Gendered populism and media discourse

Sentralbanksjefens årstale i februar 2016.

Siv Jensen, leader of the Norwegian Progress party. Photo by Tore Sætre / Wikimedia.


« Une femme dans son temps. ». « Moderne Frau, die sich ungeschminkt zeigt ». ( A Modern woman without make-up or a woman who has no fear to show herself without make-up). Marine Le Pen from FN and Frauke Pötker from AfD have been lately lot in media. Those are the words how the press is writing about them. In main politics Hillary Clinton is presenting herself as “an abuela”, grandmother, on her Twitter account.

What kind of a gap is there between gender and populism? Now in Europe, a woman can be a populist leader. Often the woman is young, educated, active and attractive. Her verbal speech can be aggressive but at the same time she is “protecting France from immigration” or “a single mother”. Are these new leaders of right-wing parties changing the gender of populism? Or is there populism gender? I don´t have any background in specific gender studies but I have studied French politics and linguistics.

Coming from linguistics, I was really happy to attend a conference and a panel called “Populism and gender” in Vienna, where I learned a lot from people who were specialized in that area. While a classic image of a populist is “a vital man” who tells about his manhood (Berlusconi, Le Pen) there is a new generation of younger women. In her new presidential campaign, Marine Le Pen shows herself with cats and she is feeding little lambs on her Facebook account. Some analysts have reacted by saying “Cute!” or “Kitch!” In our spotlight session led by Tuija Saresma we are discussing populism and gender. How and which way far-right leaders are using their gender? What is the situation like in Northern Europe (for example in Finland, Sweden, Norway), where women are in a rather strong social position?

How does populism work there? In Vienna Deborah Tannen gave a key note called “Why journalists write always about hair and they always will”. She talked about how the press represents female politicians. This has been quite funny to follow. Frauke Pötker, a woman from AdP can really use media for her purposes. She “hat keine Angst sich ohne make-up zu zeigen”. Is this away how the press is making women populists acceptable?

Laura Parkkinen

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