He or She? The gender role-play in the Presidential election

MDIA2002 Media Article
Ives, Elise z5016678 H12A

By Elise Ives

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: stereotypical portrayal in the Presidential election media coverage


With the US Presidential election looming, and what the World seems to be deeming the two most controversial Presidential candidates America has had, it is no surprise that the worldwide public is watching this election like a hawk and passing judgements on both candidates (even if they say they aren’t). Mia Freedman’s ‘Mia Freedman writes: Why I’m so obsessed with Donald Trump’, Mike Fewster’s ‘Give thanks to Donald Trump, because we could do a lot worse (and probably will)’ and Jessica Valenti’s ‘Hillary Clinton’s problem? We just don’t trust women’ are a collection of views journalism pieces that offer personal insight and a general overview of how the population feels about the two in the heated and controversial upcoming election on November 8 2016.

The media portrayal of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton can be on multiple ends of the spectrum. It is common to find media articles that hold some kind of incline toward opinion for either or of the candidates, whether or not it be directly stated or not. But why is this the case? Why does the media so love to brutally attack these individuals? Surely it cannot be solely for their policies and promises for the future of the United States of America. It is instead, a matter of opinion for personality. In this modernised world that we boast of with equality and feminism, the gender roles of both candidates are subtly implied through some news sources. But in some cases, the individuals are picked apart piece by piece until what is left is nothing but their soft core. This could be seen as a forthright entitlement of the public; after all, these are the potential leaders of one of the most powerful countries on Earth. Why shouldn’t they be torn down until they run for the hills and prove themselves clearly unworthy leaders? Each public US voter will have the opportunity to put forth their opinion on Election Day, and in the leading moments until then; it has become an absolute must to sway the opinions of those who wish to listen.

Author and co-founder, Mia Freedman creates a highly one-sided argument in her article ‘Mia Freedman writes: Why I’m so obsessed with Donald Trump’ published in Mamamia. In analysing the news source for what it stands for, the source is highly new age feminist and stands for equal rights and diversity. The article is undoubtedly an opinion piece, as the context clearly stands in its entirety to be against Trump and everything he stands for. Although, the article harbours some argumentation in justification due to the claims of Trump’s opinions on women, specific races and religions, and his overall policy for his term as a potential US President.

Freedman begins the article with addressing the issue of why her followers have been asking why she is so fixated on Trump and the US election campaign. As Mamamia has been noted to be a feminist, left-wing source, it can be understood immediately that despite the headline of this article in reference to the authors “obsession” with Trump, this is not a positive obsession in the slightest and the readership of this article are much aligned with the authors views, therefore the article is merely a “flag waving” article and intends to poke fun at Trump in a coherent and feminist way.

Freedman intends to voice her opinion on the personality of Trump as well as his policies. Her use of language such as “loathing for this repugnant, buffoon-like Oompa Loompa of a man” and “he is the worst type of human. A misogynist, a racist, a bigot”, so very clearly states the authors distaste for Trump and support for Hillary in this manner. These claims are interpretative and cannot be universally implied to all.

The article overall states the author’s hatred for Trump and his policies and views Hillary in a positive light. This can be seen through language in reference to Hillary such as, “the most qualified person ever to run for President”. It can be analysed that the article appeals to ethics and morality of feministic terms, as well as consequential due to the author’s notion that if Donald Trump is elected President, the world as we know it will end… basically. So, if her claim is that Donald Trump is an unworthy winner let alone a candidate, and her justification for this claim is that Hillary is a diverse and strong leader whom will lead the country to success, her warrant is clearly stated in which she quotes, “Donald Trump is a hater.”

Although, aside from the left-wing nature of this article, the author herself becomes the “name caller”, ironically quoted in the article about Trump. The author offers entirely negative opinion on the individual and in doing that, creates the contrast of gender roles in media coverage. Although opinions on Trump are likely to be aligned with this article as readership of Mamamia, the author is creating a one-sided argument on Trump and Hillary in comparison, and therefore adds fuel to this stereotypical gender role-play of the US Presidential election candidates.

