Gender and the American Presidency.

Author:Kenski, Kate
Position::Book review
 
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Gender and the American Presidency. By Theodore F. Sheckels, Nichola D. Gutgold, and Diana B. Carlin. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012. 192 pages.

Senator Hillary Clinton's competitive campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Governor Sarah Palin's selection as the Republican vice presidential candidate in the same year, and the wins by women in U.S. Senate races that brought the 113th Congress to a record level of 20 women now serving in the Senate have once again brought to the fore questions about women and the American presidency. The U.S. has yet to elect a woman president. In only two elections--1984 and 2008--have women even been on presidential tickets as vice presidential running mates. While progress has been made over the last one hundred years in women's political rights generally, the nation has not reached gender parity in elective representation. In their timely book, Gender and the American Presidency, Theodore F. Sheckels, Nichola D. Gutgold, and Diana B. Carlin examine the biographies and rhetoric of nine prominent, modern-day women to ask a fitting question: "Why not Madam President?" (p. viii).

The book's approach is an inductive look at why prominent women have not been given the nod for the presidency and/or presidential tickets. "We chose to proceed as we did based on a hunch that the stories, if told without the lens of current theories about gender and politics firmly in place, might point to some new or differently-cast hypotheses," state the authors (p. viii). After a brief overview of the project, the book presents one chapter for each of the women the authors selected: Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski, Elizabeth Hanford Dole, Nancy Pelosi, Olympia Snowe, Christine Gregoire, Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius, and Linda Lingle. In each chapter, the authors lay out short biographies explaining how these women came to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, or governorship of their states. The authors then examine each woman's rhetorical style before speculating on why each woman was never chosen for higher office. The book ends with a chapter offering 11 maxims suggesting why a woman has yet to be nominated by her party, let alone to win the presidency.

The title of the book should have, perhaps, been Women and the American Presidency rather than Gender and the American Presidency, as it does not examine the backgrounds and rhetoric of high-profile males. The word...

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