Text trajectories and media discourse

tracking gendered representations in presidential politics


  • Tanya Romaniuk Portland State University, Department of Communication




Gender, Intertextuality, Media Discourse, Politics, Text Trajectory, Women


During the Democratic nomination for President of the United States (2007-2008), Hillary Rodham Clinton’s laughter became the subject of intense scrutiny by mass media and was dubbed, The Clinton Cackle. This paper investigates how the ‘cackle’ characterization was first established, and thus, formed the basis of an intertextual series (Hodges, 2011), wherein this re-presentation of Clinton’s laughter circulated across multiple discursive contexts. By examining various dimensions of the decontextualization and recontextualization of Clinton’s laughter as it ‘travelled’ across contexts (Blommaert, 2005), the analysis illustrates how the news media effectively reshaped the kinds of meanings and values attached to it and concomitantly (re)produced and reinforced a stereotypically gendered, negative (i.e., sexist, misogynist) perception of her. The paper concludes with a discussion of the significance of tracing the trajectory of this ‘text’ in terms of the ideological nature of the intertextual processes at work, and the implications for women politicians more generally.

Author Biography

Tanya Romaniuk, Portland State University, Department of Communication

Tanya Romaniuk is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Portland State University. Her dissertation investigated politicians’ laughter in broadcast news interviews and the gendered nature of media representations of one politician’s laughter—that of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her current research interests lie at the intersection of discourse analytic approaches to communication, mass media, and gender. She has recently published on questioning practices (with Steve Clayman, 2011; ROLSI, 2013) and laughter (Romaniuk, 2013) in broadcast news interviews and on approaches to discourse analysis (with Susan Ehrlich, 2013).


Aday, S. and Devitt, J. (2001) Style over substance: newspaper coverage of Elizabeth Dole’s presidential bid. Harvard International Journal of Press-Politics 6(2): 52–73. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/108118001129172134

Agha, A. and Wortham, S. (eds) (2005) Special issue: Discourse across speech events: intertextuality and interdiscursivity in social life. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15(1).

Anderson, K. V. (2002) From spouses to candidates: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elixabeth Dole, and the gendered office of U.S. President. Rhetoric and Public Affairs 5(1): 105–32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/rap.2002.0001

Bakhtin, M. M. (1981) Discourse in the novel. In M. Holquist (ed.) The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays 259–422. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986) The problem of speech genres. In M. M. Bakhtin, C. Emerson and M. Holquist (eds) Speech Genres and Other Late Essays (1st edn) 60–102. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Bauman, R. and Briggs, C. L. (1990) Poetics and performance as critical perspectives on language and social life. Annual Review of Anthropology 19: 59–88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.19.100190.000423

Blommaert, J. (2005) Discourse: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511610295

Bucholtz, M. (2000) The politics of transcription. Journal of Pragmatics 32(10): 1439–65. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(99)00094-6

Carroll, S. J. (2009) Reflections on gender and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign: the good, the bad, and the misogynic. Politics and Gender 5(1): 1–20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1743923X09000014

Eagly, A. H. and Carli, L. L. (2003) The female leadership advantage: an evaluation of the evidence. Leadership Quarterly 14: 807–34. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2003.09.004

Ehrlich, S. (2012) Text trajectories, legal discourse and gendered inequalities. Applied Linguistics Review 3(1): 47–73.

Fairclough, N. (1992) Discourse and Social Change. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Fairclough, N. (1995) Media Discourse. London: Edward Arnold.

Falk, E. (2008) Women for President: Media Bias in Eight Campaigns. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Felderer, B. (1997) Do’s and don’ts: gender representation in a political debate. In H. Kotthoff and R. Wodak (eds) Communicating Gender in Context 371–400. Amsterdam: John Benjamin.

Gordon, A. and Miller, J. (2001) Does the Oval Office have a glass ceiling? Gender stereotypes and perceptions of candidate viability. White House Studies 1: 325–33.