Collins (2011) suggest in her study of gender stereotypes in the media, that women are often portrayed as the weaker sex and are often objectified. Of course, in relevance to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the audience can look back on Trump’s comments about women and see the blatant sexism. Although, if looking at the position of Trump in this article, he is brutally picked apart by the author for all his flaws and in doing so is objectified in a manner that Collins (2012) is stating that women are subjected too.

“Thus, the overwhelming pattern of under-representing women begs the question of how this affects consumers of media content… Does the under-representation of women constrict societal perspectives and information in important ways?” (Collins, 2011 p. 292) suggests that the portrayal of powerful women, let alone all women in the media can affect the viewers and create propaganda of influence. This can be shown heavily in this article, but in juxtaposition to the role of Hillary.

Diversely, Mike Fewster’s, ‘Give thanks to Donald Trump, because we could do a lot worse (and probably will)’, published in New Matilda, offers an opinion article that although the author does not wholeheartedly trust and admire Trump, he insinuates disappoint at the potential of loss for Trump and his presidential campaign. The article acts as an argumentation piece although it is underlined with opinion. The article does not intend to annoy or provoke readers, nor so does it act to persuade them, but almost acts as an article that is completely passive and offers only an informed evaluation on the situation and any further consequences that will come from the election results.

Fewster states initially that with Trump, what you see is what you get. He refers to him as “a caricature with pitchfork in hand, horns on head and breathing smoke”. Fewster almost applauds him for how is he and his honesty when campaigning. The insinuation suggests that Trump is a worthy candidate not due to his radical policies and large personality, but more so his blatant uprightness in how he holds himself. Personally, I believe that due to the gender and nature of the author, this claim is justified only due to gender roles and Trump is seen to be honourable in this manner, where as it may not be the case for a controversially head strong candidate like Trump in female form.

The author offers a very two-sided opinion on the matter of Trump’s foreseen loss. It becomes clear that Fewster is neither pro-Trump nor pro-Hillary, but again offers insight into the dilemma at hand and the future of the US after Election Day.

What can be deduced from this very passive article, is that Fewster’s primary claim is that candidate Trump is a force to be reckoned with, but at the same time, does not suit the role of US President well due to his policies even though his campaign has been strong and admirable. The claim can be considered as evaluative, and offers an insight into how the author believes the aftermath of the election will play out for all involved, including Hillary.

The author quotes, “the storm awaiting President Clinton will sweep over those policies as well.” This suggests the notion that a potential President Clinton could crumble under the pressure of what is to come as a leader of the United States. In saying this, I do not believe this can be considered to be a sexist remark, but more so an outlook on how the United States situation would affect any new president, male or female.

The article overall appeals to ethics and morality in a sense that oversees the results of the election and how it will affect all involved, as well as potential consequence. As mentioned, although the article provides an appeal to morality and offers a very passive ideal on the outcome of the election neither in favour of either candidate, I do believe some of the language used by the author views Trump in a light that differs to Hillary.

“Unfortunately, the man will be defeated not because what he stands for has been weighed and rejected, but because the man himself is unsellable”, is a quote from Fewster and this suggests that voters will choose not to vote for Trump based on policy (regardless of whether they are morally and politically correct or incorrect), but instead focuses on the personality of Trump. This again is a blatant portrayal of election coverage of the media, and focuses on the candidates as individual personalities rather than what they bring to the country as a reckonable force of power and success.

Finally, Jessica Valenti offers an opinion piece left-wing opinion on the matter of Hillary as an overlooked powerful candidate due to her gender. ‘Hillary Clinton’s problem? We just don’t trust women’, published in the Guardian acts as a rally in favour of Hillary and her policies, as well as her as a woman in power. The demographic of the audience for the Guardian would clearly be left-wing supporters, so this article appeals to an audience that do not need persuading and have similar outlooks to the author. Alternatively, the article can act as an offer of opinion to persuade readers into agreeing with the author, but this notion is open to interpretation as to readership and audience reach.

