Thursday, November 19, 2009

Post 4: My Official Final Research Paper Topic

After thinking more and more about my initial three potential paper topics from earlier in the semester, I realized that those topics weren't very politically driven. The gender equality issue from the New York Times op-ed still resonated with my mind, so after brainstorming with Nick, my topic evolved into focusing on Nancy Pelosi and how the media portrays her. Do politicians and the media treat her "fairly"? Or does the fact that she is a woman affect the way people describe and respond to her? There are definitely tons of questions that I want to address before I have done any research on her.

Coincidentally, right after I determined that this would be my topic, I was browsing the magazines at the Rock and saw that New York Magazine's cover had a smiling headshot of her on it as well as a fill-in-the-blank sentence running across her forehead: THE MOST _____ WOMAN IN THE UNITED STATES.* The asterisk led my eyes to the bottom of the cover, where I had the options to fill in the blank with the following adjectives: powerful, reviled, effective, oblivious, sincere, plastic, misunderstood.

This magazine cover pretty much sums up my current goals for the research paper. How has/does Nancy Pelosi's gender affect her political career? If a male House Speaker were on the same New York Magazine cover, would there be a fill-in-the-blank sentence running across his forehead or would his descriptive adjective already be known and agreed upon by the general public? Would the Nancy Pelosi's "oblivious" option on the bottom of the cover be changed to "ignorant" for the male Speaker?

I definitely want to investigate how Nancy Pelosi is supported/denounced by specific groups. Do male Democrats openly support her? Are female Democrats her biggest fans? Also, how do Republican female politicians acknowledge her? Do they rally with the party first or their gender?

If space permits, I might even want to compare and contrast Nancy Pelosi to Hillary Clinton. Both women are female politicians in high places, but both (as far as my knowledge goes so far) choose to represent themselves extremely differently. Nancy Pelosi, to me, seems to embrace the fact that she is a woman and is openly feminine; she wears dresses, bright colors, wears her hair in a bob. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, seems to present herself in a more androgynous way; she's infamous for her pantsuits, wears her hair extremely short.

I remember in class one day, we discussed the "Hillary Clinton crying incident." It was most likely stage (an example of polioptics), but it definitely had an impact on people's perceptions on Hillary's personality and mentality.








Females in politics tend to face greater discrimination and scrutiny for their behavior and apperance than do their male counterparts. Why? It's hard to pinpoint where this all began. This double standard occurs not only in politics, but in many realms where women are either not expected to be major players or where they are not expected to belong whatsoever.

Even though it's the 21st century already and women have been "breaking through the glass ceiling" in areas such as business, this phenomenon is still just simply that: a phenomenon. It hasn't become "the norm" yet for women to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or political leaders at a state and national level. If it was the norm, then I wouldn't feel appropriate calling it a phenomenon.


(The caption that appears underneath this image on MSNBC: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., dressed in an Armani acqua blue-grey pantsuit, is one of 2006's biggest winners.")


I've noticed that female politicians are often criticized on things that male politicians would never be criticized about. For example, clothing seems to be a really big concern for the media when it comes to women politicians. In captions underneath pictures of Nancy Pelosi, sometimes the designer of her outfits are noted. Do they ever make a caption explaining who Obama's suit designers are? Men get it way easier when it comes to judging on appearance, except for maybe Senator John Edwards and his expensive haircut. Then again, look at where he is now.


Why do women get this "special treatment" from the media? Is it really due to their gender and is it fair? These are definitely potential questions I hope to answer in my final research paper.

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