Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Politics of Appearance

A few years back, studies on the interplay of appearance and career success concluded, among other things, that good-looking individuals received higher salaries and better jobs because others perceive them (perhaps subconsiously) as more capable than their less comely colleagues. If the conclusions are true, the current craze regarding politicians' appearance, at least here in the U.S., is starting to make some sense.
From the severe scrutinization of Hillary Clinton since Bill's days in the White House, to catty comments on Hillary's cleavage on the Senate floor, to talk about John Edwards' $400 haircut, to the school-girl crush of Obama Girl on Barack Obama, it appears that U.S. Presidential Election 2008 is going to be at least partly based on our candidates' hairstyles and clothing choices...unfortunately.
The focus on politicians' appearance isn't confined to the U.S., but at least in other nations, it takes on a more positive twist. A recent New York Times article focused on the famous braid worn by Ukrainian parliamentary candidate Yulia V. Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko's braid, or "The Braid" as it is known in the Ukraine, is as much part of her campaign as her political agenda. According to the article, The Braid "echoes the halos found in representations of Orthodox Christian icons." The Braid plus her clothing, which is often an all-white ensemble, gives her an almost ethereal, angelic look...a stark contrast to the aggressive look ofTymoshenko's male counterparts that some constituents regard as "gangsters."
It is interesting to see that in nations besides the U.S., women aren't afraid to display their feminine side in politics and that femininity might actually bolster constituent support. Perhaps not as stylish as Tymoshenko (and honestly, where would they find the time?), Sonia Gandhi (current President of the Indian National Congress), Benazir Bhutto (former Prime Minister of Pakistan), Khaleda Zia (former Prime Minister of Bangladesh) and Sheikh Hasina Wazed (another former Prime Minister of Bangladesh) have all retained their femininity without ridiculous comments from the media.
In my opinion, it is important that any politician look polished and not like they just rolled out of bed. I couldn't care less if they wore a suit from Armani or Banana Republic as long as they have their eyes glued to the issues that affect the American public. I look forward to the days in the U.S. when criticizing a female politician's choice of wardrobe or a First Lady's headband is over. Let's just leave the red carpet in Hollywood where it belongs, shall we?

1 comment:

  1. Yes! Nancy Pelosi has managed to escape most of that. Well, I'm not from the Bay area but I've never heard anything said of her wardrobe. There are actually articles on the cosmetic surgery politicians should get. Didn't know they were subject to the same standard as movie stars. If that's the case, John Edwards is the man for the job.


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