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This chapter summarises the main findings of the book and indicates future directions for research. The analyses of floor apportionment showed that while gender is salient in the House of Commons, many other factors (such as seniority) also affect the uptake of speaking turns. Adversarial language was used by all groups of politicians to some extent, and it appears to be a common convention of political discourse. The benefits of adversarial language, such as the function of scrutiny, are underlined and ways of categorising more destructive types of adversarial language suggested. The ethnographic descriptions of the devolved institutions leads to suggestions about what makes a political institutions more egalitarian, including an equal distribution of minority groups in all political parties, and informality and flexibility of proceedings. With respect to linguistic analyses, the intertextual mechanisms by which homosocial bonds are formed seems a fruitful area for further research. Finally, the case studies point to sexist attitudes and representations of women politicians, coupled with increasing critical awareness and intolerance of such representations which may improve the conditions of participation for women in politics.
This chapter starts with an ethnographic description of the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales based on archival, historical and ethnographic data (observations and interviews) between 2009 and 2011. A quantitative assessment of the speaking turns and a close analysis of the debate floor shows that unlike the House of Commons, men and women in all three ‘new’ institutions take both legal and illegal turns in proportion to their overall representation. The interactional details that may contribute to a more egalitarian culture in debates are characterised by flexibility and informality of proceedings and additional mechanisms to regulate the debate floor. The analysis of the debate floor also leads to the differentiation of ‘spontaneous’ and ‘allocated’ turns in debates and allows an analysis of the effects of having different proportions of these types of turns in institutions. I conclude that although some gains have been made in relation to increasing the numbers and participation of women in the new devolved parliaments, women politicians still identify the main barrier to their progress in politics as their high visibility in the media, sexism and the negative effects of gender stereotyping.
This chapter starts by giving a theoretical definition of gender and its relation to language. It gives the rationale for the focus of the book on women politicians and a critical overview of work in the field of gender and language research investigating language and gender in the professional workplace. It also critically reviews linguistic research into political discourse and the much smaller body of work relating to gender, language and politics. In doing so it highlights the originality of the book’s focus on gender and the interactional details of political discourse in political institutions. The chapter also explains relevant theories and empirical research on women’s representation in politics from the discipline of political science. It describes research into the descriptive and substantive representation; examines current re-evaluations of the ‘critical mass’ theory; and examines the ‘different voice’ ideology relating to expectations about gender and communicative styles. It concludes by citing calls from political scientists for additional methods from a wider range of disciplines with which to measure women’s substantive representation and describes the overall structure of the book.
This chapter investigates the House of Commons at Westminster in a pivotal period for women’s representation: the first Blair government of 1997–2001. Based on archival, historical and ethnographic data (observations and interviews), the House of Commons is identified as a gendered space, in which women are peripheral members. For example, the overall proportion of turns taken in a sample of debates shows that men break the rules by speaking out of turn more than women. Prime Minister’s Question Time events are ‘scored’ according to the degree of adversarial features that they possess. The findings show that women and men can be equally adversarial in the House of Commons (both women and men were responsible for the most adversarial exchanges), but that women contributed proportionally fewer adversarial turns than their male counterparts. Finally, it is found that women are less likely to manipulate the ‘key’ of a speech event by using humour or irony (particularly the practice of filibustering) than men in this context. Women MPs’ avoidance of rule-breaking (or meticulous adherence to the rules) is explained as one of ways in which women MPs make sure they are beyond reproach in a Community of Practice in which they are interlopers.
In this second set of case study I examine the performances and representation of Julia Gillard (Australian Prime Minister 2010–2013) and Hillary Clinton (democratic presidential candidate, 2016 US election). I start by analysing adversarial language and sexism in Julia Gillard’s parliamentary performances in the Australian House of Representatives. These highly adversarial exchanges with Tony Abbott are extremely confrontational and adversarial. As with Theresa May, this discussion is developed into an analysis of a critical gendered moments when Gillard delivered her famous ‘sexism and misogyny speech’, which was followed by gendered media representations of the performance, and accusations that she ‘played the gender card’. Secondly, the case study of Hillary Clinton analyses critical gendered moments in the US televised debates against Donald Trump in 2016. Clinton is found to have performed well against Trump, given that she is positioned in gendered ways in relation to his sexist discourses. However, her political success is identified as resting on her ability to negotiate a tightrope of double binds – for example emotionality vs toughness – which mean that she is constantly attending to and negotiating her femininity in terms of both her appearance and her behaviour.
This chapter situates the research in a mixed method framework with ethnography at the core. Ethnography emphasises that contexts for communication should be investigated rather than assumed and that the detailed analysis of linguistic data is essential to understanding its significance. It has been claimed that this informal knowledge about what can be said to whom, and how, has been overlooked in political accounts of institutions because mainstream comparative research in this area tends to analyse formal rules. Some of the complexities of conducting linguistic ethnographic work in institutions are: gaining access to research sites; researching powerful, elite participants and the viability of using the the readily available Official Reports as data. The ethnographic approach including ethnographic interviews and observations in situ in different parliaments, is combined with applied Conversation Analysis (CA). Gaining the floor has been viewed by analysts as a competitive economy and this is particularly apt for the highly regulated debate floor where turns are sought for professional and political gain. I also explain how Critical Discourse Analysis is used to assist the identification of gendered discourses relating to gendered linguistic stereotypes.
This chapter examines the interlinked barriers to women’s participation identified by the ethnographic descriptions and analyses of parliamentary interaction in the first half of the book. First it considers the nature of stereotypes about gender and communicative styles and their effects on women politicians, in particular the ‘different voice’ ideology and the problems posed by beliefs in the masculine voice of authority in public contexts. These interactional styles are shown to be ideologically salient to the ways in which politicians evaluate political speeches, including their own. Secondly, it considers sexism and its effects by using examples from the House of Commons. This leads to a discussion of fraternal networks and homosocial bonding and the ways in which this can marginalise and exclude some groups. Finally, the underrepresentation and sexist framing of women politicians by the media is considered by reviewing existing international research literature and examples from the UK House of Commons, using a critical discourse analytic approach.