Lesson 2: Every presidential candidate – man or woman – faces gendered expectations. But there are some significant differences between men and women who run.

One year ago, the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and the Barbara Lee Family Foundation launched Presidential Gender Watch 2016, a nonpartisan project to track, analyze, and illuminate gender dynamics in the 2016 presidential election. The goal of the project was – and remains – to lend expert analysis to the dialogue around gender throughout the election season. With just over 200 days until Election Day, it’s worth taking stock of what we’ve been up to. Over the next week, we will post 5 key lessons learned. Today, we review lesson number one: Every presidential candidate – man or woman – faces gendered expectations. But there are some significant differences between men and women who run. (See hyperlinks for full analyses written over the past year.)

The valuation of masculinity is particularly acute at the presidential level, in part because of the gender demands of being commander-in-chief. Those demands are rooted in persistent gendered expectations of who can and should lead the nation. We’ve written extensively about the ways in which stereotypes of gender and candidacy are more likely to align for men, while women candidates for executive office often confront double binds in appearing masculine enough for the job and feminine enough to meet stereotypical expectations of being a woman. Our partners at the Barbara Lee Family Foundation have researched these hurdles, and have written about how they’ve influenced the women in the 2016 race. Questions of Clinton’s likability matter more because she is a woman candidate, they remind us, because likability is tied to perceptions of qualifications for office for women, but not for men. They also note the double standard in candidate language, identifying how candidates’ foul language might communicate passion or authenticity for men while posing greater risks to women. That demand for authenticity also poses distinct challenges to women candidates when being an authentic candidate is – at least in part – opposed to being authentically female.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill ClintonThe gender expectations we hold as observers of American politics do not apply only to candidates. We’ve written about the gender expectations of the presidential partnership, whereby candidate spouses have long been expected to fit into helpmate roles associated with traditional norms of femininity. Moderator Martha Raddatz was criticized after she asked Hillary Clinton about whether or not it was time to change the role of a president’s spouse at a December debate. We took a more nuanced position on the question Raddatz posed, arguing that examining (and addressing) the gender constraints placed on presidential spouses is a conversation worth having, but not at the Democratic debate and, more importantly, not only when we’re faced with a potential first gentleman.

We’ve also written about the particular challenges women candidates face when confronting spousal ideals. When Carly Fiorina criticized whether or not Hillary Clinton was a good wife, she prompted us to ask a question: how do women address the stereotypical expectations of the ideal spouse, whereby the wife is still tasked with reflecting and bolstering the power of a male partner instead of fully embracing or expressing her own, while still proving she is ready to be Commander in Chief?

How might candidates navigate these gender hurdles? We’ve relied on practitioners to weigh in with tips, like communications expert Chris Jahnke’s recommendations on how to deal with gender in presidential debates. Consultant Jessica Grounds also wrote convincingly of the need for gender advisors in political campaigns, men and women who are keenly aware of the gender dynamics at play for all candidates.