Media and Female Politicians

By: Linda Florence Matheson  

With the expansion of social media, clothed images adopt an increasingly significant role in disseminating complex, provocative, and ambiguous messages. Recently this ambiguity has been particularly evident with female politicians whose fashion choices produce a colorful, if not clear, atmosphere in which dress performs politically as "persuasive art." Indeed, it appears that ambiguity is intentionally embedded in the image-making process of these political leaders (Choy, 2015; Givhan, 2007; McNair, 2011). To consider our hypothesis, we examine images of Hillary Clinton, 2016 US Democratic Presidential Nominee, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, and Theresa May, Great Britain’s Prime Minster. Our objects of analysis are items of dress culled from media images along with published articles. Our method follows Aspers’ (2001, 2006) phenomenological approach employing meaning structures with pertinent contrasts, reciprocal observations, and performance expectations. Although Beauvoir penned "The Ethics of Ambiguity in 1948," ambiguity has intrigued ancient philosophers like Aristotle ("Sophistical Refutations," 1984) as well as modern scholars like Simmel, Levine, and Butler. Little print, however, has been allotted to its intentional form. Thus, following Hebdige’s (1979) premise "style as intentional communication," we aim to fill this gap while extending aesthetic and media studies theory.

"Image", " Political Communication", " Intentional Ambiguity"
Media Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Linda Florence Matheson

-, -, University of California, Davis, United States
California, United States

Linda holds an interdisciplinary PhD in Philosophy of Humanities with Critical Studies in Material Culture and a Designated Emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric and Composition, from UC Davis, 2012.Her dissertation, “Divinely Attired” examines the contribution of dress to the narrative process of Ancient Epics and Sacred Texts such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, the book of “Genesis,” the Rāmānaya, the Mahābhārata, and the Aeneid. Using modern western social theory, it explores the interweaving of written dress, and imaginary image as vehicle of poetic and cultural rhetoric and character embodiment. Her research interests include visual rhetoric in Fashion and Politics;and linking Literary Studies/Cultural Studies /and New Media via fashion/material culture. Recent publications include“The ‘Age of Enchantment’ the ‘Age of Anxiety’: Fashion Symbols and Brand Persona,” in Global Fashion Brands, eds. Joseph Hancock, Gjoko Muratovski, Veronica Manlow, and Anne Peirson-Smith (Bristol: Intellect, 2014); and “From Draupadi to Dido: The Duties of Dress in Early Epics from India and Italy as Seen in Corresponding Artwork,” in Global Textile Encounters eds. Marie-Louise Nosch, Zhao Feng and Lotika Varadarajan (Oxford: Oxbow Books, Shanghai: Donghua University Press, October 31, 2014). She currently lecturers in Comparative Literature and Textiles at UC Davis.