The Snyder 5: Are female politicians marketed differently from men?

Tuesday was primary day in Minnesota.

(No worries, I am not going to go all political on you out of the blue, bear with me…)

Driving around town the past few weeks, I have been struck by something.

There seems to be an innate difference in how many of the male and female candidates position and market themselves that boils down to an incredibly simple detail. 

How they use their names.

The male candidates, from either party, tend to have billboards and yard signs and brands that are either their full name… John Choi.  Mark Dayton.  Or, or their last name.  Emmer.  Entenza.

The women? Here are two examples.

They brand themselves using their first names. And this wasn’t the first time we saw this.
Now this isn’t an all the time thing.  Of course we all know it wasn’t like it was McCain/Sarah (well it kind of was, but not on signage), or here in town, Entenza/Robyne.  So at least it’s consistent.

But I have been going back and forth on what I think about this.  On the one hand, it seems that they are grabbing onto a key differentiating factor.  Sure, we as women have come a long way.  But are still underrepresented in politics.  Currently, at quick glance, there are 6 female governors, 17 female Senators and 92 women in the House of Representatives.

And we do make up just over 50% of the population.  So in some ways saying, “Hey, I am a woman!” even in such a simple way seems like a good thing. 

Perhaps it also suggests and conjures up those things that can be great about women.  It’s more personable.  It’s human.  It’s, perhaps, a bit softer.  It’s like a friend.

On the other hand, it bothers me.  Maybe it’s because it conjures up just those things.

Not sure I have the answer.  In fact, I am sure I don’t.  But I do know this, November sure seems a long ways a way.

This post was written by Molly Snyder and originally published on The Snyder 5. Follower her on Twitter: @MollyinMinn


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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Erik Hare on 08/13/2010 - 08:58 am.

    I went into this back when Martha Coakley lost her bid for the Senate in MA:

    Women have different roles that are traditionally assigned to them and very different (and limited) mythological frameworks to draw from. It’s much more difficult for them to use the same images that men can use as a shorthand to present themselves.

    It’s not an insurmountable barrier, but it does mean that you have to market yourself differently.

  2. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 08/13/2010 - 12:24 pm.

    I noticed this trend, too, and came up with a few other reasons why female candidates might market themselves like this. For many women, their first name is the one they carry throughout life, and take their husband’s name when they get married. And in the case of Margaret and Hillary, had kept their maiden names prominent. “Anderson Kelliher” or “Rodham Clinton” are hard to fit on a little button or lawn sign with huge typeface. Of course, in Hillary’s case, she was also distinguishing herself from the other famous Clinton politician.

    Also, using the first name really drives home that this is a female candidate, which they must think is a desirable thing to do. Although toward the end of everything, I noticed a lot of Margaret supporters calling her “MAK.” I thought it was catchy.

    And even though no one had a lawn sign saying “McCain/Sarah,” it’s worth noting her PAC is called SarahPAC, not PalinPAC.

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