Hillary Clinton: the Playful Bitch, or Gender in Political Journalism

by Hilary Abrahamson

MSNBC host Chris Matthews recently made headlines when he referred to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “playful,” “girlish,” and “youthful.”

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, photo courtesy of Mark Nozell / Flickr

Journalists (specifically male reporters) commenting on the “feminine” personality traits of female political candidates is nothing new–the only thing notable about Matthews’ comments is that they were a refreshing change of pace, since people are a little more used to reporting on Clinton being referred to as masculine, a shrew, or “the stereotypical bitch.”

Clinton isn’t the only female politician to face this kind of gender-specific scrutiny. During the 2008 elections, Sarah Palin was subject to much commentary on how attractive she was.

This Saturday Night Live skit in 2008 mocked the way that media were representing female political candidates during the election.

The video was obviously meant to be a parody for comedic value, but it was also a larger comment on the behavior of journalists.

As a group of future journalists, possibly even political commentators, why do these kind of personality descriptions make it into newsworthy discussion? Are we responsible for the way different genders are represented by the media, or do you even see a problem with it?


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