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Talk Like a Man: The Linguistic Styles

of Hillary Clinton, 19922013
Jennifer J. Jones

Hillary Clinton is arguably the most prominent woman in American politics today. Past research suggests female politicians conform
to masculine communication styles in an attempt to evade the double bind. Clintons long and varied career thus provides an
important and useful case study for investigating how female politicians present themselves strategically. Drawing on research in
political psychology, political communication, social psychology, and linguistics I examine whether Clinton talked like a man as she
navigated a path toward political leadership by conducting a quantitative textual analysis of 567 interview transcripts and candidate
debates between 19922013. Results on Clintons linguistic style suggest her language grew increasingly masculine over time, as her
involvement and power in politics expanded. I also consider Clintons language in the context of her 20072008 presidential
campaign. In 2007, Clintons linguistic style was consistently masculine, supporting widespread accounts of Clintons campaign
strategy. Beginning in late 2007, however, Clintons language became more feminine, reecting a shift in the self-presentational
strategies advised by her campaign staff. Throughout the 2008 campaign period, Clintons language uctuated dramatically from one
interview to the next, reecting a candidateand campaignin crisis. This study reveals hidden insight into the strategies Clinton
used as she navigated through the labyrinth toward leadership. Changes in Clintons linguistic style reect the performance of gendered
roles, expectations of political leaders, and the masculine norms of behavior that permeate political institutions.

992 was the year of the woman. Fifty-three president or vice president, and most scholars agree that
women were elected to the United States Con- there has only been one truly viable female candidate for
gress, twenty-four of them for the rst time. 1 president: Hillary Clinton.
Despite continued progress for women in politics, Women pursuing leadership positions are not simply
however, the promise of 1992 remains largely un- halted by a glass ceiling, but by a labyrinth of obstacles
fullled. Today women hold 19 percent of U.S. they must navigate along the way.3 These obstacles, both
Congressional seats, 25 percent of statewide executive implicit and overt, do not pose concrete barriers, but rather
ofces, and 24 percent of state legislative seats. 2 circuitous routes toward attaining leadership positions.4
Under-representation is even more apparent at the Expectations of leadership and institutional arrangements
highest levels of government. Worldwide, women advanced have implications for the types of individuals who run for
to key executive ofces in a number of countries, including public ofce as well as the self-presentational strategies that
Chile, Germany, Jamaica, Lithuania, and South Korea. politically ambitious women use to advance through the
In the United States, however, there has never been a female labyrinth of leadership. To be successful, they must cultivate

A list of supplementary materials provided by the author precedes the references section.

Jennifer J. Jones is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of CaliforniaIrvine
(jonesjj@uci.edu). Her research is focused at the intersection of American politics, political psychology, and political
communication, and her dissertation builds on this article to examine the linguistic styles of U.S. party leaders, governors and
presidential candidates and to explore whether such language acts as an implicit cue informing candidate evaluations. She has
published in Political Psychology, Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work
(CSCW2012) and in the Routledge Handbook of Interpretive Political Science. Jennifer is grateful to Peter Suedfeld and
members of the American Politics Working Group at UC Irvine for their insight and critiques on an earlier draft and to Valerie
ORegan and fellow presenters at the 2015 Meeting of the Western Political Science Association and the 2015 Meeting of the
International Society of Political Psychology for feedback and suggestions on an earlier version of this paper. Jennifer would like to
thank James Pennebaker for his inspiration and guidance on gendered language, members of her dissertation committee, Kristen
Monroe, Marty Wattenberg, and Michael Tesler, for their invaluable advice and support as well as the anonymous reviewers and
Perspectives on Politics editor, Jeffrey C. Isaac, for their constructive criticism and helpful suggestions.
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an appropriate and effective self-presentationone that psychology, and linguistics, I conceptualize feminine and
reconciles symbolic attitudes toward gender with masculine masculine styles of communication in an original way.
prototypes of political leaders. Despite the difference that I then analyze these gendered linguistic styles in Clintons
women make for the political agenda and for the outcome of natural language using a quantitative textual analysis of
legislation, womens minority status in decision-making 567 interview and debate transcripts between 19922013.
bodies often results in their conformity to a normative, In doing so, this study reveals how Clintons linguistic
masculine style of communication, one that restricts the full style changed over time as she transitioned between roles
expression of their ideas.5 As the former prime minister of and climbed up the political ladder. Ultimately I nd that
Canada, Kim Campbell, describes it: Clintons linguistic style grew increasingly masculine
over time, as her involvement and power in the political
I dont have a traditionally female way of speaking . . . Im quite world expanded. I argue that changes in her linguistic
assertive. If I didnt speak the way I do, I wouldnt have been seen
as a leader. But my way of speaking may have grated on people style reected the performance of gendered roles, expect-
who were not used to hearing it from a woman. It was the right ations of political leaders, as well as the masculine norms
way for a leader to speak, but it wasnt the right way for a woman of communication that permeate political institutions.
to speak. It goes against type.6
Gender and Self-Presentation in Politics
Former Press Secretary for the Clinton administration,
Dee Dee Myers, captures this conundrum atly: If male The relationship between gender and democracy is well
behavior is the norm, and women are always expected to grounded in broader theories of substantive, descriptive,
act like men, we will never be as good at being men as men and symbolic representation.10 Over the past two decades,
are.7 The tension confronted by women pursuing power a number of studies have examined whether and to what
extent women legislators represent womens substantive
within male-dominated political institutions thus raises
concerns. In general, this research suggests that when
several important questions. How do female politicians
women are involved in the decision-making process there
present themselves as viable leaders given the power
are substantive differences in the issues discussed on the
imbalances that persist within political institutions? What
agenda as well as in the policy outcomes that result.11
strategies do they use to navigate through the political
Despite this, however, womens substantive interests cannot
labyrinth? Must they talk like men?
be advanced simply by increasing the sheer numbers of
1992 also marked Hillary Clintons debut onto the
women in public ofce.12 Representation and the advance-
national political scene. In the years since, Clinton
ment of women in society takes place in non-political
transitioned from rst lady of Arkansas to rst lady of the
contexts tooon the boards of multinational companies,
United States to an important politician in her own right, in news media, blockbuster lms, social movements,
winning election for U.S. Senate in 2000, and again in and more. The realm of electoral politics is onealbeit
2006. She campaigned for president in 2008, served as crucialarena where womens substantive representation
secretary of state from 20092013, and today stands as occurs, but it is mutually dependent on womens represen-
a frontrunner in the 2016 presidential contest. Clinton is tation in other areas of civil society. Still, the dispropor-
one of the most prominent and well-known politicians tionate number of women in public ofce and positions of
alivenine out of ten Americans recognize her name and leadership has implications beyond representation. It has
have an opinion of her.8 Moreover, attitudes toward gender consequences for the salience of gender in politics, the types
have been projected onto opinions of Clinton throughout of individuals who run for public ofce, as well as the
much of her public career.9 Clintons career thus provides behaviors and decisions that women express in these roles.
a valuable and instructive case for exploring the strategies
that women use to achieve power and inuence in politics. Gender Identity and Performance
Her example also raises broader questions about how male- Drawing from social identity theory13 and self-
dominated political institutions affect women who aspire categorization theory,14 much research has been dedicated
to move up the political ladder. Does Clinton talk more to understanding how social identities are manifest in a
like a man the more her political power grows? given context and how they inuence perceptions of
Language provides a valuable lens for understanding political actors and events. A well-established body of
how political life affects the self-presentation of women in research in political psychology demonstrates that social
politics. By examining Clintons linguistic style, this study identities including gender, race, religion, and partisanship
reveals hidden insight into the strategies Clinton used as fuel group-based attachments, and consequently shape
she navigated a path toward leadership. Linguistic style perceptions, attitudes, and judgments of the political
does not refer to the content or substance of Clintons world.15 However, the availability or salience of a particular
speech, but rather, to the way she communicates and how social identity largely depends on the context or situation.
she conveys meaningful content. Drawing from research In the context of an election, for example, partisanship is
in political psychology, political communication, social a highly salient identity that inuences the way partisan

