Gender, Heteronormativity, and the American Presidency: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Gender, Heteronormativity, and the American Presidency

1st Edition

By Aidan Smith


244 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

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Gender, Heteronormativity and the American Presidency places notions of gender at the center of its analysis of presidential campaign communications. Over the decades, an investment in gendered representations of would-be leaders has changed little, in spite of the second- and third-wave feminist movements. Modern candidates have worked vigorously to demonstrate "compensatory heterosexuality," an unquestionable normative identity that seeks to overcome challenges to their masculinity or femininity.

The book draws from a wide range of archived media material, including televised films and advertisements, public debates and speeches, and candidate autobiographies. From the domestic ideals promoted by Eisenhower in the 1950s, right through to the explicit and divisive rhetoric associated with the Clinton/Trump race in 2016; intersectional content and discourse analysis reveals how each presidential candidate used his or her campaign to position themselves as a defender of traditional gender roles, and furthermore, how this investment in "appropriate" gender behaviour was made manifest in both international and domestic policy choices.

This book represents a significant and timely contribution to the study of political communication. While communication during presidential elections is a well-established research field, Aidan Smith’s book is the first to apply a gendered lens over such an extended historical period and across the political spectrum.


'This fascinating analysis of the gendered politics of the US Presidency is well researched, cogently argued and very timely. Smith explores how Presidential campaigns evolved from the television age masculine 'war heroes' of the 1950s and '60s to the social media backlash politics that destabilized and defeated Hillary Clinton.'

Daniel Conway, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster, UK

‘Smith moves effortlessly between gender theory, media studies, history, sociology, and political science to explain the nation's historic investment in a masculine presidency and the use of television to broadcast that commitment from the Eisenhower era to our own time. Written with clarity and verve, this book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the American presidency. In the age of Trump, Smith’s insights show us how much is at stake.’

Liette Gidlow, Associate Professor, Department of History, Wayne State University, US

Table of Contents

List of Figures, Acknowledgements Chapter 1. Introduction Chapter 2: "A White House that’s Built for Two": Domesticity and Gender Performance in the Campaign Communications of the 1950s Chapter 3: The Patriarch and the PT:109: John F. Kennedy and the Construction of Autonomy Chapter 4: "Unafraid, Unashamed, and Unsurpassed": Retrieving American Masculinity and National Futurity in the Presidential Elections of the 1980s Chapter 5: An Era of Eros: First Ladies as Assets and Liabilities in the late 20th Century Chapter 6: Moynihan, Michelle, and Dreams From My Father: Fighting Otherness with Gender Chapter 7: "Trump That Bitch": Masculinity and Backlash in the 2016 Presidential Campaign Chapter 8: Conclusion Index

About the Author

Aidan Smith is an AdministrativeAssistant Professor for Advancement Communications at Tulane University, USA. She holds degrees in American Studies and Mass Communication, and her research interests include the social and cultural history of the twentieth century, media studies, and gender theory.

About the Series

Global Gender

The Global Gender series provides original research from across the humanities and social sciences, casting light on a range of topics from international authors examining the diverse and shifting issues of gender and sexuality on the world stage. Utilising a range of approaches and interventions, these texts are a lively and accessible resource for both scholars and upper level students from a wide array of fields including Gender and Women’s Studies, Sociology, Politics, Communication, Cultural Studies and Literature.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies