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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
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.”