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voters perceive and evaluate candidates. Gender identities in running for public ofce, to consider themselves
are ubiquitous yet they intersect with race, ethnicity, qualied to run, and to perceive a fair climate in which
class status, and more in the larger scheme of identity to run.22 The factors that discourage women from pursuing
politics. For this reason, important research has begun a career in politics also pose obstacles that politically
to address the broader dynamics of intersectionality.16 ambitious women must overcome.
Still, the salience of gender is key to understanding the Voters have organized cognitive representations, or
explicit and implicit assumptions made about who a prototypes, of an ideal political leader and their associated
female politician is and how she should behave. When character traits.23 These prototypes are often incompatible
women are a minority within a group such as in the U.S. with ideas about women and their associated traits.
Senate and House of Representatives, their identity as Masculine norms of behaviorsuch as assertiveness
women is more salient. Accordingly, as women reach coincide with expectations of leaders, whereas feminine
positions of higher power and authority, their gender is norms of behaviorsuch as agreeablenessconict
increasingly salient. A female chief executive or commander- with expectations of leaders.24 Kathleen Hall Jamieson
in-chief dees normal expectations, which heightens the describes the Catch-22s that female leaders confront as
salience of her gender and thereby increases the likelihood double binds.25 Women who enter politics and other
that attitudes toward gender will affect how she is perceived leadership positions are faced with the dilemma to prove
and evaluated by others. This is also true for members of themselves as both feminine and competent as if the two
other minority groups who have long been marginalized were mutually exclusive. Women are challenged by com-
in politics. Attitudes towards race, for example, factor sig- peting expectations often played out in the media: if she is
nicantly into public evaluations of Barack Obama.17 The not tough (like a man), she is not competent enough to
salience of ones identity is thus consequential. lead; if she is tough (like a man), she is a bitch and
Gender is also a performative act and is made more or disliked for violating expectations of women as warm,
less salient based on ones performance. As Judith Butler sympathetic, and friendly.26 Such stereotypes rely on
explains, we act and walk and speak and talk in ways that conceptual structures that dene normal expectations.27
consolidate an impression of being a man or being a Although iron lady was made famous in reference to
woman.18 Accordingly, gender is a set of actions learned Margaret Thatcher, the label has been attached to a number
through cultural socialization, narratives, language, and of female leaders who do not conform to idealized feminine
other performative acts, which conform to or reject societal stereotypes, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel
expectations of gender. 19 For a female politician, this (iron frau). This label implies that traits that are valued
performance factors into her strategic self-presentation. in leaders strength, determination, and authorityare
It is tied to the societal expectations and electoral constraints uncommon or anomalous in women. Perceptions of
she perceives as well as the institutional norms of behavior leadership are thus highly consequential for female
that shape interaction and impact her ability to achieve her leaders, particularly for those elected into ofce.
goals. In terms of their gendered self-presentation, then, Still, there is no unied consensus on the mechanisms
female politicians have two primary audiencestheir public that determine how a candidates gender will inuence
constituencies (who they represent) and their (primarily perceptions among the electorate. Female politicians
male) colleagues in government with whom they must (especially experienced politicians such as Clinton) who
cooperate to be successful in setting forth their policy aspire toward public ofce and leadership positions are
agendas and priorities. Therefore, it is important to consider undoubtedly aware of these competing expectations and
how perceptions of gender and leadership as well as recognize the need to navigate double binds. Therefore,
institutional norms of behavior affect the strategic self- they may attempt to present themselves in a way that
presentation of women in politics. minimizes the salience of their gender. This idea is sup-
ported in prior work on the communication strategies of
Perceptions of Gender and Political Leadership in women running for public ofce. In debates and candidate
Electoral Contexts ads, female candidates are more likely to identify with
Although female candidates raise as much money and are stereotypically masculine character traits than their male
as successful as male candidates, women do not run for opponents.28 Female candidates who emphasize masculine
public ofce at nearly the same rate as men.20 Certain traits are also more likely to win their races.29 However,
structural barriers, including professional networks that there is also evidence that female candidates are more
disproportionately recruit male candidates, reduce the successful when they can capitalize on gender stereotypes
likelihood that women will run for public ofce.21 Perhaps favorable toward women and womens issues.30 Several
even more importantly, however, are the social and studies nd voters attribute ideology and partisanship based
psychological barriers that also limit womens ambition on a politicians gender, viewing men as more conservative
to run for ofce. Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox nd and women as more liberal.31 Other studies nd that voters
that women are less likely than men to express interest stereotypically associate female candidates with traditional

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gender traits and abilities and believe they are more research that suggests when women adhere to feminine
competent when dealing with issues related to social welfare, styles of conduct and communication, their views are
but less competent on issues of crime, defense, and the considered subordinate and are often challenged by men
economy, in which men are assumed to be more compe- in the group.41 In a revealing anecdote, Deborah Cameron
tent.32 In contrast, in a recent study by Deborah Brooks, describes how Margaret Thatcher prepared herself for
survey respondents rated male and female candidates the United Kingdoms top post by undergoing a linguistic
similarly on traits such as competence, empathy, and the makeover, which required her to lower the pitch of her
ability to handle an international crisis.33 In the same study, voice, atten her accent, and slow her delivery.42 To be
inexperienced female candidates were rated as stronger, successful in these institutions, then, women must negotiate
more honest, and more compassionate than inexperienced their authority among their male colleagues, which tends to
male candidates.34 Although the implications of these result in their conformity to a dominant, masculine style of
studies are mixed, they nevertheless indicate that gender communication.43
factors signicantly into public perceptions of politicians Communication in government institutions is often
and candidates for ofce and is thus an important consid- biased toward a masculine style of interaction, which can
eration for womens self-presentation. The work by Brooks, be seen in assertive, adversarial, hierarchical, and rule-
among others, reects a growing trend toward data-driven dominated legislative bodies like the U.S. Congress and
approaches to the double bind that, in time, may paint British Parliament. Regardless of gender, communication
a clearer picture of the obstacles female politicians face. styles within these institutions reect a masculine style.44
Therefore, in addition to looking toward voters (and self- As minority members, women are perceived (and often
report measures) to understand how gendered power perceive themselves) to be interlopers and as such,
dynamics manifest in the self-presentation of women in they adjust their behavior according to the norms of
politics, it is also important to consider the institutional, the group. 45 For example, female members of the
procedural, and implicit pressures that shape interactions British Parliament are just as likely as their male colleagues
within the political arena. to engage in a competitive and self-assertive style of
speaking and even more likely to adhere to the ofcial
Masculine Norms of Interaction in Institutional rules of the chamber.46 As interlopers to the political arena,
Settings their linguistic behaviour reects their understanding that
The self-presentation of women in politics is also affected to be judged as good community members they must
by the institutional procedures, interpersonal interac- put special effort into displaying their adherence to
tions, and norms of communication that govern political behavioural norms that carry particular symbolic weight.47
institutions. In The Silent Sex, Christopher Karpowitz and This suggests that institutional norms of behavior and
Tali Mendelberg examine how womens behavior is interaction embody and thus reward masculine styles of
impacted by procedural rules as well as the ratio of men communication. Instead of defying entrenched norms of
to women within deliberative groups.35 They nd that behavior, women appear to internalize their social
women have greater inuence when collective decisions environments, consciously and unconsciously conforming
are bound by unanimous consent, but less inuence when their interaction to align with the established, masculine
decisions are bound by majority rulethe dominant status quo. Such pressures illustrate the circuitous routes
procedure for democratic decision-making.36 They also women must navigate when pursuing power, inuence, and
nd that when women are minority members, they speak leadership in the political arena.
less often, have less inuence on the group outcome, and
align their speech patterns with the men in the group even Do Women Have to Talk Like Men to Be Considered
when they care about the topic of conversation and have Viable Leaders?
preferences distinct from men (e.g., generosity towards Altogether, research into the self-presentation of female
the poor).37 The nding that women speak less often, politicians suggests that expectations of leadership as well
however, is disputed elsewhere.38 Together, these ndings as institutional arrangements have signicant conse-
suggest that norms of interaction and institutional proce- quences for the communication strategies women adopt.
dures are both consequential for womens self-presentation. These factors can be summarized briey. First, gender is
Karpowitz and Mendelberg suggest that elite women, who a performance and particular notions of how women are
usually work in highly masculine environments, may be supposed to act encourage particular types of perform-
predisposed or socialized in ways that make them more ances. At the same time, however, particular notions of
inclined toward the views and interaction styles that how leaders are supposed to act encourage different, and
characterize the male central tendency.39 However, they sometimes conicting performances. Simply put, the
also point to evidence from interviews with female prototypical political leader looks, acts, and talks like a
politicians who believe they cannot get far with the man and a woman simply does not t into this prototype.
feminine style.40 This latter view is supported by Additionally, norms of behavior and interpersonal

