Masculinisation in Political Leadership
Author: Louise Campbell
Throughout my journey at Loughborough, my focus and interest has been around gender and politics. Being a woman in a male-centric society and observing the effects of this in aspects of daily life, this is something I have sought to study so that I am equipped with the knowledge to some day create change. For this reason, the topic of the masculinities of political leadership really appealed to me. I used key elements of teachings from my Gender and Politics module to create an essay that addressed some of these issues.
My essay explored the way in which the characteristics of masculinity play a huge role in the success of political leaders. I used Donald Trump and Margaret Thatcher to present the argument that the media reinforces the societal link between masculine traits and successful political leadership. They do this by framing positive political activity as masculine and any weakness within leadership as feminine. As well as this, they often delegitimise female leaders by focusing on non-political aspects of their lives, such as their clothing and their roles as mothers and wives.
The use of Trump’s testosterone levels in the 2016 US Presidential election is a great example of glorifying masculinity. On a TV appearance with Dr OZ, the assertion that “good” levels of testosterone were somehow relevant to Trump’s ability to be a good President suggests that masculinity is valuable within politics. The manipulation of these results is a clear example of one way in which the media’s gendered framing of masculinity as positive and essential, can be used by politicians. This particular example is especially important because it links Trump’s masculinity to biological constructions of maleness, something that Hilary Clinton, as a woman, could not compete with.
Additionally, I used research papers such as the finding of Jennifer Lawless, who found that ‘citizens prefer men’s leadership traits and characteristics [and] deem men more [politically] competent’ (Kurtzleben, 2016). This work was used to evaluate the causes of these gendered leanings. I argued that although there is a difference between maleness and masculinity, the historic prominence of men in political leadership roles may have caused this societal preference, making it harder for women to succeed in political leadership.
In writing this essay, I learnt that the media is fundamental in shaping societal views of gender. I believe that in order to disrupt this notion and begin to balance the scales of opportunity and success, the media must change the way in which they gender strength and weakness in politics. It is my hope that in doing so, society will start to appreciate the potency of femininity and the ways in which its acceptance can benefit society as a whole.
Kurtzleben, D., (2016). NPR Choice Page. [online] Npr.org. Available at: <https://www.npr.org/2016/10/01/494249104/trump-and-the-testosterone-takeover-of-2016?t=1588090689714> [Accessed 28 April 2020].
Bio: Louise Campbell – Politics with a Minor 2020 Graduate
I am a passionate and articulate Black British female, who has worked very hard to learn about and teach others about the impact of gender in everyday life.
I am an organised individual with a great eye for detail who is currently looking for opportunities in Personal Assistant roles as well as other supporting roles such as Operations Management which will utilise my skillset and challenge me to take on lots of responsibility.
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Innovative Undergraduate Research in International Relations, Politics and History