Gender, Popular Culture, and (In)Security

Authored by: Linda Åhäll

The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Security

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138696211
eBook ISBN: 9781315525099
Adobe ISBN:


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On 7 July 2016 the television show BBC Breakfast had a segment on the Conservative Party leadership contest to replace David Cameron as the next British prime minister accompanied by the music of US pop star Katy Perry’s hit song ‘Roar’. Paying attention to how gender works as a logic that informs practice facilitates a critique of that which we often take for granted, that which we think is just ‘normal’ or that which we think is ‘just entertainment’. It is about processes and practices of normalization that are fundamentally political as they reinforce social and cultural boundaries that limit what certain bodies should or should not be or do. The leadership contest was between two female candidates, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom, and, yes, this was a first for a major political party in the UK, but, by presenting it to the music of Perry’s ‘Girl Power’ message (“I went from zero to my own hero” … “I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar”) their difference to the norm of men as society’s ‘natural’ leaders was emphasized. May and Leadsom were coded as women first, politicians second. They were belittled through dominant gender logics as female politicians, not just politicians. The fact that the two candidates had female bodies mattered and, importantly, it was through popular cultural references that this difference was underscored. The choice of background music was every bit as political as the content of the segment.

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