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interactions within political institutions embody and of the major media narratives during Bill Clintons 1992
reward a masculine style of interaction. Women are not campaign was the Hillary problem or Hillary factor.51
only viewed as having less authority, their authority is When she moved into the White House, Clinton was
diminished further when they do not conform to the charged with carrying out the implicit duties of rst
masculine styles of interaction that permeate political lady, an explicitly gendered role. Although the role is
institutions. As interlopers to the political arena, the largely symbolic, Robert Watson identies eleven implicit
self-presentation of female politicians thus tends to be duties of the rst lady, including wife and mother, public
more calculated than that of their male colleagues, who, gure and celebrity, nations social hostess, symbol of the
by the virtue of their gender, embody the dominant American woman, social advocate and champion of social
prototype of a political leader. Rarely do women act causes, and political and presidential partner.52 Initially,
like women to achieve power and inuence in politics. Clinton did not embrace these traditional duties. Instead,
How do these implicit barriers manifest in the gendered she worked to advance policy as chair of the Presidential
self-presentation of politically ambitious women? How Health Care Task Force, which heightened perceived
do women position themselves for success in male- violations of her femininity and appropriate role as rst
dominated professions? Do they have to talk like men lady.53 Once it was clear that the administrations health
to be considered viable, competent political leaders? reform policy would not pass Congress, however,
I now consider these questions in the case of Hillary Clintons policy ambitions took a backseat to the tradi-
Clinton. Specically, I explore whether Clinton talked tional, feminine duties of rst lady.
more like a man as her involvement and power in the Clinton transitioned from the feminine position of rst
political arena expanded. lady to the masculine role of political candidate. Her role
as rst lady provided at least one major advantagename
Analyzing Gendered Language: recognition. The downside, however, was that many voters
A Quantitative Textual Analysis had already developed an impression of Clinton based on
of Hillary Clinton her performance as rst lady, which complicated her self-
Inspirational to some and threatening to others, Hillary presentation as an independent leader capable of repre-
Clinton espouses strong attitudes regarding the proper senting a powerful state where she had only tenuous
place for women in politics. Indeed, attitudes toward residential ties.54 Competing against male candidates, she
gender have long factored into public perceptions of was elected to the Senate in 2000 and re-elected in 2006.
Clinton.48 She has operated in overwhelmingly male- The September 11 attacks occurred soon after Clinton
dominated environments and has been under considerable took ofce, and as a senator from New York she faced
public scrutiny throughout. Clintons career thus provides a state in crisis. In response, Clinton positioned herself as
a useful case for uncovering how female politicians present a leader on masculine policy areas like national security
themselves as competent and viable political leaders, and and military affairs. She served on two committees where
how they respond to the dynamic pressures of political life. she worked on masculine issuesBudget and Armed
Clintons debut onto the national political scene Servicesand three committees where she worked on
brought about much discussion on the role of women feminine issuesEnvironment and Public Works;
in public life not only because she was the wife of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and the Special
Democratic nominee for president, but also because she Committee on Aging. Her work in the Senate increased
was an ambitious and outspoken woman with a successful both her prominence as an experienced and knowledge-
career of her own. She attended Yale Law School, served as able politician and her credibility as a viable presidential
legal counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during candidate in 2008. Although she lost the Democratic
the Watergate scandal, became a partner at a prestigious nomination, she won the support of nearly 18 million
law rm in Arkansas, and served on the board of directors voters, and was subsequently nominated secretary of state
for several high-prole companies, including Wal-Mart. by President Obama and conrmed by her Senate
In her own now infamous words she was not sittin here colleagues in January 2009. As secretary of state, Clinton
as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy was charged with leading the U.S. State Department and
Wynette nor one who could have stayed home and executing the Presidentsand the nations foreign
baked cookies and had teas.49 Rather, what I decided to policy objectives. Again, Clinton entered a male-
do was to fulll my profession, which I entered before my dominated political arena almost exclusively concerned
husband was in public life.50 Early on, Clinton struggled with masculine issues such as foreign affairs, trade,
to negotiate her identity under the national spotlight. and international and national security. Interestingly,
Recast as her husbands surrogate, the wife of the Clintons popularity during this time was largely driven
Democratic nominee for president, Clinton was asked to by gender egalitarians, indicating that gendered attitudes
justify the life and career choices that she made. Was she an became more important as Secretary Clinton grew more
independent career-woman or a supportive wife? Indeed, one popular.55

