Gendered Metaphors of Women in Power: the Case of Hillary Clinton as Madonna, Unruly Woman, Bitch and Witch

  • Elvin T. Lim


Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first First Lady to move into the White House with a full-time professional career of her own, the first First Lady to win elected office in the US Senate, and the first woman to seriously contend for a major party’s nomination for the US presidency. As Hillary Clinton stood at the frontier of women’s struggle to break into the public sphere in their own right, she became the target for a number of highly stylised and gendered metaphors used to conceptualise her role in public life. Defenders and critics of Hillary Clinton have characterised her as a Madonna, an Unruly Woman and variants thereof: a Bitch, and a Witch.1 In this chapter, I critically examine the usage of these metaphors in books and newspaper articles about the senator by neutral observers, her supporters and detractors to unpack the layers of resistance that still exist against women in American public life. My thesis is that gendered conceptual metaphors, in variously imposing and/or retracting ‘masculine’ and/or ‘feminine’ traits, empower and disempower woman leaders.2 Indeed, while some gendered conceptual metaphors of women in power (Madonna and Unruly Woman) give only by taking, others (Bitch and Witch) mostly only take.


Public Sphere Trojan Horse Source Domain Conceptual Metaphor Double Bind 
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Copyright information

© Elvin T. Lim 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elvin T. Lim
    • 1
  1. 1.Wesleyan UniversityUSA

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