Language, gender, and the discursive production of women as leaders

Authored by: Roslyn Appleby

The Routledge Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Print publication date:  April  2021
Online publication date:  April  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138200265
eBook ISBN: 9781315514857
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter discusses the discursive construction of Australia’s first (and so far, only) female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. The chapter demonstrates how intertwined discourses that circulated in the media and the political domain constructed Gillard as a particular type of gendered and sexualised person. First, Gillard was faced with the challenges of a gendered ‘double bind’, by which female leaders are expected to demonstrate qualities stereotypically associated with masculinity, and at the same time to display qualities stereotypically associated with femininity. Second, Gillard faced sexualised abuse in politics and the media which worked to represent her as an ‘unintelligible being’. Third, in acts of strategic essentialism, Gillard condemned the misogyny she endured, repositioning herself as a coherent political force and marking the re-emergence of feminism in Australian politics.

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