Hillary Clinton Sarah Palin And Michelle Obama Performing Gend

Topics: Barack Obama, United States presidential election, 2008, Bill Clinton Pages: 19 (8287 words) Published: May 18, 2015
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Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Obama:
Performing Gender, Race, and Class on the
Campaign Trail
Ann C. McGinley
University of Nevada, Las Vegas -- William S. Boyd School of Law

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Recommended Citation
McGinley, Ann C., "Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Obama: Performing Gender, Race, and Class on the Campaign Trail" (2009). Scholarly Works. Paper 171.

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In Our First Unisex President?: Black Masculinity and Obama's Feminine Side,1 Frank Rudy Cooper posits that President Obama consciously performed a feminine identity2 in order to navigate the tricky waters of race and gender in the presidential election. 3 Cooper notes that white popular culture perceives black masculinity as bipolar: there are "good blacks" and "bad blacks. ' A According to white popular culture, the "Bad Black Man is animalistic, sexually depraved, and crimeprone."5 His counterpart, the "Good Black Man distances himself from black people and emulates white views."6

Because of the image of the Bad Black Man, black men must take care not to show excessive anger.7 Obama is known for his "cool," a somewhat feminine identity performance that comforts white citizens and distances him from the "dangerous" Bad Black Man. His conciliatory empathic style and willingness to negotiate with "evil" foreign powers made him appear more feminine than his female rival, Hillary Clinton, who performed a more masculine demeanor and espoused a tough stance toward Iran.

Although Obama's more feminine presentation downplayed white fear, it was also risky to his candidacy because it raised the question of whether he is masculine enough for the job.8 Ironically, perhaps it was his blackness that imbued Obama with sufficient masculinity to successfully walk the tightrope between being too masculine and too feminine, t

William S. Boyd Professor of Law, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Thanks to Frank Rudy Cooper for his encouragement with this essay and for his editorial comments. Thanks also to Mitu Gulati and Jeff Stempel for their editorial comments. 1. Frank Rudy Cooper, Our First Unisex President?:Black Masculinity and Obama's Feminine Side, 86 DENV. U. L. REv. 633 (2009). 2.

Two types of identity include one's self identity and attributed identity, the impressions others have of a person. Identity is not a fixed phenomenon, but is created through negotiation (with oneself and others) and performance. Everyone works identity. Devon W. Carbado & Mitu Gulati, Working Identity, 85 CORNELL L. REV. 1259, 1261 n.2, 1263 (2000). 3.

See generally Cooper, supra note 1.
Frank Rudy Cooper, Against BipolarMasculinity: Intersectionality,Assimilation, Identity Performance,and Hierarchy,39 U.C. DAVIS L. REv. 853, 857-59 (2006). 5.
Id. at 857.
6. Id.
Cooper, supra note 1, at 654.
id. at 633-34.

HeinOnline -- 86 Denv. U. L. Rev. 709 2008-2009


[Vol. 86.SI

too black and too white. Cooper theorizes that Obama's success may actually have a gender- and race-bending effect, by removing stigma from "the feminine" and opening space for all persons, especially men who do not conform to masculine

gender norms, to perform their identi9
ties in unconventional ways.
While Cooper's essay does not directly...
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