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French and Feminine: Hegemonic Masculinity and the Emasculation of John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential Race

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Abstract:

French leaders met the September 2002 announcement of preemptive U.S. military action in Iraq with open disapproval. Thereafter, in the build-up to the "Iraq war," as U.S. military strikes began in 2003 and continued in 2004, France became the target of nationalistic attacks in the United States. Building on this anti-French sentiment, George W. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign used narratives that cast Frenchness as feminine, assigning "Frenchness" to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry - and thereby characterizing him as unfit for the White House. Specifically, political conservatives sought to strip Kerry of the masculine qualities perceived necessary to serve as president of the United States. Analysis of American political and media discourse from September 2002 to November 2004 shows that the 2004 presidential campaign came to be defined in substantial part by nationalistic and sexist political communications that capitalized upon and reinscribed patterns and norms of hegemonic masculinity while also feminizing and devaluing dissent in times of war.

Keywords: Cultural Resonance; Discourse Analysis; Hegemonic Masculinity; Presidential Elections; U.S.-France Relations; Wartime Political Discourse

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07393180701262743

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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