Cross-situational Consistency of Female Politicians’ Language Use

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Abstract


This article seeks to study political discourses of American female politicians, specifically Madeleine Albright, the first female United States Secretary of State in the history of the United States of America, from 1997 to 2001, Condoleezza Rice, the 66th United States Secretary of State, and Hillary Clinton, the 67th United States Secretary of State. Different in age, ethnicity, political views, educational and social backgrounds, they reveal that in order to succeed in the political arena, women are bound to hide their female personality. Examples in question are Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice, recurrent users of such male discursive features as rhetorical questions, logical order of arguments, conceptual metaphors of war, sports, and hunting. Gender-marked female discourse is characterized by hesitation, use of standard speech, cognitive, social words, and hedges. Research shows that Hilary Clinton is a typical example of the female-marked political discourse. This has enabled her to pursue, among others, a feminist agenda, which has proved an efficient communicative tactic. Drawing on the socialization specifics of Albright, Rice, and Clinton, the paper explains why Albright and Rice tend to have a male-marked discourse and Clinton a female-marked discourse, as the first female Secretary of State, Albright simply had no female role models, with only male predecessors before her. She seeks to make her speech as neutral as possible, just at times exploiting female discursive patterns. Condoleezza Rice, Albright’s successor, uses characteristically male discourse the most. It can be attributable to the fact that she belongs to two ‘minority’ groups: women and African Americans. Sounding femalish might have weakened her chances to stay the strong Secretary of State that the geopolitical situation would demand. It is noteworthy that female politicians can, or have to, switch between male-marked and female-marked discourses in order to achieve certain goals and preserve their current status.


