Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2019


Women in Politics, Motherhood, Gender Stereotypes, Femininity, Masculinity, Political Communication, United States


Sarah Palin’s Vice-Presidential run can be characterized by displays of motherhood, femininity, and masculinity, themes that reflect changes in American political culture as well as stationary expectations. Palin was praised and criticized for her role as a mother, indicating a shift in political culture that allows women to hold both public and private roles but not without being acceptably successful in both areas. Palin’s performance of traditional femininity and masculinity signifies that women’s political success is contingent on the confirmation and operation of traditional gender expectations such as motherhood and deference to husbands. She both reaffirmed and challenged gender stereotypes, embracing feminine expectations as well as playing into the macho competition typical of politics. This indicates that women in politics have not yet escaped the expectations of traditional femininity but are expected to exert masculine attributes in order to gain viable audiences in the way Palin did.


This paper was nominated by Rachel Paul of the Department of Political Science.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Political culture--United States; Women--Political activity; Women political candidates--United States

Subjects - Names (LCNAF)

Palin, Sarah, 1964-

Geographic Coverage

United States


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