The primary claim of this argument can be considered to be evaluative as the overall notion of the article states that the view of Hillary in opposition to Trump is that of negative purely based on her gender, rather than her policies and promise.

Valenti uses language that justifies her claims of sexism through quotes such as, “when it comes to sexual assault or domestic violence, victims – the vast majority of whom are women – are still widely disbelieved”.

It is this form of media perspective that has influenced audiences to view women as a specific gender stereotype. The notion of sexual assault clearly does not relate to Hillary in this instance as a presidential candidate, but instead inclines that negative portray of women in the media acts as the justification that women (and especially women in power) can be viewed as poorly or as a threat.

Galdi et al (2014) suggests in a study on women objectified in the media that women are seen to be inferior to their male counterparts and more so influenced by appearance and sexuality.
“Across many TV genres, women, in contrast to their male counterparts, are typically presented as decorative elements whose value is based solely on their physical appearance.” (Galdi et al, 2014 p. 399) suggest that in claims made by Trump in regards to women in general as well as Hillary, the sexualisation or mockery of such in this notion is a blatant example of this.

Galdi et al (2014) also suggests that women are objectified heavily on the television.
Galdi et all quotes, “objectification of women in television not only is visual but also is expressed by explicit as well as subtle verbal acts.” (Galdi et al, 2014 p. 399)
This statement links closely with the notion that Hillary is judged on her appearance on television and how she expresses herself in this manner. Of course, this statement also refers to Trump but can be a clear indication of the media portrayal of the candidates and their success in campaign.

The justifications made in Valenti’s article appeal to a notion of ethics and morality. This justification is shown in allowing equal voter opinion to be based on policies only rather than content of character of the candidates. It appeals to the notion that neither of the candidates should be promoted through their gender but instead by their ability to lead.

Valenti states, “it’s impossible to divorce the way that voters view her from the misogyny she’s faced over decades. She’s considered “guarded” – but how could she not be after years of sexist smears and slights? Trump, on the other hand, is lauded for “telling it like it is” even as so much of what he says is shown to be untrue.” This notion applies closely to Fewster’s article in terms of Trump being applauded for his honesty through negative constructs.

The warrant of this article is clear in the underlying notion of equal rights for the candidates and offering a fair consideration for both before passing judgment.

The overall connection between the articles is the offer of opinion in relation to each candidate. All offer multilayered views and this links closely with the ideal of negative or positive media portrayal purely based on the characteristics of each individual.

When it comes down to the future of the election on November 8, it will rely much on opinion. Much like the articles in terms of their offering of personal opinion to sway the reader or just to offer evaluative aspect on the situation, the results of the election are driven purely by voter opinion. Media coverage and influence can only act as an intentional affect for the voter, but of course, it all boils down to the voter beliefs.


Collins, R. 2011, “Content Analysis of Gender Roles in Media: Where Are We Now and Where Should We Go?” Sex Roles, Vol. 64, Springer Science and Business Media pp. 290-298

Freedman, M. 2016, “Mia Freedman writes: “Why I’m so obsessed with Donald Trump” Mamamia, accessed 31 Oct 2016 <http://www.mamamia.com.au/mia-freedman-donald-trump/>

Fewster, M. 2016, “Give Thanks to Donald Trump, Because We Could Do A lot Worse (And Probably Will)” New Matilda, accessed 31 Oct 2016 <https://newmatilda.com/2016/10/26/give-thanks-to-donald-trump-because-we-could-do-a-lot-worse-and-probably-will/>

Galdi, S. Maass, A. Cadinu, M. 2014, “Objectifying Media: Their Effect on Gender Role Norms and Sexual Harassment of Women” Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol. 38 No. 3, Sage Publications pp. 398-413

Valenti, J. 2016, “Hillary Clinton’s problem? We just don’t trust women” The Guardian, accessed 31 Oct 2016 <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/22/hillary-clinton-women-trust>

Photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/24564574914

Leave a Reply