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Clintons increased involvement and power within the self-presentational strategies that female politicians use to
male-dominated institutions of the Senate and State achieve power and inuence in a male-dominated pro-
Department, suggests that her language became increas- fession. One approach to studying languagecontent
ingly masculine over time. This expectation is consistent analysishas been used extensively in political science
with the broader literature on women in politics, which to identify, for example, the integrative complexity of
suggests that female politicians adopt masculine commu- statements by members of the British House of
nication styles when it is the dominant style of interaction Commons,63 the issues legislators emphasize when com-
within the institutions they serve.56 municating with constituents,64 the policy positions of
In a thorough analysis of Clintons 2008 presidential political parties over time,65 and the differences in com-
campaign, Regina Lawrence and Melody Rose write that munication strategies in mixed-gender political debates.66
Clinton more often than not avoided calling attention to Despite substantial variation in the conceptualization and
her gender and instead focused on demonstrating her measurement of variables, such research typically ignores
policy expertise and toughness (though occasionally with or altogether removes common style or function words
some subtly gendered ourishes).57 Despite the historic (e.g., I, you, the, it, and, from) becauseat least on the
nature of her candidacy, Clinton explicitly intended to run surfacethese words contain little lexical or semantic
as a candidate, not as a woman. During a debate hosted by meaning. However, research in social psychology and
CNN in July 2007, Clinton was asked how she would linguistics demonstrate that function words do contain
respond to critics who say she is not authentically value.
feminine. She responded, Well, I couldnt run as Function wordsarticles, prepositions, pronouns, and
anything other than a woman . . . but, obviously, Im auxiliary verbsshape and connect the content of our
not running because Im a woman. Im running because thoughts into meaningful forms of communication.67
I think Im the most qualied and experienced person to While function words are the most commonly written
hit the ground running in January 2009.58 Rather than and spoken words in the English language, they have little
exposing the question as sexist and irrelevant or acting semantic meaning by themselves and are often implicit
ladylike and expressing herself as authentically feminine, in speech and not always consciously evaluated when
Clinton instead presented herself as an experienced pol- speaking.68 Linguistic style thus refers to the way an
itician with strong leadership abilities. Indeed, she suc- individual communicates and how she conveys meaningful
cessfully conveyed this image to the public. A survey by content to others.69 Linguistic style can provide insight
Pew in September 2007 found that among Democratic into a number of psychological and social processes.
voters 67 percent said Clinton rst came to mind when In prior research, linguistic style has been linked to per-
they heard the word tough, compared to 14 percent sonality traits, levels of depression, relationship quality,
for Obama and 7 percent for Edwards.59 Only 22 percent status and social hierarchy, gender, and more.70 By analyz-
said Clinton came to mind when they heard the word ing function words, researchers can gain insight into the
friendly, compared to 31 percent for Obama and 28 implicit, micro processes by which individuals weave
percent for Edwards.60 Clintons likability among voters disparate thoughts into meaningful narratives that organize
was a growing concern among her advisors and from and shape experience. Therefore, rather than ignoring or
late 2007 into January 2008, Clinton deviated from removing function words, my analysis focuses heavily on
her dominant, experienced-based and gender neutral Clintons use of function words and investigates her style of
strategy and attempted to present herself as a warmer, speaking.
more feminine candidate.61 However, this strategy Work by James Pennebaker and colleagues nd that
was short-lived. Once Clinton began to lose key con- language encodes gender in very subtle ways. Reliable and
tests to Obama, she returned to an aggressive, mascu- consistent gender differences in linguistic style have been
line strategy. found in studies analyzing tens of thousands of speech
The literature surrounding Clintons 2008 bid over- samples from both men and women.71 In general and
whelmingly suggests that her self-presentation was highly on average, women tend to use pronouns (especially
masculine over the course of her campaign, a strategy that rst-person singular pronouns), verbs and auxiliary
is consistent with the ndings from broader research into verbs, social, emotional, cognitive, and tentative words
the self-presentational strategies female candidates use to more frequently than men.72 In general and on
win.62 Consequently, I expect Clintons language was average, men tend to use nouns, big words (words greater
particularly masculine during her own campaignsin than six letters), articles, prepositions, anger, and swear
2000, 2006, and 2008. words more frequently than women.73 Utilizing this
insight, I constructed two indices and refer to them as
Feminine and Masculine Linguistic Styles feminine linguistic style and masculine linguistic
Language is a key site where gender is routinely performed, style, respectively. Table 1 describes the linguistic
and it thus provides a valuable lens for understanding the markers that comprise these contrasting styles.

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Table 1
Differences in linguistic style between men and women
Feminine Masculine
Linguistic Marker Examples Linguistic Marker Examples
Pronouns, especially anyone, she, this, yours, I, me, First-person plural lets, our, ourselves, us,
first-person singular myself pronouns we, were
Verbs and auxiliary verbs listening, need, went, am, Articles a, an, the
been, will
Social references children, citizen, email, said, Prepositions above, for, in, to, under,
talking, who without
Emotion words brave, cried, disagree, evil, Anger words annoyed, cruel, disgust,
relief, safe hate, kill
Cognitive mechanisms because, believe, know, Big words (. 6 letters) American, industrial,
result, think, thus reconciliation
Tentative words chance, guess, maybe Swear words bastard, bitch, shit

This appears, at least on the surface, to conceptualize men, as it conforms to the expectation that male leaders
feminine and masculine styles quite differently than pre- are aggressive.
vious studies in the politics and gender literature.74 In much My approach also shares some similarity with prior
of this research, the coding schemes for feminine style studies. As referenced earlier, common coding schemes in
include factors such as using a personal tone, addressing the politics and gender literature suggest that female
viewers as peers, identifying with the experiences of others, politicians rely more on personal and social references.
inviting viewer participation, discussing family relationships, Talking about oneself in a personal way and talking to
inviting the audience to trust their experiences/perceptions and about other people implies the use of pronouns and
in making political judgments, and using personal social references, both of which are included in the
experiences/anecdotes.75 In contrast, coding schemes feminine linguistic style. References to external objects
for masculine style often include factors such as using like statistics, expert reports, and policy issues tend to rely
statistics, emphasizing ones own accomplishments, and on the use of articles (object references), prepositions
referencing expert authorities or sources. 76 (spatial and temporal hierarchies), and big words, which
By analyzing function words, which are often discarded are similarly included in the masculine linguistic style.
or ignored in coding schemes, my approach picks up on Hence, the variables examined in this study (derived from
less overt, more implicit expressions of gender than is empirical observations by Pennebaker among others) are
typical of many studies in the politics and gender literature. not as different from prior studies as they may appear.
This study also differs in that codes are well dened. As a case study, several critical factors are not taken
In general, a pronoun is a pronoun regardless of the data into account, including how partisanship or the interac-
source one analyzes. Another notable difference is the tion between party and gender79 might affect Clintons
inclusion of emotion into feminine and masculine linguistic style. Similarly, it is not clear from this study how
linguistic styles. Emotion has important implications age, race, ethnicity, education, and socioeconomic back-
for gendered self-presentationas recently as 2010, thirty ground impact the linguistic styles of political leaders.
percent of Americans believed that men were better suited Future research is needed to examine these factors and to
emotionally for politics than women.77 Consider Clintons explore the linguistic styles of both male and female
emotional response during a campaign event the day politicians more systematically. In addition, Clinton has
before the New Hampshire primary, when momentarily, experienced a unique trajectory into politics and, arguably,
her voice waivered and it appeared that she might cry. In an her career is not a typical case. It is, however, an
article titled, Can Hillary Clinton Cry Herself Back to the exceptionally important one. Clinton has been a well-
White House?, published the day after the primary, known gure in U.S. politics for nearly 25 years, through-
Maureen Dowd of the New York Times likens Clinton to out which she has taken on a variety of gendered roles.
the heroine of a Lifetime movie, a woman in peril who Very few, if any, women in U.S. politics have come close to
manages to triumph.78 Such depictions serve to re- reaching the level of prominence that Clinton has achieved
inforce the stereotype that tears and visible emotions are and sustained. Her example is a rare and worthy one for
feminine traits and signs of weakness, which can be studying the strategies female politicians use to navigate
consequential especially for female leaders. On the other a path toward leadership and for building on the limited
hand, anger is an acceptable emotional expression by body of existing research on this topic. Although Clintons