Featuring genderlect studies Gender studies is a popular, yet underdeveloped branch of political linguistics. Researchers, for example [1; 2], have not yet arrived at a cut-and-dried conclusion as to the differences between male discourse and female discourse. Pennebaker claims that “one group of scientists passionately believes that men and women are essentially the same; another believes that they are profoundly different” [3. P. 45]. This can be attributable to the fact that men and women are brought up and socialized differently. In her book Language and Woman’s Place Robin Lakoff [4] underlined some nuances of gender-marked language. She argued that men used the language of power and rudeness, while women’s speech tended to be more passive, and more polite. Cutting across phonology, prosody, vocabulary, and syntax, Lakoff observed that women’s speech in English is characterized by hesitation. Women also tend to make extensive use of standard markers. Lakoff argued that this style is derived from a sense of inferiority [5]. Several studies afterwards supported Lakoff’s observations. By the early 1990s, Deborah Tannen, a linguist at Georgetown University, published the book You Just Don’t Understand which argued that “men and women often talk past each other without appreciating that the other sex is almost another culture. Women, for example, are highly attentive to the thoughts and feelings of others; men are less so. Women view men’s speaking styles as blunt and uncaring; men view women’s as indirect and obscure” [3. P. 45]. While it is argued that men and women perceive the world differently and use language accordingly [6], researchers use language as a tool to determine the contrast between the two. Nowadays, when the political platform is being heavily “invaded” by women, interest in the analysis of their political speeches is increasing proportionally and, in fact, quite a few linguists, including Lakoff, Charteris-Black, and Chilton have channeled their work to analyze political discourse. For example, James Pennebaker in his book The Secret Life of Pronouns confirmed that gender affects the way we use words. He argues that “women use first-person singular, cognitive, and social words more; men use articles more; and there are no meaningful differences between men and women for first-person plural or positive emotion words” [3. P. 40]. Cognitive words are words that reflect different ways of thinking and include words such as: understand, know, think, because, reason, rational, and so on. Social words refer to any words that are related to other human beings. According to Pennebaker [3], males categorize their worlds by counting, naming, and organizing the objects they confront. Women, in addition to personalizing their topics, talk in a more dynamic way, focusing on how their topics change. It means that discussing change implies using more verbs. Finally, one of the most studied dimensions of women’s language is hedges. Hedges typically start a sentence in the form of a phrase such as “I think that” or “It seems to me” or “I don’t know but ...” Scholars have repeatedly discussed gender differences between politicians. Gender peculiarities of communicative behaviour of public figures are a traditional focus of attention and stereotypical forms of behaviour of men and women are described as well as national and cultural specifics of verbal and nonverbal communication among representatives of ethnic cultures. Gender communicative behaviour is thus a type of socially determined communicative behaviour that requires systemic description in political discourse [7]. An important component of communicative behaviour is a theatrical nature of politicians. A communicative portrait gives us the ground to determine gender roles of politicians. It is observed with the help of analyzing gender-marked metaphors a politician uses. Some linguists argue that metaphors might not really be gender-marked and the differences or similarities in the choices depend on the target audience and the political course of a party and its objectives [8]. Nurseitova [7] made a comparison between typical roles of male politicians and female politicians, investigated by Issers [9] in 1998, in the article Language and Gender in Political Discourse (Mass Media Interviews). Nurseitova analyzed political metaphors and concluded that in today’s political communication women mostly use the conceptual spheres of “nature”, “production” and “physiology”, third come the metaphors associated with “journey” and “military” sphere. Gender specific are metaphors associated with “household objects”, “family” and “characters of the fairy tales”, men do not use them at all. The fact that some conceptual spheres of men and women coincide proves that there is a redistribution of social power in society and there are increasingly more women in politics [7]. Charteris-Black [10] arrived at an interesting conclusion while analyzing British parliamentary debates. He observed that men tend to use more metaphors than women and inexperienced women politicians try to avoid employing them in their speech. Furthermore, Charteris-Black singles out an obvious tendency of female politicians to avoid the usage of health metaphors in their speech [11]. Totibadze [11] in her work Most Frequently Used Gendered Metaphors in British Political Discourse argues that “so-called feminine metaphors connote the ideas that are primarily connected to the function of a woman in a domestic space/family or a society, such as a child bearer, mother or a homemaker. Consequently, feminine metaphors include NURTURING (cooking, feeding, etc.) and other notions that as a cliché are associated with femininity” [12]. On the other hand, masculine metaphors are comprised of the notions denoting historic roles of men, among which are HUNTING, WAR and, nowadays SPORT, operating machinery and using tools [13]. These particular metaphors show a high tendency to discriminate and exclude women. It can be assumed that politics is a male-driven sphere and when part of it, women subconsciously or consciously use the metaphors that are associated with power and winning, rather than stressing their maternity and nurturing side of their