“Good Girls,” “Mama Bears,” and “Queen Bees”

Diane Feldman, a political researcher, has posted a fascinating analysis of the challenges female presidential candidates face in “branding” themselves, the core of which focuses on implicit bias and Jungian archetypes.

In terms of implicit bias, Feldman argues that although people implicitly associate men with leadership positions more than women, that this may not matter in some circumstances and can even work to the advantage of a female candidate. For example, in a “change election,” when voters crave a big transformational shift, being perceived implicitly as a non-traditional leader may be helpful.

Feldman also discusses the role of archetypes such as The Ruler (“Queen”) and The Caregiver. Her position on The Caregiver is quite nuanced. She argues that voters – especially women voters – expect a female candidate to show Caregiver qualities and balance strength with compassion. However, in order to connect with a candidate who fights for victims, you have to see yourself as a victim to believe she is fighting for you. And most people don’t like to see themselves as victims.  

I wonder what this means for Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy? From what I have seen, anyway, there isn’t much of The Caregiver in Warren’s tone. Instead, she seems to clearly position herself as The Warrior. In her announcement speech she used the word “fight” something like 30 times. Her language on the stump is full of violent metaphors (which is not to say she is literally advocating violence, of course.)

Can that sort of rhetoric work coming from a female candidate? Or is it perhaps more acceptable coming from a female candidate because it seems less threatening that it would from a man?  Can Warren, as an older white woman, get away with those kinds of metaphors more easily than, say, Cory Booker, who is a younger African American man?