Call for Book Chapters (updated Nov. 28, 2016)
Working Book Title: Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Historicizing the 2016 Presidential Election
Christine A. Kray, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rochester Institute of Technology
Hinda Mandell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Communication, Rochester Institute of Technology
Tamar W. Carroll, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of History, Rochester Institute of Technology
Gendered disruptions with historical echoes played prominently into the volatile 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The election was frequently called “historic” because Clinton was the first woman nominated to lead a major political party in the race for president of the United States, and because she appeared poised to crack the “highest, hardest glass ceiling” and become the first woman president. Yet the election was also “historic” as it generated sustained reflection on the past, both for inspiration and critical inquiry of gender issues.
In terms of historical inspiration, Clinton’s candidacy stimulated new levels of ritual activity at the Rochester, New York gravesite of Susan B. Anthony, the nineteenth-century activist who dedicated her life’s work toward women’s suffrage. Throughout 2016, visitors paid tribute and left tokens of gratitude. On the day of the New York State primary in April 2016, in what has become a new Election Day tradition—propelled by social media—visitors affixed “I Voted” stickers to her tombstone. In July 2016, when Clinton accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination, she noted that her mother had been born on the very day that Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which would give women the right to vote. The website, www.iwaited96years.com, featured women who were born before the ratification of the 19th Amendment who intended to vote for Clinton. Women planned to wear white on Election Day, in honor of the suffragists. On Election Day, an unprecedented estimated 8,000 people visited Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite and a ceremonial gravesite gathering had been planned for the day after.
In terms of historical critical inquiry, campaign rhetoric frequently used long-standing problematic gendered stereotypes, stirring up discomforting memories of past social justice struggles. Throughout the 2008 primary campaign and again in 2015, Clinton had appeared reticent to position herself as a woman candidate. And yet, events continually pushed gender front and center. In Trump’s campaign opening speech in June 2015, he assailed Mexico for sending “rapists” to the United States, reinvigorating a historical accusation about Mexicans as sexual aggressors against white women. In April 2016, Trump accused Clinton of “playing the woman card” and social media commentators speculated that women would “vote with their vaginas.” These fears that women would vote as a block had been voiced by opponents to women’s suffrage a century earlier, and the claims placed women in a defensive position, as Clinton supporters were forced to justify their support for a woman candidate. Clinton also had to walk the tightrope, showing that she would champion issues of concern to women, without seeming to rely on her gender. Then, just weeks before the election, after audio recordings were released in which Donald Trump boasted of committing sexual assault, and polls revealed that women were increasingly rejecting Trump’s candidacy, a #RepealThe19th social media hashtag was created. Suffragists and other historical women activists became increasingly relevant in an election that saw a woman candidate and women voters as key players. Video “history lessons” and memes circulated on social media as contributors aimed to teach others about the historical advances of women, implying that the work remained unfinished. When, at the third presidential debate, Trump called Clinton a “nasty woman,” women recognized the implied expectations about feminine behavior, just as Latinos recognized the rhetorical power of his calling unauthorized immigrants “bad hombres.” Pundits speculated that women would hold the balance of power in the election.
The election’s outcome surprised voters, pundits, and pollsters alike. The outcome has provoked reflection on the part of Clinton supporters about what might have been done differently. Many factors contributed to Trump’s victory, more than can be addressed in this volume. Economic class, education, and race/ethnicity turned out to be more powerful than gender in the election, prompting reflection on how women perceive their self-interest. Perhaps of greatest surprise were exit polls showing that 52% of white women voters backed Trump, calling gender solidarity into question. Feminists of color took the lead in calling for intersectional social justice movements, addressing race, class and sexuality as well as gender. Although the secret Pantsuit Nation Facebook group formed right before the election gained three million members in just three weeks, creating a safe haven for Clinton supporters to energize one another, in the election’s aftermath, many wondered whether it should have been secret. Just as the achievement of women’s suffrage had been followed by an abeyance in activism, after Trump’s victory, women wondered if they had become too complacent as Clinton had seemed poised to win. While this was the first presidential election to play out largely through social media, the election results spurred a flurry of activism that is explicitly women-centered or feminist, including two marches planned on Washington, DC to follow the inauguration, and commitments by many to match their social media “slactivism” with more traditional forms of political engagement and engagement at the local level.
As an interdisciplinary project, this book invites contributions from historians, anthropologists, sociologists, political theorists, journalists, and media and public history scholars to investigate how public memory of feminist struggles and activism shaped narratives and practices within the 2016 presidential election. This book project speaks to the ways in which politics are not merely pragmatic, but are always enveloped in personal and historical imaginations. Through our electoral engagement, conversations, and voting practices, we reach out to revered historical figures, engage in practices of deep symbolic significance, and position ourselves within grand historical trajectories.
Possible chapter topics include:
Call for Chapters:
We issue this Call for Chapters for a book intended for peer-reviewed publication. We seek contributions that are appropriate for scholarly audiences yet also accessible to undergraduate and public readers. If you would like to participate in this volume, please send us (firstname.lastname@example.org) a 500-word abstract by January 15, 2017, along with a bio not to exceed 250 words. We also welcome creative contributions, including fiction, poetry, cartoons, photography and song. Completed chapters (of 5,000 words) would need to be submitted by April 15, 2017. This book project has strong interest from a Palgrave Macmillan editor with whom we have worked before. All scholarship and submissions should be previously unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere.