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Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't?

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This article seeks to understand the gendered dynamics of political leadership in contemporary Israeli society by examining how the Israeli press dealt with the issue of Tzipi Livni's “womanhood” and “feminine style” (or lack thereof) in the course of the 2008–2009 campaign. By analyzing the media debate surrounding Livni's candidacy to the premiership, I am able to complicate the discussion concerning the media's treatment of the issue of gender and political leadership in general and in Israel in particular. The main sources of data are some fifty items published in the daily national newspapers during the election campaign, and Livni's website. Employing a rhetorical analysis, I chart the persistent power of gender ideologies in Israeli public and political discourses and outline the ways in which they are accepted, contested and subverted. I find that although creative appropriation attempts were made to produce an alternative leadership discourse, these came fairly late in the campaign and were unfocused, and thus, ultimately, were unable to pose a serious challenge to Israeli gender ideologies concerning leadership.
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Keywords: 2009 general elections; Israeli media; Tzipi Livni; gender; leadership; “feminine style”

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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