From Publishers Weekly
University of Kentucky journalism professor Braden's survey of the media's portrayal of female politicians is complete, reflective and, most of all, thought-provoking. The author uses illustrations from the political lives of women dating back to Jeannette Rankin, the Montana Republican who became the first woman elected to Congress in 1916?four years before national suffrage. Presidential hopeful and Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, whose career spanned 32 years in the House and Senate; 1984 Vice-Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro; and former Texas governor Ann Richards are among the many women chronicled here. Braden addresses the media's craving for novelty and conflict in reporting, and how this journalistic tack often skews the depiction of female politicians in the news. Male and female journalists too often describe a female candidate by her appearance and by courtesy titles. There are several examples of a double standard for women in public office, one that of legislator Bella Abzug, who was often trashed in the media for her tough, aggressive demeanor?qualities often viewed as admirable in her male counterparts. Current media attitudes toward female politicians are also explored?"They may still be described in terms of their relationship to a husband, father, or child. And no matter how serious they are, they are still trivialized by media coverage focusing on how they look or sound, what they wear, or how they style their hair." The passing of Barbara Jordan during the reading of this book made the author's point painfully clear. Among her many accomplishments, Jordan was a member of the House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach President Richard Nixon. In 1976, she also became the first African-American and the first woman to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Despite these achievements, on the day after her passing, the headlines were so laden with references to the quality of her voice that the unknowing would have believed a famous singer had died. Illustrations.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Women politicians in the United States have always been subjected to a different degree of journalistic scrutiny than their male counterparts. A focus on figure, fashion, and hairdo often distracts voters from a female candidate's record. Maria Braden, journalism professor at the University of Kentucky, analyzes how the careers of such successful politicians as former Texas governor Ann Richards, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, and former Rep. Bella Abzug withstood the glaring media spotlight. Geraldine Ferraro, nominated as the first woman vice president in 1984, believes microscopic media scrutiny started with her campaign, especially when her husband's finances cast a shadow over her own accomplishments. Braden examines women presidential candidates from Victoria Woodhull, almost universally shunned when she ran for president in 1872, to Margaret Chase Smith in 1964 and Shirley Chisholm in 1972. Shifts in media attention are also noted; for example, Christine Todd Whitman received excellent coverage that focused more on her politics than on her gender or marital status in her bid for governor of New Jersey in 1993. Jennifer Henderson