Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
women, leadership, feminism, motherhood, castration anxiety, stereotypes, elections, United States, representation
Historically, women have been excluded from leadership positions around the world, while instead men occupy the highest positions of power in society. The lack of female leadership is especially prevalent in the United States, where there has never been a female president, and the majority of high political offices are still held by men. In a similar manner, women have also been excluded from the sphere of comedy throughout history. Women have constantly had to deal with the assertion that women are not funny. This double exclusion from both leadership and comedy has led to the development of my concept of the nasty woman, who is a woman who seeks to hold a leadership position in a way that patriarchal society deems threatening to the status quo. The nasty woman does not conform to societal expectations because she seeks to ensure that women do not have to only follow the traditional path that are set for them, paths that exclude leadership roles.
Although there are many examples of nasty women in the real world, I chose to analyze Selina Meyer from Veep and Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation as portrayals of the societal anxieties about nasty women, or female leaders, on comedy television shows. Selina acts as an example of a terrible leader, while Leslie acts as an example of an amazing leader. However, both of these women still cause society to experience anxiety because of their decisions and actions as female leaders. The fear of these women exists because, by seeking to obtain leadership positions in society, they are going against the traditional roles that society expects women to play. Overall, the portrayals of both Selina and Leslie represent three main anxieties that society has about female leaders: the fear that women are incompetent, uncontrollable, and altogether bad leaders, the fear that women leaders will abandon traditional feminine roles, and the fear that female leaders will castrate the men around them. With the portrayal of these ideas in comedy shows, the representations of Selina and Leslie emphasize the ridiculous and hilarity of these negative expectations of female leaders in a way that undermines the negative perceptions of female leaders in the United States today.
Sullivan, Emily, "Nasty Women: Television Portrayals of Societal Anxieties toward Female Leaders" (2018). Honors Theses. 1679.