Gender Dynamics in Congressional Elections

Article excerpt

Fox, Richard L. (1997). Gender Dynamics in Congressional Elections. Sage Publications, 231 pages (paper-back), ISBN 0-7619-0239-2.

In Gender Dynamics in Congressional Elections, Richard L. Fox examines the role of gender in the electoral process. He argues that the presence of female candidates is having a profound effect on various components of the electoral process and also that the presence of women is causing male candidates to reevaluate their own campaign strategies. Much of this behavior persists due to the traditional stereotyping given to women. He maintains that, if traditional stereotyping persists, the electoral environment can be a predictor in election processes.

To address the above issues, Fox compares the experiences of female candidates to male candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives races in California for the 1992 and 1994 years. Based on the types of seats for which women are running, male candidates were chosen relative to corresponding characteristics wherever possible. For instance, an open seat race with a woman running would be matched with an open seat race with a male running or party registration in the races with women and in the races with only men were chosen. The data source consisted of interviews with campaign managers of each candidate and, if no campaign manager existed, the press secretary or candidate was interviewed.

In addressing gender dynamics of congressional elections, Fox organized his arguments into three parts. First, males and females experience important differences in the behavior and the effects of the electoral process. In terms of behavior, males and females have different motivations for entering the race. This is reflected in the types of campaigns employed in terms of their campaign themes and issues. Also their presentation of personal characteristics such as mode of attire and the way by which they communicate with the voters are different. Moreover, male candidates were found to modify their behavior in reaction to female opponents, having a much broader effect in terms of the electoral process. According to Fox's analysis, although differences in the electoral process exist-- such as fund raising, support by party members, and media coverage--women were not severely disadvantaged about these electoral factors. However, since female candidates and their campaign managers perceived that these differences existed, the perception of unfairness itself has ramifications for female candidates who might want to run for office.

Second, gender differentials continue mainly as a result of the traditional sex-role stereotypes. …