How effective is ‘femininity’?

Media portrayals of the effectiveness of the first Spanish Woman Defence Minister


  • Mercedes Bengoechea Universidad de Alcalá



language and gender, female leadership, women’s linguistic performances, media gender construction


This paper studies the linguistic performances of Carme Chacón, the first Spanish woman Minister of Defence, as interpreted by the media. The corpus analysed is composed of 63 press columns and reports spanning her first year in office in which Chacón’s traits or performances are valued or assessed. Chacón’s success as a politician seems to be proportionate to her closeness to the powerful social roles of minister and military officer, performed from hybridly gendered identities, whereas her attempt to be a ‘coming-out’ feminine military leader meant a serious reverse in her popularity.

Author Biography

Mercedes Bengoechea, Universidad de Alcalá

Mercedes Bengoechea is Professor of Sociolinguistics (Universidad de Alcalá, Spain). She was Dean of the Faculty of Humanities (2003-2008). Her research on language and gender has focused on denouncing, on the one hand, the sexist usage of the language in the Spanish media and, on the other hand, normative linguistic policies and dictionaries of Spanish. She has also led proposals for non-sexist use of Spanish and feminist translation strategies. She has published in Women: A cultural review, Pragmalingüística, Textual Practice, Revista de Occidente, BABEL A.f.i.a.l, Revista Iberoamericana de Discurso y Sociedad, Journal of English Studies, Journal of Romance Studies, Textos, Estudios de Sociolingüística, Spanish in Context, Lenguaje y Textos, Current Issues in Language Planning, European Journal of Women’s Studies, and Journal of Interdisciplinary Feminist Thought. She is a member of IGALA (International Gender and Language Association) Advisory Board; member of the Advisory Language Committee of the Instituto de la Mujer, NOMBRA (Ministry of Social Affairs) since 1994; member of the Experts Committee on Gender and Childhood for the Institute of the National Spanish Television (Instituto Oficial de Radio Televisión Española) since 2005; and was the co-ordinator of the 2006 Report of the Spanish National Observatory on Gender Violence.



How to Cite

Bengoechea, M. (2011). How effective is ‘femininity’? Media portrayals of the effectiveness of the first Spanish Woman Defence Minister. Gender and Language, 5(2), 405–429.