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Author says voters, not Clinton, have to change in order for America to elect a woman as president



INDIANAPOLIS — Hillary Clinton may have amassed a great deal of experience in the past seven years, but does that mean she will have an easy time winning the Democratic presidential nomination?

What does Clinton have to do to win?

“It is not what Hillary Clinton has to do to become president; it’s the voters who have to make a change,” said Kristina Horn Sheeler, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis associate professor of communication studies and co-author of “Woman President.”

“If anything, the 2008 election taught us that women can and do capably run for president,” Sheeler said. “They have the potential to be as popular with the U.S. electorate as male candidates. However in 2008, both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were subjected to explicitly sexist and misogynistic attacks, and not just from their political opponents. The attacks also showed up on mainstream journalistic coverage, on satirical television programs and in digital discourse.”

Although female candidates have been running for U.S. president since before they won the right to vote, they have been hindered by our uniquely American political culture that combines narratives of hard work, equal opportunity and limitless potential with a tacit but forceful prohibition of women’s political authority, according to Sheeler.

If a woman is to become president, voters “can no longer uncritically accept stereotypes about powerful women, laugh at misogynistic jokes, put up with hackneyed journalistic coverage of political women or fail to call out sexism whenever and wherever we see it,” Sheeler said. “We have the power, as voters, consumers and audience members, to demand more from our political and popular culture. In a democracy, it’s the people’s responsibility to engage in and improve politics.”

Kristina Horn Sheeler is chair and associate professor of the Department of Communication Studies in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Her publications include “Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture,” co-authored with Karrin Vasby Anderson and published in 2013 by Texas A & M University Press. In “Woman President,” Sheeler and Anderson uncover a political and popular culture backlash against women that they argue has kept the White House a man’s place.

To arrange an interview with Sheeler, call 317-278-3161.