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Women for President

Women for President: Media Bias in Nine Campaigns

Erika Falk
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Women for President
    Book Description:

    Newly updated to examine Hillary Clinton's formidable 2008 presidential campaign, Women for President analyzes the gender bias the media has demonstrated in covering women candidates since the first woman ran for America's highest office in 1872. Tracing the campaigns of nine women who ran for president through 2008--Victoria Woodhull, Belva Lockwood, Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Chisholm, Patricia Schroeder, Lenora Fulani, Elizabeth Dole, Carol Moseley Braun, and Hillary Clinton--Erika Falk finds little progress in the fair treatment of women candidates. The press portrays female candidates as unviable, unnatural, and incompetent, and often ignores or belittles women instead of reporting their ideas and intent. This thorough comparison of men's and women's campaigns reveals a worrisome trend of sexism in press coverage--a trend that still persists today.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09605-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
    (pp. 1-16)

    In January 2007, Senator Hillary Clinton declared her intention to seek the White House and in doing so entered the race as a front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination. A December 2006 poll by the Gallup Organization reported that respondents named Senator Clinton most often (33 percent) as their choice for the Democratic nomination. Senator Barack Obama, who entered the race four days before Clinton, was named second (20 percent). Even though Clinton polled better than Obama, in the month in which both candidates announced they would run for president the top six circulating newspapers in the United States ran...

  4. 1 Why Worry about the Press?
    (pp. 17-30)

    The notion of politically correct speech has been soundly condemned in the popular press, radio talk shows, and informal gatherings. The idea that the words we choose and the language we use might have a substantial impact on the way we perceive the world, think, and even act is often rejected as a ludicrous proposition that any thinking person can easily dismiss. There is, however, a large body of evidence from social science demonstrating that, counter to popular conception, the world we live in is created by the language we use to describe it. Language is important and the words...

  5. 2 Unnatural, Incapable, and Unviable
    (pp. 31-51)

    “So now women think they are capable of holding the highest office in the land. It’s bad enough that we allow these female creatures to operate automobiles. Imagine what would happen if one of them became president! Let’s keep the women at home where they belong” (Krasner 1964). This opinion, expressed in a letter to the editor during Margaret Chase Smith’s campaign for the presidency in 1964, is just one of many articulating the idea that women do not belong in the political sphere. An analysis of the explicit arguments in the press over the last 130 years of coverage...

  6. 3 Baking Muffins and Bombing Countries
    (pp. 52-82)

    In 1984 when Geraldine Ferraro was running for vice president on the Democratic Party ticket, she was asked by Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Jim Buck Ross, “Can you bake a blueberry muffin?” (Braden 1996, 109). On Meet the Press, she was asked, “Do you think that in any way the Soviets might be tempted to take advantage of you simply because you are a woman?” (Jamieson 1995, 107), and “Are you strong enough to push the button?” (Cohn 2002, 18). Over twenty years earlier, when Margaret Chase Smith was first elected to the Senate, the Saturday Evening Post published a...

  7. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  8. 4 High-Heeled Boots and Violet Suits
    (pp. 83-100)

    In 1980 a (man) reporter for the New York Times Sunday Magazine wrote a story about three candidates for Democratic senator in the New York State primary. Two were women (Representative Elizabeth Holtzman and former New York City Consumer Affairs Commissioner Bess Myerson). In it he noted,

    Miss Holtzman was dining in a Chinese restaurant on the East Side, and she was wearing a cardigan sweater over a blouse with a round collar. It is difficult to imagine her wearing a plunging neckline or a skirt slit to the thigh. Miss Myerson became famous when she was named Miss America...

  9. 5 Do Newspapers Give Equal Coverage to Men and Women Presidential Candidates?
    (pp. 101-115)

    When I set out to study the press coverage of women candidates for president I feared that I would find nothing. I thought that perhaps the press would have simply ignored the candidates and there would be no data to analyze. That proved not to be the case; the press does write about women candidates. However, I still found an interesting story in the amount of coverage that women received as compared to equivalent men. The papers wrote fewer stories and fewer words per story about women than they did about men who had similar credentials and polled about the...

  10. 6 Issues, Biography, and Chaff
    (pp. 116-138)

    A number of recent studies have shown that election coverage often lacks the kind of substantive political discussion people need to make informed decisions. Rather than reporting on the candidates’ positions on the issues or the experience they bring to a job, news accounts are far more likely to reduce an election to a game, telling voters who is ahead or behind or reporting on the candidates’ strategies or movements (e.g., King 1990; Patterson 1991). In short, the media tend to treat an election more like a horse race than a job interview.

    Generally speaking, women fare more poorly than...

  11. 7 Is America Ready?
    (pp. 139-150)

    For as long as women have aspired to the Oval Office, citizens, pollsters, and reporters have argued that America is not ready for a woman president. When the first widely known woman candidate for president, Victoria Woodhull, declared her intention to run in 1870, the newspapers noted, “She is rather in advance of her time. The public mind is not yet educated to the pitch of universal woman’s rights” (“Woman’s Idea of Government” 1870). Such an attitude may seem uninteresting until one considers that over a hundred years later, similar sentiments still dominated press coverage. During Senator Margaret Chase Smith’s...

  12. 8 Eighteen Million Cracks but Still Intact
    (pp. 151-182)

    On January 7, 2008, at the height of the Democratic primary campaign, two telling events happened to Senator Hillary Clinton. In Salem, New Hampshire, at a routine campaign rally, two men stood, holding signs, and chanted, “Iron my shirt! Iron my shirt!” The incident went mostly ignored by the press. In the Lexis-Nexis database of major U.S. and world English-language publications for the seven days that followed the event, only thirty-five articles mentioned the attack. In contrast, earlier that same day at a stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, an undecided voter asked Clinton how she was able to “keep upbeat...

    (pp. 183-194)

    During the mid-1800s, when Victoria Woodhull first considered running for the presidency, women could not vote and had not held state or national office. It was difficult for women to act politically at all. Walking door to door without a husband or escort was considered unwomanly, and women who engaged in this type of political activism often encountered verbal abuse. Accommodations for women traveling alone were very rare, and “respectable” restaurants would not serve women after 6:00 p.m. unless they were escorted by a man. When a woman married she suffered “civil death.” This meant she was considered property, had...

    (pp. 195-200)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 201-206)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-208)