Gutgold, N. D. (2009) Almost Madam President: Why Hillary Clinton ‘Won’ in 2008. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Hanks, W. F. (1989) Text and textuality. Annual Review of Anthropology 18: 95–127. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.18.100189.000523

Heldman, C., Oliver, S. and Conroy, M. (2009) From Ferraro to Palin: sexism in media coverage of female vice presidential candidates. Retrieved on 30 April 2014 from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol2013/papers/cfm?abstract_id=1459865

Hodges, A. (2011) The ‘War on Terror’ Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759590.001.0001

Jalalzai, F. (2006) Women candidates and the media: 1992–2000 elections. Politics and Policy 34(3): 606–33. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-1346.2006.00030.x

Jamieson, K. H. (1995) Beyond the Double Bind: Women and Leadership. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jaworska, S. and Larrivée, P. (eds) (2011) Special issue: Women, power and the media: assessing the bias. Journal of Pragmatics 43: 2477–9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2011.02.008

Kahn, K. F. (1996) The Political Consequences of Being a Woman: How Stereotypes Influence the Conduct and Consequences of Political Campaigns. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kahn, K. F. (2003) Assessing the media’s impact on the political fortunes of women. In S. J. Carroll (ed.) Women and American Politics: New Questions, New Directions 173–89. New York: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198293488.003.0008

Kittilson, M. C. and Fridkin, K. (2008) Gender, candidate portrayals and election campaigns: a comparative perspective. Politics and Gender 4(3): 371–92. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1743923X08000330

Lawrence, R. G. and Rose, M. (2009) Hillary Clinton’s Race for the White House: Gender Politics and the Media on the Campaign Trail. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

Lawrence, R. G. and Rose, M. (2011) Bringing out the hook: exit talk in media coverage of Hillary Clinton and past presidential campaigns. Political Research Quarterly 64(4): 870–83. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1065912910376390

Lim, E. T. (2009) Gendered metaphors of women in power: the case of Hillary Clinton as Madonna, unruly woman, bitch and witch. In K. Ahrens (ed.) Politics, Gender and Conceptual Metaphors 254–69. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Meeks, L. (2012) Is she ‘man enough’? Women candidates, executive political offices, and news coverage. Journal of Communication 62: 175–93. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01621.x

Mishler, E. G. (1991) Representing discourse: the rhetoric of transcription. Journal of Narrative and Life History 1(4): 255–80.

Ochs, E. (1992) Indexing gender. In A. Duranti and C. Goodwin (eds) Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon 335–58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

O’Grady, G. (2011) The unfolded imagining of Segolene Royal. Journal of Pragmatics 43(10): 2489–500. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2011.02.007

Page, R. E. (2003) ‘Cherie: lawyer, wife, mum’: Contradictory patterns of representation in media reports of Cherie Booth/Blair. Discourse and Society 14(5): 559–79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/09579265030145002

Ritchie, J. (2013) Creating a monster: online media constructions of Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primary Campaign, 2007–8. Feminist Media Studies 13(1): 102–19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2011.647973

Romaniuk, T. (2009) The ‘Clinton Cackle’: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s laughter in news interviews. Crossroads of Language, Interaction, and Culture 7: 17–49.

Romaniuk, T. (2013a) Cracks in the glass ceiling? Laughter and politics in broadcast news interviews and the gendered nature of media representations. Unpublished PhD dissertation, York University, Toronto.

Romaniuk, T. (2013b) Interviewee laughter and disaffiliation in broadcast news interviews. In P. Glenn and E. Holt (eds) On Laughing: Studies of Laughter in Interaction 201–20. London: Bloomsbury Press.

Silverstein, M. and Urban, G. (1996) The natural history of discourse. In M. Silverstein and G. Urban (eds) Natural Histories of Discourse 1–17. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Uscinski, J. E. and Goren, L. J. (2011) What’s in a name? Coverage of Senator Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primary. Political Research Quarterly 64(4): 884–96. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1065912910382302

Voloshinov, V. N. (1973) Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. New York: Seminar Press.



How to Cite

Romaniuk, T. (2014). Text trajectories and media discourse: tracking gendered representations in presidential politics. Gender and Language, 8(2), 245–268. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v8i2.245



Special Issue Articles