Pretty and Politics Don’t Mix

Interesting and important Vagina News today, of an academic nature. 

You may have heard that President Obama has been criticized for saying this about California Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“She’s brilliant and she’s dedicated, she’s tough… She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general… It’s true! C’mon.”

He has since called her to apologize, she accepted and expressed her support. (Interesting how little attention has been paid to HER feelings about the whole thing.) To be honest, and this is admittedly influenced by my general support for Obama, it didn’t bother me much. It was a joke tacked on to compliments about her professional excellence, and a far cry from minimizing her as a professional based on her looks. But then I learned this…

A recent study shows that media coverage of a female politician’s appearance – whether positive, negative, or neutral – has a negative impact on her ‘electability’; “That includes “the horserace, her favorability, her likelihood to be seen as possessing positive traits, and how likely voters are to vote for her.”” So your gut feeling is right – mentioning a female politician’s looks is, consciously or not, an effective way to marginalize her professionally. I doubt that’s what Obama was going for – Kamala Harris is a California Democrat – but we’ve all heard others do it for precisely that purpose.

The good news is that there is a way for a female candidate to undo the damage – call it out. The study shows that when the candidate or an outside organization made a statement along the lines of, “My appearance is not news and does not deserve to be covered. Rarely do they cover men in this fashion and by doing so they depict women as less serious and having less to offer voters,” the candidate’s numbers recovered and even improved.

Thank god. I didn’t want to have to be pissed about this all day.

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