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case cannot be generalized to understand broader trends, social, swear, and emotion words and a high rate of articles
my approach offers a promising direction for research into and big words in congressional speeches regardless of
gendered communication styles. gender, indicating that a formal, masculine linguistic style
is indeed pervasive in the chambers of the U.S. Congress.85
Methods and Data Finally, for each transcript I calculated a feminine to
I investigate Clintons linguistic style using an original masculine ratio by taking the sum of feminine linguistic
corpus80 of 567 interview and debate transcripts from markers and dividing by the sum of masculine linguistic
19922013. All interview transcripts with Hillary Clinton markers described earlier in table 1.86
available on the Clinton Presidential Librarys website
were included in this analysis and constitute the majority Linguistic Trends in Context:
of data analyzed from 19921999.81 All interview tran- How Clintons Language Reveals
scripts (including newspaper, magazine, broadcast, and a Gendered Self-Presentation
cable TV) and debate transcripts featuring Clinton be- Since 1992, Clintons self-presentation has been affected
tween 19922013 available through archived databases by gendered expectations of her various roles as well as
and on the Department of States website were also the norms of communication within the institutions she
included.82 This corpus thus represents a comprehensive has served. Before turning to a more detailed discussion
collection of interview and debate transcripts featuring of Clintons language and what it says about her self-
Clinton between 19922013. I then analyzed the femi- presentation within these roles, gure 1 presents a broad
nine and masculine linguistic markers within these texts overview of Clintons feminine/masculine linguistic style
using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), a text and how it changed over time.87
analysis program.83 LIWC has been used to examine the In 1992 and 1996the years she campaigned for
linguistic patterns of political texts in a number of studies. BillClinton used a higher rate of feminine relative to
One, for example, found that candidates running for masculine linguistic markers, which is consistent with
president and vice president in 2004 used high rates of her expected role as a supportive wife and rst lady.
articles, prepositions, positive emotions, and big words,84 The feminine/masculine ratio declined abruptly in 1993
markers that are more consistent with a masculine lin- 1994, however, indicating that Clintons language became
guistic style. Another study found a low rate of pronouns, more masculine. This coincides with Clintons role on

Figure 1
Ratio of feminine to masculine styles over time

Note: Figure 1 gives a yearly time series plot of the ratio of feminine to masculine linguistic markers. The dotted lines represent election years
in which Clinton actively campaigned for herself (2000, 2006, 2008) or Bill (1992, 1996). The light grey line represents a smoothed
generalized linear estimate (with shaded confidence intervals) from the ratio model presented in table 2.

632 Perspectives on Politics

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the administrations Health Reform Task Force. As the
leading voice for this reform, she was charged with com- Table 2
municating details of the policy and persuading industry Generalized linear model results
and interest group leaders, lawmakers, and the public Full model Ratio model
to support it. The dramatic drop in feminine language Intercept 1924.00*** 2049.82***
during this time (but not in 19951999) suggests that (24.56) (7.57)
Clinton adopted a masculine style of speech in re- Pronouns 1.29
sponse to the political context, not in response to (0.84)
First-person singular 0.21
a sudden change in personality or media strategy. By
1995, when she was no longer charged with pushing Verbs 0.32
the Presidents agenda, her language returned to a more (0.59)
feminine style. Auxiliary verbs 2.11*
Around the launch of her rst Senate campaign in (1.01)
Social references 0.77
2000, the feminine/masculine ratio sharply declined
once again. Clinton maintained this masculine self- Positive emotion 2.02*
presentation throughout her time in the Senate as well (0.85)
as in her 2006 re-election campaign. The ndings from Negative emotion 1.30
her two Senate campaigns, then, are consistent with the (1.14)
Cognitive mechanisms 0.84
expectation that female candidates adopt a masculine
self-presentation to look tough enough for the job. Tentative words 2.35*
During her presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008, (0.98)
Clintons language was not overwhelmingly masculine, as Words . 6 letters 1.81***
some scholars have suggested, but it was comparable to (0.32)
First-person plural 1.93*
the language seen in her 2000 Senate race. To some extent,
her linguistic style in 20072008 reects the inconsistent Articles 1.38
gender strategies promoted by the Clinton campaign, which (0.80)
I will discuss later in more detail. Finally, after she was Prepositions 0.90
nominated and conrmed as secretary of state in 2009, (0.54)
Anger words 8.43**
Clintons linguistic style turned more masculine than at
any other point in years prior. Comparing Clintons Swear words 12.08
language in 19921999 to 20092013, I nd her (18.27)
language shifted in the expected direction, supporting Feminine/Masculine ratio 21.39***
the expectation that Clintons language grew increasingly (3.40)
masculine over time, as her involvement and power in the N 85 22
political world expanded. Log Likelihood 214.09 60.86
The generalized linear models in table 2 provide AIC 460.18 125.71
additional insight into how Clintons language changed ***p,.001; **p,.01; *p,.05; p,.1
over time.88 The full model shows mixed results for Standard errors in parentheses. Models are based on time-
Clintons use of feminine linguistic markers over time, series data: the full model is a quarterly time series, while the
measured quarterly each year. Several of the feminine ratio model is a yearly time series.
variablesverbs, social, tentative, negative emotion words,
and cognitive mechanismsshow a negative relationship explains its negative trend. The feminine/masculine
with time, but only tentative words are signicant at the ratio model displays a negative relationship with time
p , .05 level. Auxiliary verbs and positive emotion words and is signicant at p , .001.
actually increase over time (p , .05). However, looking Table 3 presents the average use of each variable as
at the masculine variables, a much clearer relationship a percentage of total words (weighted by word count)
emerged over time. Words over six letters (p , .001), within ve illustrative periods in Clintons careeras
rst-person plural pronouns (p , .05), articles (p , .1), supportive wife and rst lady (19921999), candidate
prepositions (p , .1), and anger words (p , .01) are all for U.S. Senate (2000), senator from New York (2001
positively associated with time. In essence, it is not clear 2006), Democratic candidate for president (20072008),
that Clintons language was decreasingly feminine, but and nally, secretary of state (20092013).
it is clear that her language was increasingly masculine.
One need not come at the expense of the other. Thus in Supportive Wife and First Lady (19921999)
the ratio model, the numerator remains relatively stable, Clintons role on the Health Reform Task Force was
but the denominator becomes larger over time, which increasingly criticized for stepping too far outside the

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Table 3
Weighted average for all linguistic markers (%)
Examples 19921999 2000 20012006 20072008 20092013
Feminine style
Pronouns I, you, she, it 18.6 17.4 17.3 17.7 16.3
1st person singular I, me, my 4.3 5.3 4.2 4.6 2.8
Verbs Went, walk, listen 18.0 16.9 17.3 18.0 16.6
Auxiliary verbs Have, is, will, Im 11.5 10.8 11.1 11.4 10.9
Social references Friend, they, talk 12.0 9.8 10.3 10.1 10.8
Positive emotion Enjoy, nice, thank 3.6 4.2 3.7 3.6 3.9
Negative emotion Worry, nasty, cried 1.1 0.7 1.7 1.3 1.6
Tentative words Maybe, perhaps, guess 3.2 2.2 2.5 2.2 2.2
Cognitive mechanisms Cause, think, believe 20.9 19.0 20.6 19.3 20.1
Masculine style
Words . 6 letters 16.4 17.4 18.8 17.9 19.4
1st person plural We, our, lets 2.5 2.3 3.1 3.1 3.4
Articles A, an, the 5.7 7.0 6.8 6.5 7.1
Prepositions After, to, for, of, by 13.7 14.2 13.5 14.0 14.1
Anger words Hate, kill, annoyed 0.3 0.2 0.4 0.5 0.6
Swear words Ass, bastard, crap 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Feminine/Masculine ratio 2.42 2.10 2.09 2.10 1.91
Word count 465,848 31,515 70,563 129,781 389,128
No. documents 156 19 56 65 271
Total word count 1,086,835
Total No. documents 567
Note: Raw values for each transcript were weighted by word count in calculating yearly averages. Values are expressed as
a percentage of total words per year and for multiple years, yearly values were averaged.

