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Women and the White House

Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics

Justin S. Vaughn
Lilly J. Goren
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 330
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  • Book Info
    Women and the White House
    Book Description:

    The president of the United States traditionally serves as a symbol of power, virtue, ability, dominance, popularity, and patriarchy. In recent years, however, the high-profile candidacies of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann have provoked new interest in gendered popular culture and how it influences Americans' perceptions of the country's highest political office.

    In this timely volume, editors Justin S. Vaughn and Lilly J. Goren lead a team of scholars in examining how the president and the first lady exist as a function of public expectations and cultural gender roles. The authors investigate how the candidates' messages are conveyed, altered, and interpreted in "hard" and "soft" media forums, from the nightly news to daytime talk shows, and from tabloids to the blogosphere. They also address the portrayal of the presidency in film and television productions such asKisses for My President(1964),Air Force One(1997), andCommander in Chief(2005).

    With its strong, multidisciplinary approach,Women and the White Housecommences a wider discussion about the possibility of a female president in the United States, the ways in which popular perceptions of gender will impact her leadership, and the cultural challenges she will face.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4103-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. 1 The Mechanized Gaze: Gender, Popular Culture, and the Presidency
    (pp. 1-22)
    Justin S. Vaughn and Lilly J. Goren

    The 2008 election saw significant interaction between gender-driven popular culture and politics, from Hillary Clinton’s shot-and-beer visits to working-class bars and Hillary nutcrackers in airport gift shops to Sarah Palin’s self-identification as a “hockey mom” and T-shirts with pictures of pit bulls wearing lipstick. Add to thatSaturday Night Livesketches (including those declaring “Bitch is the new black”), fashion breakthroughs, and the cementing of female-driven programming as an important political battleground, and the battle to become the forty-fourth president took on gender implications of significant proportions. Although popular culture has long influenced the dynamics of presidential elections, the 2008...

  4. Part I: Framing Candidates, Understanding Voters

    • 2 Puritan or Pit Bull: The Framing of Female Candidates at the National Level
      (pp. 25-48)
      Linda Beail and Rhonda Kinney Longworth

      Sarah Palin’s vice presidential candidacy garnered tremendous levels of interest, polarizing the American public. From the day John McCain chose her as his running mate, much of what has been written about Palin has focused on discovering who she “really” is: establishing her credentials, exploring her issue positions, or predicting her political future. Is she smart enough to govern? Are her policy positions or familial situations hypocritical? Will she run for president?

      But perhaps more interesting than defining who Sarah Palin is would be analyzing why she touches such a nerve with the American electorate. Why does she ignite such...

    • 3 Colbert Nation: Gender, Late-Night Television, and Candidate Humanization
      (pp. 49-74)
      Mary McHugh

      “I can see Russia from my house.” This line has become one of the most remembered lines from the 2008 presidential election campaign. It has been repeated often and now defines the public’s perception of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate on the failed Republican ticket. However, this line was spoken not by Governor Palin but by Tina Fey, playing Palin, during an opening sketch of NBC’sSaturday Night Live (SNL)on September 13, 2008. Tina Fey’s resemblance to and impersonation of Palin during the months prior to the November election broughtSNLits highest ratings in...

    • 4 Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms, National Security Moms: Reality versus Fiction and the Female Voter
      (pp. 75-94)
      Chapman Rackaway

      A gap exists between men and women in political participation. This so-called gender gap, the difference in percentage of women and men who support a particular candidate or party, is largely a reflection of gender role differences. Men and women are different, and they vote accordingly. Women tend to favor the candidates of the Democratic Party and have for at least thirty years. Just as popular culture explores and magnifies gender differences, so does American politics. The gender gap has become a well-worn political cliché, moving beyond academic analysis and news assessments into popular culture.

      Although a gender gap exists...

  5. Part II: Hollywood’s Influence on Presidential Politics

    • 5 Fact or Fiction: The Reality of Race and Gender in Reaching the White House
      (pp. 97-120)
      Lilly J. Goren

      In 2008, we watched as an African American man first won the presidential nomination of one of the two major parties and then, in November, was elected to the American presidency. Former president George W. Bush noted, the day after the 2008 election, that “it will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House. I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long.”¹ For a president not regularly known for his eloquence, this...

    • 6 Gendering the Presidency without Gender in the Presidency
      (pp. 121-134)
      Joseph E. Uscinski

      In recent years, a series of polls have found that majorities of voters at least claim to be willing to vote for a female presidential candidate. For example, a poll of registered voters conducted by the Siena College Research Institute found that 81 percent of voters would vote for a woman for president. And prior to Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign of 2008, polls found that about 60 percent of voters said they expected a woman to be the Democrats’ nominee for president in 2008.¹ These numbers show a significant increase in recent decades in the public’s perception of females’ ability...

