Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood
published 2012 • 6" x 9" • 288 pages
ISBN 9781566569033 • paperback • $20.00 •
"Katz’s Leading Men is a good treatment of the perceived gender-based differences among presidential candidates in recent history. He argues that despite the fact that no woman has yet made it to the general election, there have been gender-based differences among candidates...he does make a point that furthers arguments made by many others that character matters, but adds the dimension of masculinity versus emasculation as a component of character...Using a sample of case studies, Katz makes a strong case in a style that is accessible and enjoyable. Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice
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The decisive re-election of Barack Obama in 2012 exposed a startling development in contemporary American politics: Obama lost the white male vote by a landslide of 27 points—but nonetheless still managed to win the election with the strong backing of women and voters of color. What does this tell us not only about shifting electoral demographics, but about the gender and racial transformations under way in American society over the past few decades?
In Leading Men, Jackson Katz puts forth the original and highly provocative thesis that presidential campaigns have become the center stage of an ongoing national debate about manhood, a kind of quadrennial referendum on what type of man—or one day, woman—embodies not only our ideological beliefs, but our very identity as a nation. Of course this debate has enormous implications for women—both as potential candidates for the presidency and as citizens.
Written in an engaging style that will appeal to general readers, political experts, and activists alike, Katz explores some of the major political developments, news events and campaign strategies in key elections in recent history. Ranging from the election of the former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan in 1980 through the re-election of Barack Obama, Katz zeroes in on how the very notion of what it means to be “presidential” is linked closely with evolving ideas about manhood.
Whether he is examining right-wing talk radio’s relentless attacks on the masculinity of Democratic candidates, how fears of appearing weak and vulnerable end up shaping candidates’ actual policy positions, the groundbreaking quality of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run or her potential candidacy in 2016, Katz offers a new way to understand the role of identity politics in presidential campaigns. In the end, Leading Men offers nothing less than a paradigm-shifting way to understand the very nature of the American presidency.
Jackson Katz is a pioneer in the fields of gender violence prevention education and critical media literacy. He is the creator of the award-winning educational video Tough Guise and author of The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help. He blogs for The Huffington Post and lectures widely in the U.S. and around the world on violence, media and masculinities.
"Katz, an expert on gender-related violence prevention and critical media literacy does not dwell upon the gridlock of the current congress...The author’s concern is with presidential elections and the way that perceptions of masculinity affect the outcomes of those elections. They have become, Katz argues, almost purely referenda on the candidates' 'manhood,' as defined by political spin and media campaigns."—Foreword
"From Ronald Reagan's establishment of himself as a strong father figure, to Michael Dukakis' infamous ride in an M1 tank, this work explores how the resulting voter perception of candidate's masculinity can help swing an election. Katz, a well-known speaker who is responsible for creating the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) model, touches first upon the role of the 1972 election in establishing masculinity as a hallmark of the Republican Party. Then the next five chapters trace its role in presidential politics from 1972 until 2008."—BookNews
“In Leading Men Jackson Katz draws from and builds on recent scholarly work about women and the presidency, but his goal is to push presidential studies toward a more explicit engagement with feminist ideas about men and the presidency. Katz’s book manages to be both intellectually exhilarating and highly accessible even as it greatly advances our understanding of presidential politics. It should be widely read by students, scholars, pundits and political junkies.”—Dr. Caroline Heldman, Chair, Department of Politics, Occidental College, and Fox News Commentator
“In Leading Men, Katz brings his formidable critical skills to bear on modern American politics and the U.S. presidency, offering a fresh and fascinating new take on men’s voting patterns and the cultural politics of manhood...Katz makes a powerful case that presidential elections in the modern era have been fundamentally shaped by competing visions of American manhood. This is first-rate social and political commentary, a valuable resource for political activists, political junkies, and armchair pundits alike.”—Sut Jhally, Ph.D., Professor of Communication, UMass-Amherst, Founder-Director, Media Education Foundation
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