Picturing Politics: Female Political Leaders in France and Norway
This article explores images of high-level female politicians in France and Norway from 1980 to 2010, examining the ways in which they present themselves to the media and their subsequent reception by journalists. Women in French politics experience difficulties living up to a masculine heroic leadership ideal historically marked by drama, conquest, and seductiveness. In contrast, Norwegian female politicians have challenged the traditional leadership ethos of conspicuous modesty and low-key presentation. We argue that images of French and Norwegian politicians in the media are not only national constructions; they are also gendered. Seven images of women in politics are discussed: (1) men in skirts and ladies of stone, (2) seductresses, (3) different types of mothers, (4) heroines of the past, (5) women in red, (6) glamorous women, and (7) women using ironic femininity. The last three images—color, glamour, and irony—are identified as new strategies female politicians use to accentuate their positions of power with signs of female sensuality. It is thus possible for female politicians to show signs of feminine sensuality and still avoid negative gender stereotyping.
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