nature. This is how they avoid placing an emphasis on the empathetic side of feminine character and stress its strong, ‘man-like’ side in order to achieve political power. It should also be stressed that metaphors are not only used while describing certain political situations, but are also perfect techniques in the process of creating an image of a political leader, in order to enhance or weaken their gender-marked public image. For instance, calling Margaret Thatcher “The Iron Lady” “underlies her iron-like character, which for its part presents her strong personality - unusual for a woman. Gendered metaphors related to Hillary Clinton sometimes help her revise positively her role in society (Madonna), or, on the contrary, destroy her femininity and public image (Witch, Bitch)”. Geert Hofstede [14] divides ethnic cultures into masculine and feminine and distribute indexes to them. Men in feminine cultures hold more feminine values than women in masculine cultures. According to the data proposed by Hofstede, the UK, for example, shows a high (66/100) masculinity index (MAS). This score implies that both men and women are more focused on achievement and are driven by success and competition. In addition, women are more commonly accepted in man-driven workspaces, for instance in the subculture of politics. Hence, British female politicians are likely to be more ‘masculine’ in their speech patterns than feminine. Therefore, the most frequent metaphors will be from the domains that are inherently connected to the functions of a male member of society. Potapov [15], Arustamyan [16], Polyakova [17], Danilova [18], Vagenlyaytner [19], Kendall and Tannen [20], Wodak [21], Brouner [22], Fracchiolla [5], McConnell-Ginet [23], Ferrary [24] claim that female strategies and tactics are in a way different from male. Russian and international researchers have largely focused on the main differences between male and female linguistic behavior [25; 26], phonetic differences of gender [15], lexical differences [27], markers of female linguistic behavior [17; 28; 21], interplay between gender and politeness [29; 22], gender psycholinguistics [30], language in the history of feminism [31; 32], connection between language and power [33]. Problem-setting and the novelty of research The last two decades in American politics have brought about the emergence of three women politicians, Madeleine Albright (the first female United States Secretary of State in U.S. history, from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton), Condoleezza Rice (the 66th United States Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009, the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush, the first female African-American Secretary of State), and Hillary Clinton (the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001, 67th United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, and as the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election, the first woman nominated by a major party). It would not be an exaggeration to say that these women have made history, defining national strategies and geopolitical turns. Likewise, one may not argue that their discourses have rarely, if ever, been studied in contrast. For instance, the scientific information sources dissetcat.com and sciencedirect.com provided no results as of May 30, 2019. Hence, the novelty of this paper. Research shows that their discourses were influenced by several meaningful factors, including differences in familial, social, and political backgrounds (Madeleine Albright is divorced, Condoleezza Rice has never been married and Hillary Clinton is married to the 42nd president of the United States Bill Clinton; Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton are representatives of the Democratic Party, and Condoleezza Rice is a Republican), which can enable us to discuss cross-situational consistency of their language use, thereby making a contribution to genderlect studies. This paper sets itself the task of analyzing several speeches on a similar topic by Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton with the intention of finding idiosyncratic properties of their discourses and scrutinize their speaking styles. The speeches under analysis are as follows: Theresa May on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage; Theresa May’s first statement as Prime Minister, July 13th, 2016; Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, October 6th, 2015; Theresa May’s Brexit speech, January 17th, 2017; Theresa May’s Tory leadership launch statement, June 30th, 2016; Nicola Sturgeon’s full speech at SNP conference October 12th, 2017; Nicola Sturgeon’s speech on International Women’s Day 2017; Nicola Sturgeon about Scotland’s commitment to Europe; Nicola Sturgeon at EU Referendum Result Press Conference at Bute House 2016; Madeleine Albright on Building a Bipartisan Foreign Policy, 1997; Madeleine K. Albright’s Statement to the North Atlantic Council, 1998; Madeleine K. Albright’s Interview on NBC-TV “The Today Show”, 1998; Madeleine K. Albright’s Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, 1999; Madeleine K. Albright’s Statement at the Opening Plenary of the Multilateral Steering Group (Middle East Peace), 2000; Madeleine K. Albright’s Farewell Remarks at U.S. Department of State, 2001; Condoleezza Rice’s Overview of International Support for Iraqi Democracy on the Eve of the December 15, 2005 Elections; Condoleezza Rice’s Remarks at the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign’s 10th Anniversary Gala Dinner, 2005; Rice’s Remarks at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, 2006; Rice’s remarks at Georgetown School of Foreign Service, 2006; Condoleezza Rice’s remarks On International Women’s Day, 2007; Press Conference by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 2007; Rice’s Remarks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, 2007; Secretary Rice Addresses U.S.