Seton Hill University (SHU) is proud to announce that the World Affairs
Forum hosted its second High Tea of the year and thus welcomed Dr. Mary
Ann Gawelek as the host. The topic of the discussion was the psychology
of language in reference to the campaign and election, and it included
subtopics about gender bias and stereotypes.
By Stephanie Wytovich,
Seton Hill University (SHU) is proud to announce that the World Affairs Forum hosted its second High Tea of the year and thus welcomed Dr. Mary Ann Gawelek as the host. The topic of the discussion was the psychology of language in reference to the campaign and election, and it included subtopics about gender bias and stereotypes.
The first topic that was touched upon was the use of words and implied conations within the campaign. Most students seemed to agree that ‘change’ is the biggest word in both politics and society at the moment, and that it is ironic because of its lack of specificity. When one simply states “We need a change,” most people normally follow up with the questions of when, why, and how. Comments were stated that Obama’s movement towards change can be backed up a plan and a mission, whereas McCain’s usage of it seems vague and unsure.
Word choice is interesting in this example because “change” has an expandable meaning to different people, and because of that, the candidates are working towards what is provocative and appealing to them.
In response to word choice, Dr. Michael Cary, Professor of History and Political Science, states, “One word [that] I find problematic [is] the word “terrorist.” [It is being] used in campaign ads [to] try to create an association between Obama and William Ayers, member of the Weather Underground during the 1960s.
The word terrorist is double-edged, because the nature and history media coverage of terror incidents inclines us to think not of Timothy McVeigh or of the Oklahoma infamy, but of Osama bin Laden, whose first name sounds like Obama. It becomes fairly easy to smear Senator Obama by repeating the word ‘terrorist’ and then repeating his name. The conjunction of those words is intended to persuade not by reason but by fear rooted in ignorance.”
Following the discussion on word usage, were topics of ageism, sexism, and racism. The group discussed stereotypes towards the candidates, and both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, based on gender/racial bias and sexists remarks. Throughout the discussion, they stressed a particular emphasis on Palin’s ‘hockey mom’ comment, over which students were thrown.
They felt as if she was making the motion that just because she is a mother figure that that makes her a plausible candidate for vice president. Sure, all of the candidates have mentioned their families, and their children, but does the fact that they are married, or have adopted kids really impact the issues that of country is facing, or is this just a ploy for our candidates to identify with us, and seem more likeable?
One of the most climatic moments in the discussion was when the students and faculty were told to define “middle class.” One aspect of the middle class that almost everyone seemed to agree upon was that both candidates could not identify with it.
Sure it’s easy to say “I understand where you’re coming from,’ but students made the notion that unless you’re living this lifestyle every day, and know what it feels like to only have ten dollars in your pocket after you pay your bills at the end of the month, than no, you can’t identify with us; it’s only an illusion. Even the concept of the middle class goes back to the word “change.” People don’t want to hear that candidates understand where they’re coming from; they want to hear how they’re going to help them.
Overall, the discussion was lively and continuous all throughout the hour. Students were not only well-informed with their responses, but also passionate. This is proof that if you know the facts, you can create awareness among others and open their eyes to things that they did not see. Despite one’s age, race, or gender, you can make a difference.