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Woman President

Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture

Kristina Horn Sheeler

Publication Year: 2013

What elements of American political and rhetorical culture block the imagining—and thus, the electing—of a woman as president? Examining both major-party and third-party campaigns by women, including the 2008 campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, the authors of Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture identify the factors that limit electoral possibilities for women.

Pundits have been predicting women’s political ascendency for years. And yet, although the 2008 presidential campaign featured Hillary Clinton as an early frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination and Sarah Palin as the first female Republican vice-presidential nominee, no woman has yet held either of the top two offices. The reasons for this are complex and varied, but the authors assert that the question certainly encompasses more than the shortcomings of women candidates or the demands of the particular political moment. Instead, the authors identify a pernicious backlash against women presidential candidates—one that is expressed in both political and popular culture.

In Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture, Kristina Horn Sheeler and Karrin Vasby Anderson provide a discussion of US presidentiality as a unique rhetorical role. Within that framework, they review women’s historical and contemporary presidential bids, placing special emphasis on the 2008 campaign. They also consider how presidentiality is framed in candidate oratory, campaign journalism, film and television, digital media, and political parody.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Presidential Rhetoric and Political Communication


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

This book, a collaborative project to which both authors contributed equally, is the second that has resulted from our complementary research agenda and strong friendship that began when we were graduate students at Indiana University. We thank our close network of “girlfriends”—Sarah Feldner, Krista Hoffmann- Longtin, Kelly McDorman, Claire Procopio, and Helen Tate—...

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pp. 1-15

In April 2012, the political public relations duo Stacy Lambe and Adam Smith used the blog platform Tumblr to launch a humorous feature called “Texts from Hillary,” which paired photos of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wearing sunglasses and working on her smartphone, with photos of other famous figures texting. Lambe and Smith penned fictitious text ex-changes between Clinton and political, journalistic, and pop culture personalities, with Clinton maintaining a witty, self-assured upper hand in each ...

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1 The First Shall Be Last

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pp. 16-38

he 2006 midterm election season seemed to portend a new era in US presidential politics. With buzz about the 2008 presidential campaign well under way, the August 28, 2006, issue of Time magazine put the junior US senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, on its cover, with seasoned political reporter Karen Tumulty claiming that “Hillary would step into the [US presidential] race as the instant front runner.”1 Clinton was popular with her New York...

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2 Fictional Presidentiality

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pp. 39-88

In March 2000, a flash- forward episode of the popular cartoon series The Simpsons cast resident feminist and earnest overachiever Lisa Simpson as “America’s fist straight female president.”1 The episode’s seemingly prescient storyline forces President Simpson to respond to a severe fiscal crisis. She strategizes the best way to break the news to the American public, dis-Lisa. If I’m going to bail the country out, I’ll have to raise taxes, but in my speech I’d like to avoid calling it a “painful emergency tax.”...

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3 Presidential Campaign Oratory

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pp. 89-104

I’m in. And I’m in to win.”1 On January 20, 2007—two years to the day before the next president would be inaugurated—Senator Hillary Clinton took to the Internet to announce her bid for the US presidency. With money in the bank, a respected record in the US Senate, and the advantage of the Clinton political machine, she was the first woman frontrunner for a major party nomination. Being in that position required Clinton to buck more than two hundred years of American tradition, but to succeed she ...

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4 Political Journalism and Punditry

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pp. 105-131

n August 27, 2008, the second night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Senator Hillary Clinton gave a rousing speech of support for Senator Barack Obama’s nomination to represent the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential election. Those viewing the event on MSNBC, however, might have been led to believe that the outcome of Clinton’s speech was far from a foregone conclusion. Although anchor Keith Olbermann noted that “the...

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5 Bodies Politic

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pp. 132-151

Presidential sexual dalliances have long been a topic of public discussion, debate, and comic derision. Sometimes, as in the case of Bill Clinton’s extramarital aff air with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the convergence of serious and satirical discourses suggests that “public figures are engaged in a tawdry burlesque drama.”1 This prurient preoccupation with presidents’ sexual exploits is not a phenomenon confined to the digital age or even to the twentieth century. During the 1884 presidential election, Grover ...

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6 Parodying Presidentiality

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pp. 152-169

On September 13, 2008, Tina Fey made a triumphant return to Saturday Night Live (SNL), the television series that launched her comedy career. Appearing alongside Amy Poehler’s incarnation of former presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton, Fey portrayed Alaska governor and Re-publican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. In the episode’s “cold open,” Fey’s Palin and Poehler’s Clinton preside over a joint press conference, billed as “A Nonpartisan Message from Sarah Palin ...

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pp. 170-180

When author and New York Times columnist Jodi Kantor was promoting her book about the Obama marriage, she recounted the following anecdote to Terry Gross, host of the National Public Radio interview program Fresh Air. According to Kantor, when Barack Obama was considering whether or not to make a bid for the US presidency, his wife, Michelle, “in front of everybody, asks her husband a very dramatic question. She says, ‘What do you think you can bring to this that the other candidates can’t?’ ” ...


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pp. 181-210


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pp. 211-230


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pp. 231-242

Back Cover

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pp. 258-258

E-ISBN-13: 9781623490102
E-ISBN-10: 1623490103
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603449830

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Presidential Rhetoric and Political Communication
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OCLC Number: 858601639
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Woman President

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women presidents -- United States.
  • Women presidential candidates -- United States.
  • Gender mainstreaming -- United States.
  • Sex discrimination against women -- United States.
  • Feminism and mass media -- United States.
  • Mass media and women -- United States.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- Case studies.
  • Clinton, Hillary Rodham.
  • Palin, Sarah, 1964-.
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