Evaluation of Leaders in the United States

Consider the presidential/vice presidential elections of 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020, and looking for traits individual candidates have displayed that cause them to be seen as very masculine, very feminine, or more androgynous (having both masculine and feminine traits, in Bem’s theory). Note that candidates may display different versions of masculinity and femininity – for example, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris all approach femininity very differently. A factor that differentiates Kamala Harris from the other two women, as Kimmel mentions in the text, is that gender and race are intersectional; that is, they interact to influence one another in a person’s life. You may want to consider if race influences the way your chosen candidates express their gender.
2008 John McCain Sarah Palin Barack Obama Joe Biden
2012 Mitt Romney Paul Ryan Barack Obama Joe Biden
2016 Donald Trump Mike Pence Hillary Clinton Tim Kaine
2020 Donald Trump Mike Pence Joe Biden Kamala Harris
There are many, many factors that influence the way politicians present themselves to the public and whether they are elected to office. Among those factors are name recognition, political party, religious affiliation (if any), the economy, other politicians, current world events, sex and gender, and social class. On some level, we are aware that whether a candidate is perceived as masculine or feminine has an impact – at least for candidates in the female minority. But how do voters react to candidates who do not fit the stereotypes for their gender? The object of this Dropbox Assignment is for you to examine gendered expectations of several presidential and vice-presidential candidates in recent elections to see how they may have influenced your impressions and those of other citizens.
Choose two or three of these candidates and observe videoclips of them in similar circumstances, participating in the candidate debates for about the same amount of time, approximately 4-5 minutes. We suggest using YouTube and searching for “2008 (or 2012 or 2016 or 2020) presidential debates” so that all of us are looking at similar examples. Try to find parallel examples, such as your candidates giving opening statements or answering the same questions. Look for the way they present themselves, how they speak, pitch of voice, what they say, nonverbal behaviors such as body language, facial expressions, gestures, clothing, mannerisms, and anything else you think is relevant.

  1. List two of the masculine traits and two of the feminine traits mentioned by Kimmel in this section (pp. 317-322) of the text. For each, also provide an operational definition of the trait by describing two or three behaviors that would demonstrate that trait. For example, to demonstrate that a presidential candidate could be strong enough to fill the role, they would do what – confront enemies? Be a military veteran? Carry a gun? Make decisions without having to consult anyone else?
  2. From Bem’s list of stereotypical traits (see Lesson | GENDER AND RECENT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS), pick one masculine and one feminine trait that you think most people do not believe today, and explain why you think that stereotype no longer exists. Also, pick one masculine and one feminine trait that you think most people still believe today, and explain why you think it is so hard for us to let go of the stereotype.
  3. Observe videoclips of two or three of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates listed in the lesson (Click this), following the instructions given there. For each of the candidates you chose, answer the following questions:
    a) What gender-stereotypical behaviors did each candidate display?
    b) Were there any ways your candidates did not act gender-stereotypically?
    c) Do you think your answers to a) and b) reflect some of the reasons voters chose (or didn’t choose) to vote for your candidates? Does intersectionality have an influence on the way certain groups voted? Why/why not?
    d) See if you can find any commentary in the press or on social media about your candidates specifically regarding gender. Summarize some of the comments you found and state your opinion about whether these perceptions should influence voters as much as they do.
  4. In one or two paragraphs, summarize your reaction to what you’ve learned in this lesson. How might those experiences affect your participation in the political process in the future?

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