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Appearance matters

Appearance matters
by Louise Easson

Ok girls, it’s time to wake up and smell the lipstick.

The sooner that we realise that the way we dress and the make-up we wear sends off important messages about what our values are to those around us, the sooner that we can stop complaining about the public comments we might attract and get on with doing our jobs.

Sob-stories about the unfair way that females are judged by their appearance globally have been all over the Australian press in the last couple of weeks, from the frumpy Scottish singer Susan Boyle’s rise to fame, to Veronica Lario’s objection to her husband’s selection of beautiful young women to the European Parliament.

Constantly, I see femi-nazi blogs and articles depicting how awful it is that women politicians and other public figures are criticised for their appearance, expressing horror at the “Kate Ellis is the hottest MP” Facebook group... Imagine! Isn’t it awful that a female MP might be considered attractive! I thought they were all meant to be Doc Martin wearing intellectuals with no bodies.

Well, I hate to be a realist but despite what the feminists tell you, Kristina Keneally NSW Minister for Planning, is right in saying, “Appearance does matter.”

“How you present yourself sends out a message on how you value yourself,” she says. “It is hard to show others that your views matter, if you don’t take yourself and your appearance seriously.”

When I asked how she feels about Facebook groups devoted to her hotness – as well as another nastier, “Put Hillary Clinton back in the kitchen” – she replied, “I just dismiss those groups that are joined casually by a click. It’s always been a part of politics, that your opponent will try to find a point of weakness and attack it to get a response.” So a focus on appearance can be used as a weapon, causing users to ignore her ideas, and instead seeing her as an object, but not one Keneally seems to take too seriously.

So maybe certain women that get offended by these groups need to lighten up a little.

I admit that Brian Wilshire on Sydney’s Radio 2GB went a little too far the other week whilst discussing how ‘ugly’ he thinks that Julia Gillard is. Still, Ms Gillard has become a lot more favoured in the public arena since she started wearing more make-up and jewelery.

Now before you attack me for being an evil woman-hater, please note that this is not just a women’s issue. Men’s appearance is noticed and picked on by the media too. During the Kennedy vs. Nixon debate during the 1960 American Presidential election. Kennedy appeared young and confident, whilst Nixon was poorly made-up and awkward. It has been speculated by historians that Nixon’s appearance not only lost him the debate, but the Presidency.

“I don’t believe the focus of certain journalists on appearance is the most significant deterrent to a woman entering politics,” Keneally explains, “Politics requires a healthy dose of self-confidence and perspective. Men are also ridiculed by the press for wearing crumpled clothing or unwashed hair. It is a part of public life.”

The Rudd-bot? Barrell O’Farrell? Barry Unsworth’s cardigan? Howard’s eyebrows?

Virginia Judge, NSW Minister for Fair Trading and Citizenship, takes a different view, “The appearance of male MPs doesn’t seem to feature as much in the media.”

Judge admits that it is a generalisation, but there seems to be an emphasis on how a woman looks as opposed to what they say. Referring to an article published in the Sun Herald in 2005, “Would anyone really notice that Julia Gillard had an empty food bowl in her kitchen if she was a man?” Perhaps not. But maybe this is something that we need to come to terms with. Perhaps we need to accept the reality, that our appearance, whether we appear feminine or not, plays a role in how others form opinions about us.

As much as you may like to ignore it, you judge people by their appearance too. Just think about how much that striped tie on TV bugs you, or how much you love that politician for matching her shoes with her handbag.

“We live in a consumer driven society,” Judge admits, “and appearance trickles down into other areas. Human qualities, like compassion and generosity, are what should be promoted, but in reality, due to the nature of advertising, the qualities we notice in people can become warped.”

Keneally admits that she too notices the appearance of others. “Perhaps it is human instinct to notice appearance, although it is probably unconscious. Maybe it is something I’ve noticed more in public life.”


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A fact of life

As frustrating as it may be, it is a fact of life that we all get judged on our appearance. Everyone is aware of this and this is why people worry about the way they look when, for example, they go for a job interview.

What we wear and the way we wear it sends a message to others and while for most of us it is subconscious, we all judge people by their appearance to a certain extent. The way someone dresses can tell us their view of themselves, how confident they are, and what social group they belong to.

I think the key is not to let appearance count for too much and to be willing to alter you perception of someone if you find that their appearance does not at all reflect who they are.

