Image reflections, gender, and the power. How global decision-makers' appearance shapes public opinion abroad, in dependence on the different geo-territorial contexts? Research, based on Bulgaria, Estonia, and Greece.
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The aim of this thesis is to explore the influence of the external appearance, including gender distinction, of world decision-makers, in shaping perceptions abroad. Here, the theme of the appearance, or external presence, is considered as a component of the broader Image of a person. Image-making is an important tool in politics, especially when there is a state/entity representation behind it. Moreover, often, the national branding is closely related to the Image that maintains its respected decision-maker. By now, in the political, academic literature, the topic of external appearance has been analyzed mainly at a domestic level, regarding the relationship between candidates and voters. This thesis goes further and tries to explore how perceptions are shaped abroad, on an international level using real, current examples. Whereas, a crucial aspect is the Image of female heads of states, and how the public perceives the suitability for their governing posts. The thesis is based mainly on the Constructivist theory, while there is an additional line build on the feminist approach. Appearance here is connected, principally, with the meaning of suitability for a particular post. Concepts like soft power and Image Bite are discussed further to approach the topic more analytically. Additionally, the role of the Media as a channel of communication in the Image-making process, and the positioning of a certain state vis-a-vis another, are supplemental aspects in this paper. The thesis is an experimental one. Expectations are tested through the MDSD. Online focus groups, organized in three states, Bulgaria, Estonia, and Greece drove the conclusions. The participants were required to evaluate a set of two photographs of eleven world decision-makers and justify their opinions. Additional questions that approach the topic were also debated. The thesis finds that: a.) Male decision-makers have an advantage in being perceived as more suitable for top positions of power. b.) The bigger the state is, the more strict expectations are constructing the perceptions for the decision-makers' Image, especially for female leaders. c.) Where the state is located, vis-a-vis another state, and the quality of their relations, matter in the Image perception, of both the state and the respected decision-maker. d.) Finally, the more 'indifferent', or on the contrary 'bold', one's Image is, the most likely is this Image to be transformed to, and affect, the state or entity of representation
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