Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Rhetorical Media Framing of Two First Lady Political Candidates across Cultures

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Rhetorical Media Framing of Two First Lady Political Candidates across Cultures

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study examines the rhetoric used to frame news coverage of two first lady candidates from Uganda and the United States in the final weeks of their first political campaigns for legislative office, while their spouses were still serving as president. It assesses news coverage in two distinct political cultures with different forms of democracy in The Daily Monitor and The New Vision of Uganda, as well as New York's Daily News and The New York Times of the United States. Results show that newspapers emphasized gender-specific rhetoric to frame Janet Museveni and Hillary Clinton during their campaigns. The U.S. newspapers covered Clinton's campaign speeches and platform on international peace initiatives and national security, yet the Ugandan press did not highlight Museveni's statements on the northern war and peace initiatives. These newspapers underscored their first lady familial duties, and framed them as emotionally weak and unfit to serve beyond political spousal roles.

Keywords: First ladies, gender equality, peace, security, legislative campaigns, rhetoric, news framing, mainstreaming, Uganda

Introduction

This study examines the press coverage of two first ladies in Uganda and the United States (U.S.) who ran for legislative office and the news framing rhetoric they faced in the two distinct political cultures. Janet Museveni, the Uganda first lady, first sought a seat as a Member of Parliament for Ruhama County in 2006. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. first lady, first sought a U.S. Senate seat from the state of New York in 2000 and in 2006. The two sitting first ladies campaigned on their personal merit and ran against male veteran politicians in their respective constituencies.

Previous studies from single-country cases (Verloo, 2007; Winfield & Friedman, 2003) in the Western industrialized world have found gender rhetorical attributes like fashion trend-setter, party-organizer, or White House decorator, in some of the news coverage of political spouses. The paradox is that political spouses become particularly prone to unfavorable press coverage and disparagement once they seek power, with such aggression "to ridicule and thereby ensure that nobody will take them seriously again" (Dixon, 1992, p. 218). No known study has looked at news framing of first lady political candidates in starkly different forms of democracy and cultural milieu. The study provides a starting point at determining how gender equality and political mainstreaming are framed in the press coverage of first lady candidates in two distinct political cultures.

This study resonates because Janet Museveni and Hillary Clinton ran for public office when they were still first ladies. Both first ladies played similar public roles early on to uplift the welfare of citizens, such as proposing health care plans in the 1990s and fighting for peace and security of children in third world countries. They also started a joint-project in Uganda in 1999 which helped more than 10,000 needy students with educational fees and scholastic supplies. The two also have ambitions for the presidency. Hillary Clinton ran for the democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and Janet Museveni announced her intention to run when President Yoweri Museveni, her husband, decides not to run again. In early 2009, the two first lady lawmakers were nominated and confirmed for cabinet positions in their respective countries: U.S. President Barack Obama named Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State in December 2008 while Uganda President Yoweri Museveni named Parliamentarian Janet Museveni as Minister of State for Karamoja around the same time.

The question of how four independent newspapers, The Daily Monitor and The New Vision of Uganda, as well as New York's Daily News and The New York Times of the United States, rhetorically frame the campaigns of prominent sitting first ladies in two culturally distinct nations is a worthy study. …

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