    • 7 It’s a Man’s World: Masculinity in Pop Culture Portrayals of the President
      (pp. 135-160)
      Justin S. Vaughn and Stacy Michaelson

      Late in the evening of May 1, 2011, President Barack Obama called a press conference that would ultimately mark the end of a significant chapter in the history of the United States and, especially, the nation’s engagement in the global war on terror. The subject of the event was the president’s surprise announcement that, only several hours earlier, American special forces had, under Obama’s authorization, stormed a compound near Abbottabad, Pakistan and, after a firefight, killed Osama bin Laden, founding leader of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda and the central figure responsible for the infamous September 11, 2001, attacks.¹ As...

  6. Part III: “All the News That’s Fit to Print”?: Alternative Avenues for Political Information

    • 8 Sitting with Oprah, Dancing with Ellen: Presidents, Daytime Television, and Soft News
      (pp. 163-180)
      José D. Villalobos

      On July 29, 2010, President Barack Obama took to the air onThe Viewto talk politics, policy, and family. Pundits billed the visit as the first time a sitting U.S. president appeared on a daytime television program, calling it a crowning moment forThe View.¹ The telecast drew about 6.7 million viewers, the highest rating ever for the show.² The episode also garnered “the largest number of women viewers in 17 months with 516,000 in the 18–34 age group and 1.3 million females tuning in aged 18–49.”³ At a time when the president was gearing up for...

    • 9 The Checkout Line Perspective: Presidential Politics as Celebrity Popular Culture in People
      (pp. 181-204)
      Elizabeth Fish Hatfield

      Just a few weeks afterPeoplemagazine launched in 1974, readers were greeted by a cover image featuring Gerald Ford, vice president of the United States, in a most casual setting—his swimming pool. Celebrity news magazinePeopleself-proclaims a focus on personalities, not issues, yet the headline of Ford’s cover story read: “With Richard Nixon’s Impeachment Looming, Can Gerald Ford Keep a Family Promise Not to Run Again?”¹ Although political drama made this story timely, it was the “family” aspect that worked forPeople.What readers learn about Gerry Ford, as the magazine calls him, is surprising; even though...

    • 10 Viral Videos: Reinforcing Stereotypes of Female Candidates for President
      (pp. 205-226)
      Todd L. Belt

      Following the midterm elections in 2006, the Pew Internet and American Life Project surveyed Americans about their preferred news sources.¹ Television remained the favorite source of news, preferred by 69 percent of respondents; newspapers were a distant second at 34 percent; and Internet sources brought up the rear with a mere 15 percent.² By 2008, the number of respondents favoring Internet sources had more than doubled to 33 percent.³ One explanation for the increase is the growing symbiosis among Internet, print, radio, and television media. The interdependence among these sources has grown to such a degree that stories cycle through...

  7. Part IV: Women in the White House:: First Ladies, First Couples, First Families

    • 11 High Culture, Popular Culture, and the Modern First Ladies
      (pp. 229-248)
      MaryAnne Borrelli

      To study the modern first ladies is to study variation and change, generalizing cautiously and with caveats. Even so, one can accurately assert that these presidents’ wives have routinely served as representatives, facilitating communication and building relationships between the president and numerous publics. Some first ladies have focused their representation on the rich symbolism of the presidency. Mamie Doud Eisenhower showcased the White House, which had virtually been reconstructed throughout the Truman years; more than nine hundred tours were given while she was first lady. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy abolished the social season and redesigned state dinners, altering rituals that had...

    • 12 The First Family: Transforming the American Ideal
      (pp. 249-268)
      Melissa Buis Michaux

      As President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers fell from the high sixties following his inauguration to the low forties just before the 2010 midterm elections, his ratings on personal attributes remained high.¹ Even conservative political opponents find it difficult to criticize Obama’s personal life and commitment to family. In fact, despite the American electorate’s delivering a devastating rebuke to Obama and the Democratic Party in the midterm election, his children’s book,Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters,which was released a mere two weeks after the election, became the fastest-selling picture book in Random House history.² And...

    • 13 The Presidential Partnership: A Gender Seesaw
      (pp. 269-286)
      Karen S. Hoffman

      Throughout history presidents have relied on their spouses in the White House. In jobs as diverse as hostess, political advisor, campaigner, and fund-raiser, first ladies have worked hard to help their husbands. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell describes the presidency as a two-person career that “requires their cooperative efforts if it is to be successful.”¹ Not surprisingly, virtually every president has said that he could not have succeeded without his wife. As the possibility of a female president has become greater, discussion of the partnership between the president and a first gentleman has occurred. During Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the 2008 Democratic...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 287-290)
  9. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 291-304)
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 305-310)
  11. Index
    (pp. 311-324)