Sex Roles

, Volume 65, Issue 3–4, pp 156–164 | Cite as

Sexualizing Sarah Palin

The Social and Political Context of the Sexual Objectification of Female Candidates
  • Caroline HeldmanEmail author
  • Lisa Wade
Feminist Forum


Using Sarah Palin’s candidacy for the vice-presidency, Heflick and Goldenberg (2011) empirically link female sexual objectification with the negative perceptions and poor performances of female candidates. We argue that the authors undersell the importance of their findings, especially considering shifts in the content and ubiquitousness of mass media. Advances in communication technologies have enabled a new era of objectification, marked by an increasing presence and acceptance of sexual objectification in media, greater pornographic content in mainstream media, and greater acceptance of pornography in U.S. society more broadly. In the years since U.S. scholars began critiquing sexual objectification, its normalization and degree of penetration into our daily lives have increased, largely due to a proliferation of marketing and entertainment media images enabled by the Internet and other communication technology. Given this new era of objectification, we conclude that the phenomenon identified by Heflick and Goldenberg is more likely to influence the success of female politicians now than it was in the 1970s (when the sexual objectification of women was first problematized) and that it may also help explain the recent stagnation in U.S. progress towards gender equity in political representation.


Sarah Palin Objectification Self-objectification Female candidates Hillary Clinton Geraldine Ferraro Elizabeth Dole 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Occidental CollegeLos AngelesUSA

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