CURE: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Gendered Language in Political Theory Documents

Gendered Language in Political Theory Documents

CURE: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Gendered Language in Political Theory Documents


Madigan Wilford


Dr. Anne Donnelly


Center for Undergraduate Research


This project explores how language in political theory documents throughout history expresses gender bias. The most revered of these documents preach values such as equality, liberty, inclusion, and freedom from oppression. However, many of them were created during periods in which oppression in many forms, including gender discrimination, was present throughout society. Previous research has extensively explored the lack of representation for women in rhetoric throughout American history and drawn comparisons between this phenomenon and prominent political theories of the time period. However, this analysis has been performed by examining broader concepts of political theory, statements specific to gender, or the disparate presentations of men and women, rather than the individual gendered words used by authors in texts that are not specifically about gender. This project takes a new approach by compiling data about the relative proportions of male and female gendered words in seminal documents in Western political theory. Ultimately, the intersection of these two ideas – historical “othering” of women and analysis at the individual word level – has had little exploration within the field of political theory, and this is precisely the area this research project examines. By analyzing political theory documents, this project seeks to answer the question – does the use of gendered language change over time in correspondence with changing attitudes about gender equality?


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Research Pitch

View a 3-minute research pitch below.

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