traditional boundaries of the rst ladys appropriate lady, Clintons use of feminine linguistic markers declined
sphere of inuence on policy matters.89 Following the during her run for Senate. Simultaneously, Clintons use of
failure of health reform, Clinton tried to soften her masculine linguistic markers, particularly big words, articles,
image to better fulll her role as rst lady and to lessen her and prepositions, sharply increased. This explains the sizable
perceived liability to the Clinton administration.90 Table 3 drop in the feminine/masculine ratio seen in gure 1 around
indicates that on average Clintons linguistic style was the year 2000. Table 3 also indicates that Clinton used an
more feminine during her time as rst lady than at any unusually high rate of positive emotion words and a corre-
other point in her public career. Her use of tentative words spondingly low rate of negative emotion words during this
(e.g., almost, probably, kind of, sort of) was particularly time. Indeed, this positive self-presentation is apparent
high during this time. While this nding suggests that when reading these transcripts. Clinton was enthusiastic
Clinton was relatively uncertain or insecure when discus- about the possibility of serving in the Senate and bringing
sing topics with journalists, tentative language is also positive changes to New York. This may have been a strategy
common with individuals who have not fully processed she used to combat perceptions of her as a carpetbagger
and formed a reliable narrative about an event or topic.91 and re-breathing dragon among New Yorkers.92
In reviewing transcripts with a high rate of tentative words, During a campaign, it is reasonable to expect a candidate
I found both factorsuncertainty and lack of a consistent to discuss him or herself more frequently than usual since
narrativewere at play. She often used tentative words as the purpose of a campaign is to educate voters about their
a buffer against potential criticism or to express cautious ideology, experience, and policy goals. Indeed, table 3
certainty when making factual assertions or statements shows an increase in Clintons use of rst-person singular
that implicated her husbands administration. pronouns during her 2000 and 2008 campaigns, which
indicates that Clinton talked in a personal way about her
Clinton for Senate (2000) beliefs, experiences, and plans. Interestingly, pronouns are
The most dramatic and sustained shift in Clintons not only a marker of gender but also of social status.
language was in her transition from rst lady to Senate Contrary to a widely held assumption, lower status
candidate. Table 3 reports that the feminine/masculine ratio individuals are more likely to use rst-person singular
declines from 2.42 during her time as rst lady to 2.10 pronouns especially when talking up to higher status
during her Senate race in 2000 when Clinton campaigned individuals, who are more likely to talk down to
for herself for the rst time. Compared to her tenure as rst you, or for the generalized, all-assuming we, which

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politicians are famous for.93 After entering the Senate, transcripts from natural language sourcesinterviews
Clinton spoke for herself and for those she represented, and debatesnot speeches or other formal addresses.
a signal of both masculinity and high status. Therefore, her language became more masculine even in
conversations outside the formal boundaries and con-
Navigating Male-Dominated Institutions as Senator straints of the institutions she served. These ndings thus
(20012006) and Secretary of State (20092013) suggest that she internalized the masculine norms of
As senator and secretary of state, Clinton navigated communication she practiced within these roles.
institutions largely dominated by men. Figure 1 illustrates
that Clintons linguistic style was most masculine during Clinton for President (20072008)
the years she served in the Senate and Department of State. Clinton launched her rst presidential campaign in
The feminine/masculine ratio declined to 1.91 percent as January 2007 and was considered the frontrunner for
secretary of state, its lowest point within the timeframe the Democratic nomination during much of that year.
covered in this study. Table 3 shows her use of rst-person She maintained a relatively gender neutral strategy,
plural pronouns like we increased from 2.3 percent in though occasionally with some subtly gendered
2000 to 3.1 percent during her time in the Senate and ourishes.95 Still, Clintons campaign advisors disagreed
further increased to 3.4 percent during her time as on Clintons self-presentation particularly when it came to
secretary of state. In these roles, she possessed authority her gender strategy.96 As seen in table 3, Clinton used
as a representative from New York and later, as leader of a lower rate of positive emotion and a higher rate of both
the Department of State. Her expanded scope of repre- negative emotion and anger-related words in her presi-
sentation cannot be disentangled from her ascent into dential campaign than she did during her Senate campaign
increasingly powerful roles, which complicates the analysis in 2000. This may reect her emphasis on proving herself
of Clintons gendered self-presentation. Both factors likely as qualied and competent on issues of national security,
contributed to her marked increase in rst-person plural a strategy she often used to differentiate herself from
pronouns. However, we can be reassured that her language Obama. She also used a higher rate of verbs and auxiliary
was increasingly masculine by considering her use of other verbs in 20072008. A high rate of verbs indicates that
masculine linguistic markers during this time. Seen in Clinton adopted a more dynamic style of speaking,
table 3, as senator and secretary of state, Clintons use of focusing on how topics and events change, while a high
big words also increased markedly when compared to the rate of auxiliary verbs (e.g., is, do, was) indicates that Clinton
years she spent as rst lady and as a candidate. Moreover, used a more passive style of speaking.97 It is also important
Clinton used more articles and fewer pronouns during her to note that Clintons language in 20072008 was compa-
time in the Senate and State Department. Articles and rable to that found in her campaign for Senate in 2000.
pronouns tend to be interchangeable in syntactic struc- Seen in table 3, the combined feminine/masculine ratio
ture,94 which suggests that she increasingly replaced in 20072008 was the same for her 2000 Senate
pronouns with articles. She also increasingly expressed campaign2.10. Yet gure 1 displays an intriguing
anger while in these roles. Together, these ndings suggest spike in the ratio at the end of 2007 into the start of
that Clintons linguistic style was more masculine during 2008, which indicates an abrupt change toward a more
the years she served in these institutions. feminine linguistic style. To better understand Clintons
As senator and secretary of state, Clintons self- linguistic style over the course of the campaign, gure 2
presentation was constrained by the masculine norms displays the feminine/masculine ratio for Clintons inter-
of behavior and interaction within these institutions. views and debates in 2007 and 2008.
Her self-presentation was not only directed toward her Figure 2 reveals that for most of 2007, Clintons
public constituencies, but also toward her primarily male language in debates and interviews was more masculine
colleagues. This latter point is particularly important for than at other points in her campaign. Her debate
Clinton because in both roles she presented herself as performances in particular indicate an overwhelmingly
a leader on traditionally masculine issues such as foreign masculine strategy. In late 2007, however, Clintons
affairs, international trade, and national security. Given that language became more feminine in interviews. Interest-
the Senate and State Department are male-dominated ingly, around the same time Clintons advisors expressed
institutions, Clinton may have conformed to the masculine concern about Clintons favorability with voters. Conse-
norms of communication within these institutions to quently, from late 2007 into January 2008 Clinton
establish credibility among her colleagues as well as to momentarily deviated from her dominant, masculine
negotiate her authority and position herself as a leader. strategy and presented herself as a warmer, more feminine
Changes in her linguistic style do not simply reect candidate to voters.98 Figure 2 supports this analysis.
changes in the content she was communicating, but in This momentary shift in strategy marks an interesting
the way she communicated, and in the subtle social signals point of disruption in her otherwise steady self-presentation
she expressed. Bear in mind, this study only analyzes up to that point in time.

