Women's political rhetoric: The cases of United States vice-presidential nominees Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin




Lockhart, Michele

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The dissertation focuses on two case studies, specifically, the two women nominated to run for vice president of the United States (U.S.) on a major party ticket, Democrat or Republican, specifically, Democrat Geraldine Ferraro and Republican Sarah Palin. The purpose of this study includes the following: first, to determine the extent to which women's political rhetoric has changed; second, to identify rhetorical techniques female candidates implement prior to, during, and after the period when they are nominated to run for an elected, national position, third and fourth, to determine the extent to which Ferraro's and Palin's political rhetoric changed during their campaigns, and what effects, if any, this change had on the political audience; finally, to identify the role the media play in the lives and careers of these two political women. This interdisciplinary study incorporates areas such as rhetoric, women in politics, political rhetoric, leadership and the presidency, and politics and the media in order to investigate the language women use in politics.

A unique methodological design for statistical representation of qualitative data was created in order to illustrate graphically when particular terms were used within Ferraro's and Palin's speeches. Leadership qualities of Ferraro, Palin, and their respective presidential counterparts were examined. Interviews were conducted with presidential leadership and presidential rhetoric scholars. Primary and secondary sources were used to conduct a content analysis and explicate newspaper headlines in order to understand the implications of the language used by these two women.

The conclusions of this dissertation suggest that the language women use in U.S. politics at the national level is becoming more assertive and direct. However, based upon the historicity of Ferraro and Palin, language restrictiveness on behalf of each political campaign increased. The language female political figures use to address particular topics has changed substantially. The media remained consistent in their interpretation of changing political discourse; however, the language of the individual political woman remains inconsistent. Both Ferraro and Palin made U.S. history and progressed the women's movement and fight for equality; women may be elected in U.S. vice-presidential elections if they choose their words wisely.



Social sciences, Language, literature, and linguistics, Geraldine Ferraro, Leadership, Media, Sarah Palin, Political science, Rhetoric, Vice President