Women, Gender, and Politics
Session: N11 - Workshop - Mediation of Gendered Identities in Canadian Politics (Panel 1): Gendered Identities as Political Resources
Chair/Présidente: Joanna Everitt (University of New Brunswick Saint John)
Discussant/Commentatrice: Linda Trimble (Unviersity of Alberta)
Participants & Authors/Auteurs: (Click titles for Abstract and Paper.)
Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant (Queen's University) : Candidates’ self-presentation strategies: Filling in the gaps
Abstract: The paper integrates new insights into the existing literature on how candidates position themselves to media and voters. This is important, more broadly, for the provision-presentation distinction (Goodyear-Grant 2013), since candidate self-presentation is a vital part of the provision side. First, the paper examines how gender affects not just women’s but also men’s self-presentation to media. Gender norms combined with electoral considerations structure men’s self-presentation strategies, but differently than for women candidates. Interestingly, however, the pattern of competitive self-presentation between candidates is fairly universal, regardless of their sexes: candidates tend to self-present using “masculine” traits or strategies, while at the same “feminizing” their rivals. At the very least, this is true in all-men and mixed-sex contests. The case of Justin Trudeau will be examined for illustrative purposes, for he engaged in a gender recuperative strategy in 2015 in order to counter his rivals’ attempts to feminize him. The role of new media, principally social media like Twitter, in candidate self-presentation will be important in this analysis. The growing influence of candidate-controlled campaign communications has created new opportunities and constraints for self-presentation.
Angelia Wagner (McGill University) : Taboo topic? Talking about one’s family on the campaign trail
Abstract: This paper examines the extent to which women candidates are willing to discuss their personal lives while campaigning for elected office in Canada. Studies suggest that traditional gender stereotypes enable men politicians to leverage their families as political resources while their female counterparts cannot, especially when seeking national office. But are families always a taboo topic for women politicians? Results from a large-scale survey of and semi-structured interviews with municipal candidates about their campaign messages demonstrate that, in local elections at least, women are as willing as men to discuss personal matters with voters. Examining political communication at the municipal level therefore enables us to better understand what role electoral context plays in determining which gendered rhetorical strategies are available to women politicians at any given time.
Abstract: This paper brings the rich body of literature on gender and politics into conversation with contemporary scholarship on the politics of masculinity (Hearn, 2004; Connell, 2005; Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). In virtually all Anglo-American jurisdictions, political life continues to be dominated by men. Recent scholarship on gender and politics has pointed to both formal and informal barriers experienced by women seeking to participate in public life (Vickers, 1997; Newman & White, 2006; Bashevkin, 2009; Dobrowolsky, 2009; Thomas, 2013), along with the chronic underrepresentation of women in political institutions (Tolley, 2012; Thomas & Young, 2014). While these accounts analyze the effect of masculinity norms on women’s ability to participate in public life, this paper examines the operation of these same norms on men’s political presentation. Drawing on contemporary theorizations of hegemonic masculinity, which tend to conceptualize gender as iterative and relational, rather than essential and static, we analyze campaign materials and news coverage to examine how male political leaders rely on competing versions of masculinity during the 2015 Canadian federal election. We argue that the male leaders of three major political parties—Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, and Thomas Mulcair—all invoke different versions of masculinity in their appearance, manner of speech, and relationship with their families to secure votes. We also examine how the Canadian media, in taking up questions about the leaders’ particular version of gender performance, also participate in the larger project of simultaneously constituting and challenging the operation of masculinity during political campaigns. Co-author: Kyle Kirkup
Paper or Poster / Communication ou Présentation visuelle
The theory of gendered mediation asserts that the news media reinforce the traditional notion that politics is primarily a male activity by using masculine language, norms, attitudes, and stereotypes to describe politics, political affairs and individual political actors. Scholars have typically explored the nature of gendered mediation by empirically examining media depictions of women seeking powerful political positions at the national level, such as president. Scholars have only recently begun to investigate how women politicians’ rhetorical strategies either reinforce or subvert traditional gender stereotypes in politics. Research on voter reactions to gendered political communication has been even more limited. While these investigations are important to understanding the theoretical underpinnings and empirical realities of the use of gender in political communication, gendered mediation research has typically focused too narrowly on journalistic behaviour and, even then, toward a specific type of politician—namely, white, affluent, heterosexual women seeking national office. What is left uninterrogated, and therefore unchallenged, is the myriad ways in which gendered mediation is strongly influenced by notions about race/ethnicity, sexuality, class and other socially constructed identities. Presentations will examine how gender intersects with other socially constructed identities to shape politicians’ communication strategies, media representations of politicians, and voter evaluations of both. They will determine how the mediation of gendered identities shapes political communication in Canada, as well as the nature of the Canadian political system. Most importantly, presentations will discuss the implications of gendered mediation for Canadian democracy, both overall and for specific groups of political actors.
Panel 1: Gendered Identities As Political Resources
Papers will explore the role of gendered identities in the political communication strategies of women and men politicians.