I can't see you; can you hear me? Gender norms and context during in-person and teleconference U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments


Female attorneys at the U.S. Supreme Court are less successful than male attorneys under some conditions because of gender norms, implicit expectations about how men and women should act. While previous work has found that women are more successful when they use more emotional language at oral arguments, gender norms are context sensitive. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted perhaps the most radical contextual shift in Supreme Court history: freewheeling in-person arguments were replaced with turn-based teleconference arguments. This change altered judicial decision-making and, I argue, justices’ assessments of attorneys’ gender performance. Using quantitative textual analysis of oral arguments, I demonstrate that justices implicitly evaluate gender performance with different metrics in each modality. Gender-normative levels of emotional language predict success in both formats. Function words, however, only predict success in teleconference arguments. Given gender’s salience at the Supreme Court and in broader society, my findings prompt questions about the extent to which women can substantively impact case law.



gender norms, modality, attorneys, Supreme Court, oral arguments, COVID-19, text analysis



Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0)


Gleason, Shane A. 2023. “I Can’t See You; Can You Hear Me? Gender Norms and Context During In-Person and Teleconference U.S. Supreme Court Oral Arguments.” Politics & Gender 1–28. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1743923X23000594