Linking Gender, Language, and Partisanship: Developing a Database of Masculine and Feminine Words

Date01 March 2020
Published date01 March 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2020, Vol. 73(1) 40 –50
© 2019 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1065912919874883
Donald Trump’s presidency, and his rhetorical style, has
led to increased attention toward gender, language, and
the intersection between the two concepts in the political
world. Some see Trump as a hyper-masculine politician,
referred to by Jill Filipovic (2017)1 as a “throwback to the
day when authority and power were exclusively white
and male by definition,” but one that also exhibits more
modern displays of masculinity as Filipovic refers to
Trump as “the kind of overgrown adolescent you expect
to find on internet forums dedicated to video games or
anti-feminism.” Trump has also been referred to by the
media as being a prime example of fragile masculinity,2
suggesting he may go out of his way to portray masculin-
ity in his public statements. Perhaps, Trump is using this
gendered language as a dog whistle to communicate with
and garner support from his base. Of course, it is difficult
to understand this without knowing which words are gen-
dered. We seek to establish and validate a dictionary of
words, rated on their masculinity and femininity, and use
that dictionary to determine the extent to which
Republican and Democratic politicians are using gen-
dered language in public proclamations.
Scholars have long studied the role of gender in poli-
tics. In this study, we aim to further understand more and
more that gender and politics are inextricably linked.
Although scholars agree that this is true, the next step is
to propose new ways to study and to identify previously
unidentified manifestations of the intersection of gender
and politics. For those who are interested in political
communication, we are keenly interested in attempting to
understand how language and words, specifically, are
used by politicians to describe and frame political events
with a masculine and feminine connotation, especially in
an era where Democrats and Republicans focus on differ-
ent aspects of gender in politics (Rymph 2006).
Given their different bases of support, and the prefer-
ences of these bases for masculine and feminine lan-
guage, we expect that Republicans and Democrats differ
in how they use gendered language. Although it is well
understood that Democrats and Republicans view and use
gender differently, we wonder how language may be used
to emphasize these differences. More specifically, rather
than analyzing gender stereotypes and similar phenome-
non that have been well studied, we aim to show the sub-
tle influence that individual words may have on candidate
support. To do this, we present a dictionary of gendered
words. We concede that this dictionary is not exhaustive
874883PRQXXX10.1177/1065912919874883Political Research QuarterlyRoberts and Utych
1University of Colorado Boulder, USA
2Boise State University, ID, USA
Corresponding Author:
Stephen M. Utych, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive,
Boise, ID 83725, USA.
Linking Gender, Language, and
Partisanship: Developing a Database
of Masculine and Feminine Words
Damon C. Roberts1 and Stephen M. Utych2
Seemingly, gender, language, and partisanship are intertwined concepts. We believe that the use of gendered language
in political settings may be used strategically by political elites. The purpose of this paper is to craft a tool for scholars
to test the interconnection between politics, gender, and language—what we refer to as being the gendered language
and partisanship nexus. We test our prediction using original word rating data. From our test, we find significant
variation across seven hundred words in ratings as masculine and feminine and discover that words rated as masculine
are more likely to be rated as dominant and negatively valenced. We additionally find that Republican men are most
likely to rate words as more masculine. Using this dictionary, we find that Republican presidents are more likely to use
masculine language than Democratic presidents in their State of the Union addresses and that the Republican Party
uses more masculine language than the Democratic Party in their official party platform.
gender, language, politics, Republicans, Democrats

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