Competence and Appearance

A high school teacher of mine used to say she was like a bottle of fine wine: she gets better with age.

Not all would agree with that. Take Rush Limbaugh:

We know that the presidency ages the occupants of that office rapidly…. But men aging makes them look more authoritative, accomplished, distinguished. Sadly, it’s not that way for women, and they will tell you. (interruption) Well, Snerdley, you’re just sitting there thinking I’m on the precipice of the cliff here without a bungee cord… I’m just giving an honest assessment here of American culture. Look at all of the evidence. I mean, I’ve just barely scratched the surface with some of the evidence, and so: Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she’s getting older, because it will impact poll numbers. It will impact perceptions.

It’s easy to blow off Rush Limbaugh. But imagine my surprise when in the course of an explanation of Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments a liberal acquaintance of mine interrupted me to ask if I was attracted to Hillary Clinton. As if competence and respect are somehow tied to physical attraction. Of course this was asked partially in jest–still offensive, in my opinion though–but it brings up an important point.

In an article I wrote, I discussed the concept of negative affect that Kathleen Hall Jamieson brought up an interview she gave to Bill Moyers. One thing I didn’t get to talk about was the visual imagery often used to downplay women’s competence and how de-womanizing is used to diminish women’s political credibility:

Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Well, and at one time there was actually an argument that if women became educated, they would become infertile. There was also, for a long period of time, serious penalties for women who tried to speak in public. And the residue of this is a language that suggests that women in power cannot be women and be in power. And as a result, as Hillary Clinton certifies herself as being tough enough to be president, competent enough to be president, these attacks say then she can’t be president because she’s not actually a woman. And you can’t trust someone who is that inauthentic. So underlying this and underlying the vulgarity and underlying the assertions of raw sexual violence is deep fear about a woman holding power.

Its no surprise that the Right and the GOP, personified by Limbaugh, would resort to petty discussions of Hillary’s physical appearance. It is disappointing when liberals partake in this behavior. Perhaps the most disturbing example of this was an image posted on the liberal blog Crooks and Liars that morphed Hillary Clinton into Mitt Romney (no link because I refuse to go to that site anymore). The dewomanization and diminishing of Hillary was clear.

I support Hillary Clinton because of her commitment to children and families, her competence and experience as well as the trust I have in her to deal with the myriad problems we face as a nation. It’s unfortunate that our society has forced her to walk such a fine line to be acceptable.

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2 Responses to Competence and Appearance

  1. Nathan says:

    God, it’s as if women think they’re human or something!

  2. Stuart O'Neill says:

    I find the fascinating discourse about things it would never entered my mind to even consider one of the best reasons to be here at DemDaily.

    Fascinating article well documented and written.