“As a Member of Congress”: Agency, Gender, and Self-Qualifying Language in the House of Representatives
In order to understand the use of identity in Congress, I present a content analysis of 701 one-minute speeches from the House of Representatives given during the 116<sup>th</sup> session (2019-2020). I test two hypotheses, one being that congresswomen are more likely than congressmen to use or invoke their personal experiences, and to show agency through self-reference and self-identity language. I also expect women to use explicit references to their gender role (i.e. “as a woman/man,” “as a mother/father,” etc.,) more often than other roles (i.e. career or some other personal capacity). The second hypothesis is that congresswomen are more likely to use the above styles of agency and identity authority on topics that are often seen as women’s issues, compared to other speech topics. I coded speeches using a keyword dictionary of gender stereotyped roles and norms that are considered self-identifying or self-referential (e.g. “as a mother/father”). I also counted career references and other references to personal capacities. The results show that both congressmen and congresswomen tend to neglect referencing their gender or gender roles in their one-minute speeches, while career references are more common for both congressmen and congresswomen. I do find that congresswomen’s use of agency in speeches were more likely on issues categorized as traditional women’s issues. This research updates our understanding of when and how politicians use gender references and identity references in the Congress with the highest ever share of women House members.