact, the way we’ve moved on from the more ‘cool’ context of HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge) as depicted in the ‘’ tumblr in 2012, where we saw a busy Hillary texting from an airplane hangar, posing as a real-life Anna Wintour, running the world behind her dark glasses, to ‘’ tees, indicates the profound gender asymmetries surrounding female presidency in America.
The question remains though: why is this happening? Part of the answer may lay in the Protestant culture of the US, which is an outlier especially when compared to Protestant Europe. suggest that although the Reformation brought increased female participation in the sacred across Protestant countries in Europe, afforded through Bible reading and interpretation, and thus prepared the ground for more tolerant attitudes towards female leadership in all realms, such practices did not extend to the US where Protestantism took a socially conservative turn. This kind of socially conservative Protestantism, which sees female submission to male leadership as appropriate within the political realm, the church and family, is seen to have had a dampening effect on women’s political engagement in America and explains low female representation, especially in the highest level of political office. Accounts of a woman president of the United States surfaced in the early 20th century, along with the rise of the suffragette movement and technological futurism. However, . At a more nuanced level, such thinking challenged deeply entrenched ideas about women’s place in American society at a time when the dominant perception of white, middle class ‘appropriate’ femininity contextualized women in the private sphere of the domesticity. Drawing from Joanne Hollows’ work on ‘Domestic Cultures’, I argue that the gendered controversy surrounding Hillary’s 2016 nomination, and whether or not she is fit to lead, is the culmination of a century-long social construction of white, urban, middle-class American womanhood in modernity, which assumed that women’s ‘natural’ place in the world was exhausted at home, while working class, black and immigrant femininities reserved a more ‘public’ perception of womanhood. Τhe , as well as .