Politics & Gender

Race and Gender in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Nomination Process

Sexism and Gender Bias in Election 2008: A More Complex Path for Women in Politics

Jennifer L. Lawlessa1

a1 Brown University

When Hillary Clinton announced her presidential candidacy, questions about the role of gender in presidential politics immediately surfaced. Would gender stereotyping and sexism pervade the electoral environment? Would the media treat Clinton differently than her competitors in the Democratic primary field? Would Clinton's candidacy mobilize women of all types, simply by virtue of its historic nature? And when Clinton lost the Democratic nomination, new questions quickly arose. Was America just not ready to elect a female president? To what extent did Bill Clinton account for Senator Clinton's successes and failures? How would the 18 million women and men who cast their ballots for Clinton vote in the general election? With so many interesting unknowns, political scientists will likely spend the next several years examining Hillary Clinton's campaign and assessing the extent to which her sex affected her experiences and contributed to her primary loss.

Jennifer L. Lawless is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Brown University. She is the author (with Richard Fox) of It Takes A Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office (Cambridge University Press, 2005), and several academic articles on gender, elections, and representation.


Thanks to Sara Gentile and Nathan Kohlenberg for their research assistance, and to Richard Fox, whose comments on early drafts of this essay improved it significantly.