Gender and the Media in the 2016 Presidential Election Jocelyn Jarman

How media outlets treat women and men is very different. It mimics the treatment that women and men experience in politics in general. It is becoming an increasingly recognized fact that media plays a huge role in the perceptions of women in politics, and, therefore, women's involvement in politics overall. However, both men and women experience gender stereotyping within the media, especially during presidential elections. Early studies of media coverage of female political candidates in 1980's found that the media perpetuated female stereotypes, they did this through emphasis of feminine traits and issues. However studies from later years that focused on elections of mayors, governors and congresspersons found that media coverage was more fair and honest. This positive progression however has not seeped into the coverage of presidential races.

Media coverage in the 2008 Presidential Election

Both Hillary Clinton's bid for the democratic presidential nomination and Sara Palin's campaign for vice president on the republican ticket received negative gendered media coverage during their campaign's. Hillary Clinton was often criticized for her lack of 'femininity' and Sarah Palin was consistently made out to be a sexual object rather than a legitimate politician.

In order to try and prevent the same sexist media coverage that was seen in Hillary Clinton's 18 month bid for democratic presidential nominee in 2008, members of Human Rights Campaign Super Volunteers (supporters of Clinton) attempted to warn journalists that they would not tolerate the same blatantly sexist orientated media coverage, in this election. Unfortunately, this attempt did not prevail.

The 2016 Presidential Election

The United States presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Saw the crushing loss of Hillary Clinton to the republican candidate Donald Trump. Clinton was the first ever woman to make it past the primaries, and become a major party presidential nominee. Trump obtained 304 electoral votes, Hillary Clinton received 227.

Double Standards

Clinton received a lot of negative media coverage for taking donations from corporations. So why was she chastised for actions that are seemingly common and normal in national elections. There is no denying that big cooperation’s involvement in U.S. politics is a problem, but a large majority of election officials take donations from big cooperation’s. Yes, Bernie Sanders famously did not receive near the amount of money that other prospective presidential nominees have, but I do not think that this is reason Clinton was so severely criticized. Female politicians are held to a higher standard than their male counterparts, any weakness that is detected is magnified.

Gender Roles

Hillary, the blushing bride, stalks history on her husband’s coattails- Hurt, Washington Times

A common theme in the media over the 2016 election was the idea that Hillary Clinton was riding the 'coattails' of her husband Bill. Hillary Clinton is a largely successful individual with extensive experience in her field and her career did not begin when Bill became president of the United States. She has worked hard in the years that have passed since Bill’s presidency in order to try and separate herself from his legacy. Among her achievements, she was a graduate of Yale Law School, a US senator and Secretary of State. Clinton was often lumped in with Bill Clinton’s failures as president and her successes are credited to Bill. This is a perfect example of Gender Roles because if the roles were reversed Bill Clinton would not be accused of “running his spouse for office”. Hillary Clinton is seen as an extension of her husband, rather than an individual.

"Donald Trump is unqualified to be president of the United States, and Republicans ought to be embarrassed he is their nominee. For largely different reasons, Hillary Clinton is also unqualified to be president of the United States, and Democrats ought to be embarrassed she is their nominee."- Carney, Washington Examiner

After the infamous email's were released to the public. There was a common news headline in the media, "Hillary is a liar". Hillary is a woman in a position of power and therefore she is violating the socially accepted norms about what roles women should fill. When a woman steps outside of her gender role as a nurturing mother, she is perceived as tainted, which is why many woman in politics are said to be manipulative and calculating for performing the same political practices as men. Women who seek leadership roles, often receive criticism for violating gender norms by performing stereotypical masculine traits, such as determination, confidence and assertiveness.

Hillary’s a terrible liar — and it could doom her presidency- Podhoretz, New York Post

Gender Expectations

Clinton was commonly portrayed as cold or unimpassioned. Women expressing emotion is a double edged sword in American politics. If a woman is too restrained and composed, she seen as cold. On the other hand if a woman is passionate, she is seen as over the top, irrational or acting over emotional. In an institution that is prominently catered towards men, women face scrutiny for doing the very things that men do.

"Women running for office, as with all women in authority, are subject to these two demands: Be a good leader! Be a good woman! While the qualities expected of a good leader (be forceful, confident and, at times, angry) are similar to those we expect of a good man, they are the opposite of what we expect of a good woman (be gentle, self-deprecating and emotional, but not angry). Hence the double bind: If a candidate — or manager — talks or acts in ways expected of women, she risks being seen as underconfident or even incompetent. But if she talks or acts in ways expected of leaders, she is likely to be seen as too aggressive and will be subject to innumerable other negative judgments — and epithets — that apply only to women." - Deborah Tannen

Hillary was repeatedly criticized for 'shouting' during presidential debates. Men who raise their voices in the political arena rarely experience any form of criticism, instead, this action is viewed as the symbol of a leader, who is qualified to be president. Adversely to this, women are portrayed and viewed as over emotional, uptight and unreasonable.

Bernie Sanders: Hillary Clinton is not 'qualified' to be president

Clinton was often called out for being unqualified for the presidency and i do not think this is simply because the presidency is masculine role as father of the nation. Hillary arguably had the most impressive resume to date for running the country, the sad fact is, women have to do twice as well as men in order to even get half the credit they do.


The media coverage surrounding Hillary Clinton, shaped the narrative, and therefore the public perception of her. The media was all too often focused on issues surrounding her gender rather than simply her candidacy. This media coverage undeniably shaped the public perception of her. The public focused on the media depiction of her, rather than attempting to listen to what she had to say, her campaign strategy lacked influence because of this. Although the fact that Hillary Clinton's race for presidency happened to be in time where the voting public was extremely unhappy with the status quo, and Hillary arguably represented the establishment perfectly, gendered media coverage had a huge impact on the outcome of this election. The continued existence and popularity of gendered media coverage represents that there has been little progress surrounding balancing out the gender bias's in U.S. electoral politics.

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