Gabija Liffick

“Kamala harris, for the people”: a feminist rhetorical analysis of kamala harris’s 2020 democratic national convention speech

April 10, 2021   /  

Name: Gabija Liffick
Major: Communication Studies
Minor: Psychology
Advisors: Dr. Denise Bostdorff, Dr. Rohini Singh (second reader)

The purpose of this study was to examine the ways that Kamala Harris presents leadership in a manner that reflects her own identity in her speech during the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Specifically, this study examines the ways that Harris manages the double-bind for women politicians and the intersectionality of her racial and gender identities. Using feminist rhetorical criticism, I will analyze the ways that Harris challenges the hegemonic structures such as “traditional” gender roles and racism. In her speech, Harris challenged the hegemonic, masculine nature of United States politics by feminizing the definition of leadership to encompass both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine ideals. Harris also appeals to the traditionally masculine traits associated with leadership though challenges the notion of white male leadership when she provides examples of women leaders. Harris also challenges white nationalism in the United States through her identity as a Black woman and through her family’s origin story. The major implications of this study were that gender role expectations expressed in political discourse are expanding to encompass both traditionally masculine and feminine ideals, and that the Democratic party’s rhetoric is becoming more left leaning potentially due to the injustices performed during the Trump presidency.

Click here to view Gabija’s presentation. (NOTE: A Wooster login is required to view this presentation.)

Gabija will be online to field comments on April 16:
noon-2pm EDT (PST: 9-11am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon)

14 thoughts on ““Kamala harris, for the people”: a feminist rhetorical analysis of kamala harris’s 2020 democratic national convention speech”

  1. Gabija, it was fun to see how this study developed from the seeds of its beginnings in your earlier work. I’ll be stopping by on Friday, but wanted to send you best of wishes with the symposium!

  2. Good job Gabija. Curious Question: Do you think Kamala Harris could have made her speech without appealing to the expectation of gender roles?

    1. Personally, I think that while she could have made her speech without appealing to the expectation of gender roles, it would not have had the same message. While Harris did appeal to some traditionally feminine gender role expectations, it worked to expand the expectations of leadership to encompass the values/goals of the Biden campaign. While appealing to gender role expectations could have helped her manage the double-bind that woman politicians faced, I also think that it served to reframe leadership in a way that reflected what the Biden administration believed the American people needed.

  3. Do you think there points where Kamala had to come off as more “masculine” in order to compete with her male counterparts?

    1. Hi Anne!!!!
      I wouldn’t say her performances of hegemonically masculine traits were to come off as more masculine so much as to demonstrate that her competence as a leader (in terms of the traditionally masculine expectations associated with it).
      🙂

  4. Thank you for your research. I am a member of the same sorority as Madam Vice President Harris. I find it interesting how negatively she is portrayed in media because of her race and professional an attorney. I also love the positive attention that has developed for HBCUs and our our sisterhood.

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