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'Are you tough enough?' Performing gender in the UK leadership debates 2015

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Orly Siow



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage Publications Ltd, 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Leaders’ debates have become a feature of contemporary election campaigning. While an historical feature of the US landscape, in the United Kingdom, they are a more recent phenomenon. The second UK 2015 general election leadership debate comprised seven candidates, of which three were women. Using qualitative thematic analysis and adopting the notion that gender is ‘performed’, we explore three features of coverage of the debate. First, the ways in which the debate itself was constructed as a masculine activity through a series of highly gendered metaphors; second, how newspaper frames reinforced gendered notions of masculinity and femininity in respect of political leadership; and third, how the success of women in the debates was constructed as the emasculation of their male rivals. Crucially, we focus not just on the ‘feminisation’ of women in the political arena, but also on the ways in which masculinity is posited as the criterion for the evaluation of politicians of all genders.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Harmer E, Savigny H, Ward O

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Media, Culture & Society

Year: 2017

Volume: 39

Issue: 7

Pages: 960-975

Print publication date: 01/10/2017

Online publication date: 15/12/2016

Acceptance date: 18/10/2016

Date deposited: 08/08/2019

ISSN (print): 0163-4437

ISSN (electronic): 1460-3675

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/0163443716682074


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