Thursday, March 9, 2017

Gender Wasn't the Issue

The Theater section of The New York Times reports an interesting experiment done by professors to examine the effect of gender on political performance. Their obvious hypothesis: Clinton lost because she was a woman.

Their method was to create a play in which an actress would deliver Donald Trump lines from the three Clinton-Trump debates, while an actor would deliver Clinton lines. Audience members answered before and after questionnaires about their experiences with the original debates and their experience of the gender-bending restaging they had just witnessed.

Each of the two tried to use the inflections, postures, and facial expressions of the person they portrayed, he did Hillary, she did Donald. I hope you've already guessed it didn't come out the way they expected.
Most of the people there had watched the debates assuming that Ms. Clinton couldn’t lose. This time they watched trying to figure out how Mr. Trump could have won. Interviews with cast members and comments from the postshow discussion suggested that they’d found some answers.

According to many in the audience who spoke at a postshow talk-back, the cross-gender casting offered just enough remove to help them think through how they might have understood the debates had they not strongly preferred one candidate.
The write-up at the New York University website gives more detail.
We heard a lot of “now I understand how this happened”—meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset.

The simplicity of Trump’s message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman—that was a theme. One person said, “I’m just so struck by how precise Trump’s technique is.” Another—a musical theater composer, actually—said that Trump created “hummable lyrics,” while Clinton talked a lot, and everything she was was true and factual, but there was no “hook” to it.
Trump understands himself to be a performer, and he likes and works at it. Clinton saw "performing" as an unfortunate, disliked requirement of the office she sought. Conclusion: The happy warrior tends to beat the reluctant dragon most of the time.