-Russia Relations At The German Marshall Fund, 2008; Rice’s Farewell Remarks to the State Department Press Corps, 2009; Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the human rights agenda for the 21st century, 2009; Hillary Clinton at Women’s Empowerment Event November 3, 2010; Secretary Clinton’s Remarks on Women, Peace, and Security, 2011; Clinton’s Remarks to the Inauguration of the 2012 National Work-Life and Family Month Event, 2012; Clinton’s Farewell Remarks to State Department Employees, 2013; Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Launch Speech, 2015; Hillary Clinton’s Super Tuesday Victory Speech, 2016. The speeches were selected due to their prominent character and illustrative nature of the politicians’ linguistic behaviors. The Madam Secretaries appeared in similar communicative situations and aimed to achieve similar objectives. This research is done within the framework of critical discourse analysis with special emphasis on lexical, syntactical, and stylistic patterns in the communicative behaviors. Contrastive analysis of Albright’s, Rice’s, and Clinton’s discourses Madeleine Korbel Albright (82) is an American politician, a democrat. She has been the first female United States Secretary of State in U.S. history (1997-2001) serving under President Bill Clinton. Condoleezza Rice (64) served as the 66th US Secretary of State (2005-2009) in the administration of President George W. Bush. Rice was the first female African-American Secretary of State and the first female National Security Advisor (2001-2005). Growing up as a Democrat, she later became a strong Republican. Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (71) is an American politician who was the First Lady of the United States (1993-2001), served as U.S. Senator from New York (2001-2009) and 67th United States Secretary of State (2009-2013). The discourses of Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State are different at some points and similar at other points. In general, the female politicians’ discourses are characterized by a wealth of evaluative epithets, which make their speech sound emotional and personalized. Such, for example, are Madeleine Albright’s and Hillary Clinton’s words: “I am happy to report that a truly impressive coalition of leading companies has supported this process and welcomed these principles” (Madeleine K. Albright, Press Briefing, December 20, 2000, Washington, D.C.), “The struggling, the striving and the successful” (Hillary Clinton’s Super Tuesday victory speech, March 1, 2016). The use of hedges is equally widespread among the female politicians. Both Albright and Clinton use hedges in their speech: “Our discussions have - you know, I have benefited a great deal from the friendship and advice of my predecessors, and I offered him my continued support” (Madeleine K. Albright, Press Briefing, December 20, 2000, Washington, D.C.), “So I can imagine who only, you know, follow it from, you know, some of the snippets on TV might, you know not be sure exactly who’s saying what and what the campaigns are doing” (Interview with Senator Hillary Clinton, April 21, 2008). Many linguists claim that the use of hedges is conditioned by a willingness to express solidarity and not to hurt the interlocutor. The hedge you know shows lack of conviction and acts as a signal for displaying support. These are the examples of ladylike talk, or “expressions and sentence constructions inherent to women” [4]. Albright and Clinton exploit traditional male discourse markers. Yet, in contrast to Rice they do it to a slightly different extent. Traditional masculine arguments allow Albright to maintain credibility as the chief foreign policy officer and afford her the freedom of drawing the feminine features into the discussion in a way that does not seem threatening her reputation. Clinton skillfully plays the roles of mother, lawyer, and expert. She compares America to a family, which, ironically, has no head, and it may seem that she pretends to be it: “like any family, our American family is strongest when we cherish what we have in common, and fight back against those who would drive us apart” (Hillary Clinton’s Super Tuesday victory speech, March 1, 2016). Moreover, the enemy is the Republican Party, wishing to drive the American family apart by creating a larger separation between social and economic classes and Hillary Clinton hopes to become the leader of the Democrats. Condoleezza Rice is a completely different type of woman in politics. She sticks to traditional, masculine, foreign policy arguments and avoids showing off her femininity. She puts emphasis on military means to achieve her ends. On the whole, Rice’s discourse, unlike that of Albright or Clinton, largely remains rooted in a traditional masculine framework. The conceptual construction metaphor, which is recurrent in Albright’s, Rice’s and Clinton’s discourses, acts as the litmus test for the difference between the discourses. Rice combines this metaphor with the notion of democracy: “But what is needed is to help people build the institutions of democracy, to build civil society, [...] to build competent police forces, to build competent judiciary forces that are not corrupt...”, “[...] prosperity could be built, humanitarian values could spread and, indeed, national security could be secured.”, “...we are rebuilding the foundation of the resources” (Condoleezza Rice at Atrium Ballroom of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington, DC November 8, 2005). The examples show that this metaphor highlights Rice’s intolerance toward any country lacking US style democracy, it is branded as under-developed. Clinton, on the contrary, uses this metaphor in reference to the USA, and not to other countries. “Building”, according to Clinton, is about tolerance and unity: “To build success for the long run”, “civil society can build the foundations for rights-respecting development...” (Hillary Rodham Clinton Remarks on the Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century, Washington, D.C. December 14, 2009). Albright’s construction metaphor is somewhere in between: it is not as harsh and masculine as Rice’s, and not as liberal and feminine as Clinton’s: “Democratic progress must be sustained as it was built - by American leadership”, “Leaders such as Truman, Marshall and Vandenberg were determined to build a lasting peace” (Albright’s Address at Rice Memorial Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas, February 