Negotiating Gender: Campaign Practitioners’ Reflections on Gender, Strategy, and Campaigns
44 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2010
Date Written: August 31, 2010
From Mark Penn’s aversion to Hillary Clinton running “as a woman” to the McCain campaign’s marketing of Sarah Palin, the 2008 presidential campaign pointed out both the importance of gender and the influential role of campaign advisors in drafting campaigns’ images, messages, and tactics. More importantly, it demonstrated that these two factors are inextricably linked, whereby practitioners’ perceptions and understanding of how gender operates in campaigns influences to what extent and in what ways gender functions in campaign strategy. To investigate this link, I field a survey of active campaign consultants to probe practitioners about gender stereotypes, identity, and campaign strategy. In this paper, I explore the variation among and between consultant perspectives, highlighting areas where gender matters more or less and recognizing the influence of consultants’ identities on their perceptions of gender and campaigns. As political actors with a growing presence and influence on campaigns, political consultants provide important insight to the campaign process and the gender dynamics therein. This insight contributes to a deeper understanding of campaigns as gendered institutions, whereby gender norms and expectations are embedded in the culture, structure, and processes of electoral politics.
Keywords: gender, strategy, campaigns, women candidates, stereotypes, gendered institutions, consultants
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