Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Are active women ugly?

While I was browsing the blog of "The F-Word", I stumbled over what seems to be an American voting poster. It showed all the female Republicans looking very good - obviously the pictures were taken from promotion photographs or suchlike - and all the female Democrats looking very ugly (or at least not very attractive) - as those pictures obviously had taken from speeches and other situation in which the women were moving and not always showing their best side.

My first question after looking at the poster was "what the hell does the look of a woman have to do with how good or bad she is as a politician?" I mean, if this were important, our own Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel would not be in office either. She's efficient and a good politician, but attractive?

My second question was "which nitwit is voting for a female politician just because she's good-looking?" But then, I probably overestimated men when it comes to that. On the other hand, which full-blooded Republican voter will vote for a woman, anyway?

But back to the more important question. What the hell does the look of a woman have to do with how good or bad she is as a politician?

Politicians aren't very attractive as a rule, they tend to be quite old already and usually have spent a lot of their life doing all those things they're absolutely set against now. I guess you could do the same poster with promotion photographs of female Democrats and active female Republicans. And you could do the same poster with male politicians of both parties. There's enough footage on any given politician from the United States (or other first world countries) around to take such unflattering pictures from.

The blog post rightfully points out that the 'attractive' Republicans all looked very passive while the 'ugly' Democrats were all obviously actively taking part in speeches, discussions and suchlike. Therefore one more underlying message was "only a passive woman can look good." That probably was not what the poster was about, but I have to admit that it's a valid interpretation.

Beautiful women are depicted as passive quite often by the media. Beauty Queens present themselves, but although they walk and talk, they are not taking a very active role in the contest. They present themselves (just as pictures would) and the judged decide about "who's the fairest of them all."

Which brings me to another area in which beautiful women normally are passive: fairy tales. Honestly, what does the princess do during such a story? She get threatened (quite often by an evil, ugly, but also active woman) and then waits for the prince to save her. There's other stories, of course, with rather active women (thought most of them aren't noblewomen), but those are far less known today (as I pointed out before).

In the minds of most girls, the perfect fairy tale princess is beautiful and just waits for her Prince Charming to drop by and rescue her.

But why this idea? Sure, just sitting and getting a photograph taken is a lot less damaging for your looks or hairdo than really delivering a speech with all your heart. And why just women? A male politician can easily be shown like that without being considered 'ugly' or not worthy our vote. In fact, the more active a male politician seems, the better his chances to get elected, normally.

It seems as if we've still got a long way to go.

But what do people want from a politician? Sitting somewhere and being pretty or really doing something for society and fighting for their conviction? I'd personally prefer the latter.

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