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Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics

From “Bitch” to “Badass” and Beyond


Edited By Karrin Vasby Anderson

Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics: From "Bitch" to "Badass" and Beyond examines the negotiation of feminist politics and gendered political leadership in twenty-first century U.S. popular culture. In a wide-ranging survey of texts—which includes memes and digital discourses, embodied feminist performances, parody and infotainment, and televisual comedy and drama—contributing authors assess the ways in which popular culture discourses both reveal and reshape citizens’ understanding of feminist politics and female political figures. Two archetypes of female identity figure prominently in its analysis. "Bitch" is a frame that reflects the twentieth-century anxiety about powerful women as threatening and unfeminine, trapping political women within the double bind between femininity and competence. "Badass" recognizes women’s capacity to lead but does so in a way that deflects attention away from the persistence of sexist stereotyping and cultural misogyny. Additionally, as depictions of political women become increasingly complex and varied, fictional characters and actual women are beginning to move beyond the bitch and badass frames, fashioning collaborative and comic modes of leadership suited to the new global milieu. This book will be of interest to students and scholars interested in communication, U.S. political culture, gender and leadership, and women in media.

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10. The Two Madam Secretaries: Elizabeth McCord, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Mimetic Representations of Twenty-First Century Feminism (Allison M. Prasch)


10. The Two Madam Secretaries: Elizabeth McCord, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Mimetic Representations of Twenty-First Century Feminism

Allison M. Prasch

Colorado State University

In September 2016, during a campaign stop in White Plains, New York, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with reporters about the return of her favorite TV shows. Bemoaning the conclusion of CBS’ hit-series The Good Wife, Clinton offered this consolation: “Madam Secretary, however, is coming back, so that’s something to look forward to. I actually get a big kick out of it. I watched it with, you know, a little bit of skepticism at first, but then I got so into it. And [I] really liked the story lines.”1 CNN reporters Sophie Tatum and Dan Merica noted this exchange revealed that “[p]residential candidates are just like us: They’re also anxiously awaiting the return of their favorite TV shows after summer break.”2 But Clinton’s admission suggests more than a penchant for binge-watching political drama. Instead, it underscores how shows such as Veep, Scandal, House of Cards, Parks and Recreation, The Good Wife, and Madam Secretary (among others) offer television viewers fictionalized narratives of women in politics which operate as “powerful and accessible rhetorical forms. …[that] play a central role in the definition and expression of political culture and political leaders.”3 And yet, just because viewers encounter women in positions of power on small and large screens does not necessarily mean these images will be...

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