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Female politicians have a positive impact on courtesy in TV debates

Meanwhile male politicians attack female competitors as often as men, though







Quantitatively there is no difference any more: 25,7 % of all communication in political TV debates in Germany consist of attacks like policy arguments, partisan charges , individual criticism or accusations – regardless whether men debate with men or men debate with women. (The remaining 74,3% are defined as acclaim or defense)

In terms of quality females in politics can be traced pretty well: 11,8% of these attacks are actually offenses – pejorative in their wording, exaggerating or negatively generalizing. In TV debates between men, though, 19,9% of their attacks – almost double the number in the female cases – go verbally below the belt. This is the outcome of a recent study of all 42 TV debates American style broadcasted nation- or statewide between 1997 and 2016. For the first time in the German speaking market an analysis of 14.393 statements of 62 politicians (54 male, 8 female) was conducted having this very focus on the agenda. The researchers from the University Landau/Koblenz address a glimmer of hope and conclude: the more women are entering politics, the more we might expect at least in this type of aforementioned TV debates a higher level of communication quality and more courtesy in challenging different political opinions.

Maier/Renner. „When a Man meets a Woman – Compairing the Use of Negativity of Male Candidates in Single- and Mixed-Gender Televised Debates“. In: Political Communication 00. 1-17/2018.



From the practice:

Donald Trump, #MeToo and the Kavanaugh affair have demonstrated clearly how insensitively and unsympathetically some men still communicate with women.

This is why a substantial moment in my support of male politicians focuses on their urgently needed sensitivity for an appropiate demeanor towards women. And I cannot repeat enough that this is crucial not only on TV but also in the normal every day life when approaching female voters and – very important – when dealing with female colleagues and employees! Risque jokes and disrespectful communication is always out of place, never funny and with a majority of women in the electorate also strategically stupid.

That given there must not exist any taboo to attack female politicians, too, during debates – not to come across as simple, harsh, trivial, personal, prepotent or ignorant by doing this is key in political communication, though.

Hence, understandably my female clients in the political field raise frequently questions like: How can I best and without losing my face return when my male opponents deliberately or because of their incapabilities assault me rhetorically? Good news: there are actually a bunch of communication strategies how to react properly. The most important recommendation of all being: Be cool and say stop – loud and clearly!

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