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Figure 2
Ratio of feminine to masculine styles for all interviews and debates in 20072008

After Super Tuesday, February 5, Obama had accumu- over time, yet are often hidden from view. This study
lated a sizable advantage over Clinton, and the Clinton reveals how these forces manifest in Hillary Clintons
campaign responded with an aggressive messaging cam- self-presentation by tracking her subtle linguistic behav-
paign attacking Obama, what Lawrence and Rose describe ior over time. Overall, my ndings show that when
as a testosterone blitzkrieg.99 This masculinized messag- Clinton occupied a political ofce or took on a major
ing proved successful in Texas and Ohio, which encouraged policy initiative (as in 19931994), her language con-
Clinton to maintain this strategy in subsequent state formed to a masculine style. Indeed, Clintons language
contests.100 Figure 2 does not reect this strategy, however. grew increasingly masculine over time, as her involve-
Figure 2 shows Clintons language became more feminine ment and power in politics expanded. This result sup-
starting in late 2007, but it does not indicate a noticeable ports prior research suggesting that women adopt
shift toward a more masculine style after January 2008. As masculine communication styles when seeking inuence
gure 2 illustrates, Clintons linguistic style was scattered in male-dominated settings.101
and uctuated much more dramatically from one interview Clintons linguistic style changed according to the
to the next throughout the 2008 campaign period, which gendered expectations of the roles she performed as well
ended once Clinton conceded the race to Obama in June. as the masculine norms of communication within the
This volatility in Clintons linguistic style may reect a institutions she served. These ndings can be summarized
candidateand campaignin crisis without a clear strat- succinctly. In 1992 and 1996, Clintons linguistic style
egy on her self-presentation as a female candidate for was consistent with her expected performance as the wife
president. It is also possible that internal disagreements of a presidential nominee. When she led the administra-
and confusion over Clintons gendered self-presentation tions health reform policy in 19931994 however,
seeped into her linguistic behavior. Clintons linguistic style changed in response to the
political environment, reecting the masculine norms of
Conclusion: Power Speaks with communication that dominate the policymaking arena.
a Masculine Voice After 1994, Clinton performed more traditional duties of
The self-presentation of female politicians is affected by the rst lady and her language followed suit, turning more
the salience of their gender, perceptions and expectations feminine. As a candidate for Senate, her language shifted
of leaders, and their interpersonal interactions within pro- toward a masculine style, a performance she sustained
fessional and institutional contexts. These complex dy- throughout her time in Congress. As a candidate for
namics reinforce certain behavioral norms and expectations president in 20072008, Clintons self-presentation was

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largely driven by the advice of her campaign strategists. navigate in the labyrinth toward leadership.103 These
She maintained a masculine style until late 2007 and early practices may, in turn, reproduce styles of communication
2008, when she tried to soften her image and improve that reinforce gendered divisions of power and authority.
her likability among voters by presenting herself in a way Still, while language is an important form of communica-
that was more akin to the expectations of her gender. tion, body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and
Throughout the 2008 campaign period, Clintons lan- other non-linguistic forms of communication also serve as
guage uctuated dramatically from one interview to the powerful social signals and more research is needed to
next, reecting a candidateand campaignin crisis, understand how they relate to womens self-presentation.
lacking a clear and consistent self-presentational strategy. What does this research suggest for the trajectory of
As secretary of state, her linguistic style again conformed to Clintons 2016 presidential campaign? At the time of
the masculine expectations of her position. writing the general election remains far in the future, but
Clintons career testies to the labyrinth that women Clinton already appears to be pursuing a different cam-
and members of any marginalized group, long kept out of paign strategy. Attesting to the relevance of the variables
powerconfront when striving toward politically power- used in this study, Jonathan Martin from the New York
ful positions. Clinton is not alone in this respect. German Times compared Clintons use of I in her 2007 campaign
Chancellor Angela Merkel, Argentinian President Cristina announcement and you in her 2015 announcement:
Fernandez de Kirchner, Brazilian President Dilma Rous- when she used a video message to enter the democratic
seff, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and many presidential race in early 2007, she sat alone on a couch,
others must also navigate the realities of politics as a male- used some variation of I 11 times and proclaimed an
dominated profession. Like Clinton, they confront wide- uninspired theme: Im in it to win it. This time, she . . .
spread gender attitudes that monitor and evaluate their emphasized your vote and your time.104
self-presentation to great consequence. They too have Beginning with Freud, psychologists have taught us
faced the dilemma of presenting themselves as both that choice of wordseven pronounsconstitutes im-
competent and likable, and arguably, have been more portant signals about what people are paying attention
successful than Clinton. While other female politicians to.105 Clintons frequent use of rst-person singular
may encounter similar experiences, Clintons trajectory pronouns in her 2007 announcement indicate a woman
into politics is unique. She is a very exceptional woman who was self-focused, self-conscious, and thinking about
with an idiosyncratic background as a former rst lady.102 herself. In her 2015 announcement, however, Clinton was
Only by analyzing language from a wider sample of both focused not on herself, but on you, the voter. In this
male and female political leaders can we can discern way, Clinton subtly signaled her self-condence and
whether Clintons increasing masculinity is a representative authority. This reects a potentially signicant change in
or deviant trend. Future research, particularly in the her self-presentationfrom a self-conscious candidate
comparative tradition, could provide valuable insight into who emphasized her own desire for power to a condent
how womens linguistic behavior differs as their minority one who emphasizes concern for others, for you.
status, and thus the salience of their gender, lessens. As this anecdote demonstrates, Clintons self-presentation
Language provides a wealth of insight into the ways is unequivocally strategic; however, the way I measure her
women compete for power in a male-dominated society. self-presentation picks up on less overt, and more implicit
As this research demonstrates, linguistic style reveals expressions of gender than prior research into this topic.
insight beyond the content we intend to communicate. As a result, this study adds a deeper understanding of the
It reveals the subtle social signals that we communicate to strategies women use to successfully navigate a path
and receive from others and thus reects our sense of toward leadership in a profession dominated by men.
identity, our self-perception, and our perceptions of My ndings are based on a computational analysis over
others. Consequently, the way we speak links tightly to a large corpus of text (567 documents with 1,086,835
our gender identity and to the political climates that total words) sampled over a twenty-two-year timeframe,
surround us. Since the prototypical leader looks, acts, and which provides statistical leverage as well as the ability to
talks like a man, women aspiring toward leadership make relative comparisons. It is a data-driven approach
positions may present themselves in ways that conform into the double-bind dilemma, which offers a promising
to the dominant masculine prototype. Moreover, since direction for future work on gendered communication in
women occupy a distinct minority status within most political science and in the social sciences broadly.
political institutions, as interlopers, they may be partic- Nevertheless, this study relies on the single case of Hillary
ularly perceptive to the behavioral and linguistic cues Clinton and my ndings cannot be generalized to the
communicated by others and more likely to adapt to broader realm of women in politics. Future work that
these norms of communication as did Clinton during her expands this study to more systematically investigate the
time in the Senate and Department of State. Such linguistic styles of both male and female politicians and how
pressures reect the circuitous routes women must they change over time and in response to different political