Stop denying it - we all know it matters

As much as we debate and attempt to be politically correct on the issue,  we all know that appearance does matter on some level. Whilst it may not be 'right', it is undeniable that society is more accepting of those that present themselves in a favorable manner.

Whilst we all must work with what God gave us, that blank canvas is a starting point from which we project many things - personality, individual style, personal pride. 

I do not agree with issue being taken to how attractive people are (we are the way we are, after all), but it is undeniable that one's presentation can be taken as a guide to how much pride they take in other areas of their life. 

People who live their lives in the public eye know that such scrutiny is part of the role they're taking on. We do live in a consumer society geared towards the attainment of youth, beauty and fitness. This is the yardstick against which our politicians will be measured. 

End of story. 

Make a good impression!

Louise, I just read your article and I have to agree with you.

Appearance is important, especially in the work place. First impressions do matter, if you care about your appearance, it sends the message that you take pride in what you do as well.

If I were Kate Ellis I’d be flattered that not only do I have a great job and am intelligent, but I’m also considered attractive! Good on her!

However you don’t have to be the best looking person, and you certainly don’t need to alter appearance with plastic surgery or other extremes, but dressing neatly and looking after yourself is important. This is not only for women but men as well. How much banter did John Howard get for his bushy eye-brows! Often I was distracted by them rather than listening to what he was actually saying!

Good impression works

Well, Louise, I have to agree with you that appearance does matter in a more consumer driven society. It's all about the change of the ways people are judging others . There is no way that they can just pass the first impression, and go straight to look at your soul. It's just not happening.

Most importantly I think a good appearance does make a good first impression, which could have been very helpful sometimes. Especially for politicians, and I am referring to both women and men here. How does a politician expect the public to put huge amount of trust and vote for him/her without looking confident enough? And this doesn't just apply to public figures. There are certain jobs that do require appropriate appearances, usually in the case of being professional.  We don't want others to treat us any less because of that. And It's a very simple question to think about.  

All I am saying is we cannot judge other people purely on the basis of what they are wearing, but that is one important element to make your life more successful. Leaving a good impression works!

brave new world

Jay, it seems the non threatening, user friendly or chubby cuddly Rudd was a response to the genetic monstrous intrusion of the Howard eyebrows.

But I, too, have grave doubts about Rudd. Anyone who stays back at work for even a moment after knock off time has my deepest suspicion.

I suspect Louise Easson has just discovered French post-structural philosophy, which has its origins at least partly in the insights of Barthes, who exposed the sophistication of the consumerist counter project and the role of the persuasion industry , in its employ of myth to hold the individual. Its the beginnings of the cultural critique of capitalism that also has its roots in Gramschi and the Frankfurt school.

The system adapted to the Marxist critique, thru the myth of cornucopia at the very time when the simplistic Stalinist failure became overt; when it became obvious that overt political repression would no longer work in the East any more than the pre world war 2 West or contemporary third world - the brave new way came thru technology and goodies.

Althusser and later Baudrillard expanded further ideas as to consumerism, media and belief and the feminists produced a definitive case history in their essentially collaborative study of female commodification and reification over two centuries; a diachronic analysis.

Then a whole heap of French post structuralists and German phenomonologists followed, trying to make sense of the last two centuries, up to the wedged "now" .

Although Marcuse, I think correctly, described current times as defined by the notion of the imperceptibly dumbing down "repressive tolerant", the post structuralists were more circumspect, guided on the basis of the philosophical theoretical hunch of the reality of the "permanent becoming".

The contradiction is since resolved in the grasping of the meaning of "globalisation", itself predicted by Lenin and exposed in the failure to translate revolution into reality thru neoliberalism,as the disastrous failure of Stalinism. The resultant synthesis was first expressed by Foucault, as to the "diffusity of power"

This is, that denial of closure inherent in reality in the current mode, which may allow us only the wiggle room at best, for subversion, transgression; survival. It's a dour reassessment of the possibility of immediate broad transformative change via older, perhaps simplistic, overly optimistic critiques and solutions, in the wake of the failures induced of the misreading of emerging reality- a reality check, if you like.

In the new scenario, a Pammy Anderson and Dolly Parton, with their system-mining (self) parodying located nonetheless in a conscious comprehension of reality and appreciation of the nature of the system, could be seen as a more sophisticated "disguise" response than that of an old style overt agitator who will only be ignored out of existence anyway (or finally liquidated if they become too persistent, as a "terrorist").

