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  • 09.12.16

Report: Hillary Clinton talks like a man

“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” —Hillary in Beijing, 21 years ago today

A photo posted by Hillary Clinton (@hillaryclinton) on Sep 5, 2016 at 5:07pm PDT

That’s according to a new study in the political science journal Perspectives on Politics. (You can read a summary of it here.)

Jennifer Jones, a grad student at the University of California, Irvine, argues that Hillary Clinton has increasingly adopted masculine language during her political ascent. 

Linguists and political scientists have identified that women have different speech patterns than men. There are dozens of differences but some include the fact that while women use more emotive words (such as brave, cried, evil, and relief), men tend to swear more and use angrier language (cruel, disgust, hate, kill). Women use more first-person singular pronouns, such as me, yours, and she. Meanwhile, men tend to use more first-person plural pronouns, such as our, us, and we.

Using computational analysis, Jones studied 567 of Clinton’s interview and speech transcripts between 1992 and 2013, from the time she was First Lady through to her senate and first presidential race. She found that her language tended to become more masculine when she sought influence in male-dominated settings. Jones concludes:

Overall, my findings show that when Clinton occupied a political office or took on a major policy initiative (as in 1993-1994), her language conformed to a masculine style. Indeed, Clinton’s language grew increasingly masculine over time, as her involvement and power in politics expanded.   

Jones points out that women adopting masculine traits in politics is often a matter of political survival. In fact, speaking this way does not allow them to be themselves, which also hurts them. But they are caught in a catch-22:

…women’s minority status in decision-making bodies often results in their conformity to a normative masculine style of communication, one that restricts the full expression of their ideas…Former Press Secretary for the Clinton administration Dee Dee Myers, captures this conundrum flatly: “If male behavior is the norm, and women are always expected to act like men, we will never be as good at being men as men are.” 

Clinton herself recently referenced her struggle in a picture captured by Humans of New York. She’s had to change parts of herself that don’t conform to the political norm, one that is determined by men. “But I’ve learned that I can’t be quite so passionate in my presentation,” she says. “I love to wave my arms, but apparently that’s a little bit scary to people. And I can’t yell too much. It comes across as ‘too loud’ or ‘too shrill’ or ‘too this’ or ‘too that.'”