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contexts will provide the comparisons and controls neces- 25 Jamieson 1995.
sary to isolate the effect of gender on linguistic style. 26 Carlin and Winfrey 2009; Kellerman and Rhode
For politically ambitious women like Clinton, self- 2007.
presentation is consequential and thereby strategic. Gen- 27 Haste 1993.
der encourages a particular type of self-presentation, yet 28 Bystrom et al. 2004; Banwart and McKinney 2005.
for female politicians the prototypes of political leaders 29 Bystrom et al. 2004.
encourage a differentand sometimes conictingself- 30 Herrnson, Lay and Stokes 2003.
presentation. I nd that these performances play out 31 King and Matland 2003; Winter 2010.
within even the shortest and most forgettable words we 32 Huddy and Terkildsen 1993; Winter 2008.
speak. This has important implications for the strategies 33 Brooks 2013.
women use to navigate a path toward leadership and offers 34 Ibid.
valuable insight for future research. To that end, this study 35 Karpowitz and Mendelberg 2014.
contributes an original approach to studying gender in 36 Ibid.
political communication, one that unveils some of the 37 Ibid.
more complex and subtle mechanisms that undermine 38 Pearson and Dancey 2011a.
womens representation and authority in politics. Such 39 Karpowitz and Mendelberg 2014, 334.
research contributes to the challenging and extraordinarily 40 Ibid., 336.
important task of uncovering the power of identity in 41 Kathlene 1994.
politics. 42 Cameron 2005.
43 Gertzog 1995; Cameron 2005; Dodson 2006;
Notes Karpowitz and Mendelberg 2014.
1 Manning and Brudnick 2014. 44 Yu 2014.
2 Center for American Women in Politics 2015. 45 Eckert 2000.
3 Eagly and Carli 2007. 46 Shaw 2000.
4 Ibid. 47 Cameron 2005, 498.
5 Gertzog 1995; Dodson 2006; Karpowitz and 48 Winter 2008; Tesler and Sears 2010.
Mendelberg 2014. 49 Clinton 1992a; Clinton 1992b.
6 Quoted in Eagly and Carli 2007, 102. 50 Clinton 1992b.
7 Quoted in Krum 2008. 51 Burrell 2001.
8 Jones 2015. 52 Watson 1999.
9 Tesler and Sears 2010. 53 Burns 2009; Burrell 2001.
10 See, e.g., Mansbridge 1999; Lovenduski 2005. 54 Edwards 2009.
11 Swers 2002; Dodson 2006; Pearson and Dancey 55 McThomas and Tesler 2016.
2011b. 56 Gertzog 1995; Cameron 2005; Dodson 2006;
12 Beckwith and Cowell-Meyers 2007. Karpowitz and Mendelberg 2014.
13 Tajfel and Turner 1979. 57 Lawrence and Rose 2010, 122.
14 Turner et al. 1987. 58 The American Presidency Project., Democratic
15 Kinder and Sears 1981; Winter 2008; Tesler and Presidential Candidates Debate at The Citadel in
Sears 2010; Iyengar, Sood, and Lelkes 2012; Tesler Charleston, South Carolina Transcript of televised
2014. debate, July 23, 2007 compiled by Gerhard Peters and
16 See e.g. Hawkesworth 2003; Htun 2004. John T. Woolley. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/
17 Tesler and Sears 2010. ws/index.php?pid575575, accessed October 2014.
18 Butler 2013. 59 Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
19 Butler 1999. 2007.
20 Lawless and Fox 2010. 60 Ibid.
21 Ibid. 61 Lawrence and Rose 2010; Kornblut 2011.
22 Ibid. 62 Carroll 2009; McKinney, Davis, and Delbert 2009;
23 Kinder et al. 1980. Lawrence and Rose 2010.
24 Huddy and Terkildsen 1993; Duerst-Lahti and Kelly 63 Tetlock 1984.
1995; Eagly and Carli 2007; Kellerman and Rhode 64 Grimmer 2010.
2007; although see Brooks 2013. For an extensive 65 Lowe et al. 2011.
meta-review of studies that nd women are associated 66 Banwart and McKinney 2005.
with communal traits, whereas men and leaders are 67 Pennebaker 2011.
associated with with agentic traits see Eagly and Carli 68 Pinker 1994; Tausczik and Pennebaker 2010.
2007. 69 Pennebaker 2011.

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70 Pennebaker, Mehl, and Niederhoffer 2003; Tausczik are positively associated with well-established
and Pennebaker 2010. measures of implicit motivational states (see, e.g.,
71 Mulac, Bradac, and Gibbons 2001; Newman et al. Schultheiss 2013).
2008; Schwartz et al. 2013. 84 Slatcher et al. 2007.
72 Argamon et al. 2003; Argamon et al. 2007; Newman 85 Yu 2014.
et al. 2008; Schwartz et al. 2013; Pennebaker, e-mail 86 LIWC output is expressed as a percentage of the total
to author, November 24, 2014. words in the text sample. I rst calculated the ratio of
73 Ibid. feminine to masculine linguistic markers in each
74 Campbell 1998; Bystrom et al. 2004; Banwart and document and then calculated the weighted mean
McKinney 2005; Spiker 2009. (using total word count per year) across all docu-
75 Bystrom et al. 2004. ments per year. Thus, estimates are not biased by
76 Ibid. word count in any particular document and yearly
77 Lynch and Dolan 2014. ratios are weighted equally.
78 Dowd 2008. 87 Data were aggregated, weighted by word count, and
79 As, e.g., Winter 2010 nds. ordered by year (for gure 1 and the ratio model in
80 A single collection of texts. table 2) or by quarter (for the full model in table 2) to
81 Interview transcripts were retrieved from the Clinton format regular time series intervals for plotting and
Digital Library, First Ladys Ofce, Press Ofce, analysis.
Lissa Muscatine, Collection no. 20110415-S, 88 Ibid.
William J. Clinton Presidential Library, http://clinton. 89 Burns 2009; Burrell 2001.
presidentiallibraries.us/collections/show/15, accessed 90 Burros 1995.
September 2014. 91 Tausczik and Pennebaker 2010.
82 Interview transcripts were retrieved from LexisNexis, 92 Edwards 2009.
ProQuest, Factiva, the US Department of State, 93 Pennebaker 2011.
Former Secretary Clintons Remarks [Interviews 94 Consider, e.g., The point is . . ., compared to My
Only], http://www.state.gov/secretary/ point is . . ..
20092013clinton/rm/index.htm, accessed October 95 Lawrence and Rose 2010, 122; Tesler and Sears
2014 and the US Department of State, Former 2010.
Secretary Clintons Town Halls and 96 Lawrence and Rose 2010; Kornblut 2011. Similarly,
Townterviews [Interviews, Town Halls and Obama presented a race neutral campaign (Tesler
Townterviews only], http://www.state.gov/secretary/ and Sears 2010). Both race and gender were highly
20092013clinton/townhalls/index.htm, accessed salient during the 2008 election. Attitudes on race
October 2014. Debate transcripts were retrieved and gender were inuential in evaluations of the
from Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, candidates (Tesler and Sears 2010; McThomas and
compilers, Presidential Debates, The American Tesler 2016).
Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb. 97 Pennebaker 2011.
edu/debates.php, accessed October 2014. All 98 Lawrence and Rose 2010.
duplicated transcripts were removed. Data les 99 Ibid.
were processed to ensure questions posed by the 100 Ibid.
interviewer(s)/moderator(s), comments by 101 Gertzog 1995; Dodson 2006; Karpowitz and
speakers other than Clinton, and metadata were Mendelberg 2014.
removed. 102 Carroll 2009, 2.
83 Pennebaker, Booth, and Francis 2007. LIWC 103 Eagly and Carli 2007.
analyzes text samples on a word-by-word basis and 104 Martin 2015.
compares each document to a dictionary of over 105 Pennebaker 2011.
2,000 words divided into 74 linguistic categories.
For example, the articles category searches Supplementary Materials
for instances of the words a, an, and the.
Replication data
Other categories, such as positive emotion
R code to generate analysis
words, have been internally validated by
Description of procedures for preparing the text
independent judges with high intercoder
Original transcripts
reliability and externally validated by Pearson
Transcript metadata
correlational analysis. Further, the relative
Explanatory File
frequencies of certain LIWC-based categories,
such as those related to anger and achievement, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1537592716001092

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