7, 1997), “[Montenegro] has built a more democratic system”, “[WMD initiative] builds on the successful work”, “we are building the relationship” [Madeleine K. Albright, Statement to the North Atlantic Council, Brussels, Belgium, December 8, 1998]. Albright strives to establish a robust cooperation with other countries. Madeleine Albright’s discourse is gender-neutral. The construction metaphor can be regarded as gender-neutral. There are conceptual metaphors however that are used by women solely, for example, metaphors associated with health, family and nurturing. And Albright sometimes resorts to these: “Mr. Chairman [...] I was blessed with my fourth grandchild, and first granddaughter. Her name is Madeleine. I hope I am not being selfish when I say that I want Madeleine and others her age to grow up like those of us on both sides of this table in one respect could not” (Madeleine K. Albright, Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Washington, DC, October 7, 1999). Condoleezza Rice has never used these types of metaphors, with her, demonstrating gender is the same as exhibiting your vulnerabilities. Hillary Clinton, on the contrary, is at ease with female metaphors, and they are plentiful in her speeches. For instance, “Like any family, our American family is strongest when we cherish what we have in common, and fight back against those who would drive us apart” (Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Launch Speech, June 13, 2015). Clinton establishes a new leadership paradigm and she believes that it may secure her victory. The personal pronoun “I” is another focus of research. Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton use first personal singular very often, which is indicative of self-focus and attitudes toward different events: “I love policy, I do not really love politics” (Condoleezza Rice, June 26, 2012), “I want to be... your champion. If you’ll give me the chance, I’ll wage and win Four Fights for you” (Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Launch Speech, June 13, 2015). Madeleine Albright, as the first woman Secretary of State, hesitates whether to act all alone and to show her individuality. She mostly uses the pronoun we: “we had a half-a-million troops...”, “...we push him back”, “we have to contain Saddam Hussein” (Madeleine K. Albright, Interview on NBC-TV “The Today Show” with Matt Lauer, Columbus, Ohio, February 19, 1998). Albright, Rice and Clinton, however, demonstrate that success comes at the price of maintaining masculine discourse of power and security. All the three have a strong character and a will of iron, which is essential for resisting pressure coming from male politicians, because being a female politician is a challenge, which demands hard work and uncompromising nature. Discussion Gender is an inalienable part of political language. It is built on cultural and social bases, it has to do with one’s race, ethnicity, social standing, educational backgrounds, work experiences and other factors. Since politics is a male-driven sphere, the conventional politician is always a man, the role of a public advocate is masculine-gendered. Discourse studies show that a female politician is still considered a deviation of the norm. It serves as an integral element in the conceptual opposition “us” and “them”. A tendency toward linguistic feminization in politics can be considered discreditable due to the fact that the conventional and “right” politician is male. Speech feminization alienates women in politics, but possibly aids them to move closer to female voters. It is expressed in speech with the help of hedges (“You know...”) or conceptual family and nurturing metaphors, which are actively used by Hillary Clinton. Today political discourse has a tendency to level down gender-marked language markers or even to masculinize speech of women politicians. Masculinization of female discourse can be exemplified by Condoleezza Rice. Primarily it is manifested in self-referencing and direct accusations of the other party. Research shows that women politicians, consciously or subconsciously, avoid emotional language in their strife to imitate male discourse. And all for the same reason, politics is a male-dominated sphere. Entering into the complex sphere of politics, a woman needs to hammer out an analytical, consistent, direct, and cold-minded way of thinking which would be manifested in her language. This can bring fame, respect, and love of others. The female politician who uses characteristically male discourse the most is Condoleezza Rice. It can be attributable to the fact that she belongs to two ‘minority’ groups: women and African-Americans. No wonder, she simply had to follow male behavioural patterns. Our previous research [34] shows Theresa May has a similar idiolect. And all for the same reason, she is the leader of a country where politics is still normally a man’s job. Madeleine Albright’s discourse is somewhere in between: her discourse is mostly male, but sometimes she resorts to female discursive patterns. She is the first female Secretary of State, she simply had no role models, with only male predecessors before her. She seeks to make her speech as neutral as possible, and that would be impossible if she completely ignored female discourse. Research shows that masculine discourse is mainly used by female politicians either of the older generation or of conservative political views. However, more progressive women in power, like Nicola Sturgeon [see 34] or Hillary Clinton, are not afraid to reveal their gender through discourse and it largely contributes to the feminist agenda they lead.

Denis S. Mukhortov

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Author for correspondence.
Email: dennismoukhortov@mail.ru
Leninskie Gory, 1, Moscow, Russian Federation, 119991

PhD in Philology, Associate Professor of the Department of English Linguistics, Faculty of Philology

Yana S. Malyavina

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Email: yana_m3@mail.ru
Leninskie Gory, 1, Moscow, Russian Federation, 119991

Department of English Linguistics, Faculty of Philology

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