In a sense a Miss California, who actually "believes" it all; someone who actually is a "structure", ironically has become the (equivalent to) the superficial hairy sloganeer of the sixties - someone who has the appearance of insight, but none of its substance.

The cognitive landscape these become part of, remains complex, changing and problematic and can be better countered at the points of manifestation should the opportunity arise, according to the likes of Foucault. The exerting of a little patience has seen, in turn, the discrediting of Fascism, Stalinism and fascism disguised as neoliberalism (remember the reality of globalisation!). But power remains ubiquitous and diffuse. Like I said, a much more pessimistic reading.

So, as Fukuyama gloated, the way forward to a genuine transformation that includes appreciation and constructive use of resources, universalisation of consciousness and the "New Jerusalem", remains as problematic as ever. The icebergs will arrive before it does, you tend to fear.

Theoretical tour de force

I must say - excellent. Heartily enjoyed above theoretical tour de force. I cannot remember exactly when acquiring a tatoo became a symbol of freedom and resistance but I blame Foucault. On appearances I must refer again to the lovely post-bloody-everything photo of Mikhail Bakunin. I may not look quite so grizzly but can certainly claim to know how he felt when this was taken. Appearances do matter.

a query of my own

Anthony, the photo didn't show when I checked. You are not one of those bods who shaves his head, are you?

A nip or two

I like your title, Paul.

If a nip and tuck is what gives Miss California her high, who am I to criticise?

Well, I'll be tucked!

 But can too much nipping and tucking, too often, be good for a girl's appearance, let alone her reputation, Jay?

Standing up against discrimination

We make quick judgements about others - based on appearance, race, gender, height, beauty, or any one of a hundred modifiable and unmodifiable features.

These quick judgements are often accurate, sometimes false. The question is, should we change those features that we can, in order to create a more favourable impression? Or is that lying, sailing under false colours? Should we to our own self be true?

I don't enjoy wearing ties, but in my last job, an expensive suit and tie meant it was easier to get things done. Ergo I was paid to wear an expensive suit.

Instant ugly

Louise, the problem is that appearance has come to count for too much.

Sorry, can't link it, but go to Huffington Post and read some of the scathing comments about the current Miss California, a hardline social conservative who dislikes the deceptiveness of gays, but had a sly boob implant (bolt-ons) paid by the cretins running the pageant.

Now, why on earth do Miss California types, models and movie stars need all this junk (uglifying cosmetic surgery, botox, and plastic norks, let alone all the conventional gunk) when they are already born with the best that nature can endow them with?

And I suppose I can include Viagra for guys on the list of pathetics.

The expense, in a world of starving and sick people screaming for basic treatments for their real problems, at a fraction of beauty industry costs!

Why are character and personality, such despised commodities?

Do westerners with their manufactured needs, and consumer fetishism realise how actually ugly and phony, and actually pathetic they look when they phony themselves up?

Rotund Kevin

Unfortunately, Paul, there is a link between beauty and personality.

In his electioneering photos, Kevin looked overly chubby. My immediate reaction was - this guy doesn't seem to be exercising. If he can't look after his own body, can he look after the country?

Genetic abnormalities that cause intellectual handicaps often also affect phyisical appearance. Beauty is often a sign of good health. Happy people radiate. Beauty is not simply skin deep.

You are, though, quite right. If Kevin had tried liposuction to appear thinner, and it came out, he'd likely have lost the election.

Appearance matters

Ok, boys it is time to go to sleep and dream of lip service.

Louise, here is some lip about my appearance.  When I was about three years old because i was a male child my mother and my sisters drummed into me "Girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice and boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails.

You have heard of the story or Beauty and the Beast. Beauty is represented by the female gender in society and the Beast is the male gender. Males are judged by their appearace, Louise. Compared to a female there is no comparison. That is why males don't wear make up. Put a little on or half a tonne on a male's face and they still look ugly compared to the beauty of a woman. 

That is what was drummed into me as a child by my mother. Males are ugly compared to females. So how would you like to be ugly all your life from the womb to the grave and be male. It ain't fun.

Bloody hell where is my rouge?

Fiona: Welcome to Webdiary, Glen.

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