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.
KRISTINA HORN SHEELER, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication Studies at Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis, coauthored Governing Codes: Gender, Metaphor, and Political Identity. KARRIN VASBY ANDERSON is an associate professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and coauthor of Governing Codes: Gender, Metaphor, and Political Identity.
What Readers Are Saying:
“In Woman President, Kristina Horn Sheeler and Karrin Vasby Anderson present the presidency, feminism, and rhetoric as locked in close and reinforcing relationships. Examining women's historical and recent presidential campaigns, television and movie depictions of women presidents, and the 2008 Clinton and Palin candidacies, Sheeler and Anderson reveal the hegemonic power wielded by an essentialist white masculinity. Their argument is uncompromising and compelling, controversial and persuasive; their book engages and challenges readers across the disciplines.”—MaryAnne Borrelli, author, The Politics of the President's Wife, and professor of government, Connecticut College
“Woman President is the first book to provide a cogent explanation of why a woman has yet to be elected president of the United States. With a lively and fast-paced writing style, the authors engage their readers in a theoretical discussion confronting 'a rhetoric of postfeminism' that has worked against women winning the White House, especially when women hold the highest political office in many countries around the world. The book is well-researched, accessible to a wide audience, and should be read by anyone interested in a better understanding of the presidency, especially in how the expansion of the Office of the Presidency provides an impediment to women successfully winning the highest job in the White House. Everyone seeking a more complete understanding of the Presidency, campaign rhetoric, gender studies, and the role of the media in the portrayal of women in the White House and in coverage of women in campaigns, including the election of 2008, will find the scholarship and analysis in this book of value. The authors provide a cautionary tale for Hillary Clinton and her supporters to consider in a bid for the White House in 2016.”—Janet M. Martin, author, The Presidency and Women: Promise, Performance and Illusion in the White House (winner of the 2004 Richard Neustadt prize), and professor of government, Bowdoin College