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Copyright (c) 2009 University of Denver (Colorado Seminary)
Denver University Law Review

Article: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Obama: Performing Gender, Race, and Class on the Campaign Trail

2009

DENVER UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW

86 Denv. U.L. Rev. 709

Author

Ann C. McGinley+

Excerpt



Introduction

In Our First Unisex President?: Black Masculinity and Obama's Feminine Side, 1 Frank Rudy Cooper posits that President Obama consciously performed a feminine identity 2 in order to navigate the tricky waters of race and gender in the presidential election. 3 Cooper notes that white popular culture perceives black masculinity as bipolar: there are "good blacks" and "bad blacks." 4 According to white popular culture, the "Bad Black Man is animalistic, sexually depraved, and crime-prone." 5 His counterpart, the "Good Black Man distances himself from black people and emulates white views." 6

Because of the image of the Bad Black Man, black men must take care not to show excessive anger. 7 Obama is known for his "cool," a somewhat feminine identity performance that comforts white citizens and distances him from the "dangerous" Bad Black Man. His conciliatory empathic style and willingness to negotiate with "evil" foreign powers made him appear more feminine than his female rival, Hillary Clinton, who performed a more masculine demeanor and espoused a tough stance toward Iran.

Although Obama's more feminine presentation downplayed white fear, it was also risky to his candidacy because it raised the question of whether he is masculine enough for the job. 8 Ironically, perhaps it was his blackness that imbued Obama with sufficient masculinity to successfully walk the tightrope between being too masculine and too feminine, too black and too white. Cooper theorizes that Obama's success may actually have a gender- and race-bending effect, by removing stigma ...
 
 
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