Saturday, November 8, 2008
I’m a big fan of Sarah Palin. I like her, and respect what’s she’s accomplished, personally, politically and for the people of Alaska. I don’t live in Alaska, but wouldn’t mind her replacing the governor of my own state.
In an interview, portions of which I saw on yesterday’s news, Governor Palin commented about the unfairness of how the media went after her appearance in ways they never would have done to her male counterparts. She’s right. They did. It’s also true that they would have been less discriminatory in their questions and comments had she been a Washington insider and/or less attractive – closer, in other words, to the standard for women in politics which most mainstream media find acceptable.
I think she’s right, and that the behavior of the media is wrong, but there’s a related counter-point which always goes unsaid, until now. (You can thank me later.)
Many women have been brought up and conditioned to think they look better wearing makeup, high heels, an interesting “do,” and more elaborate professional clothing. And to be honest, I was raised to believe that, too. Men, on the other hand, don’t do that, don’t think that way for the most part. Some do, of course, but most of us don’t. Whether or not women look better coloring their faces, standing on their toes or spending significant time and money preparing their hair which might be put to more productive use isn’t the point. If you’re a woman and you want to do those things because you believe it’s good for your self-image, career, whatever, that’s entirely up to you. But if that is what you choose to do, be aware that it gives many men, and probably more than a few women, the sense that you believe those accoutrements are an important element of how you define yourself – when, in fact, that may not be why you want to be hired or elected.
Although it’s been a while, I’ve been around women who would go braless to make a statement which was popular at the time, but not dream of giving up their lipstick and eyeliner. However interesting the look, I remember asking myself then, and now, what was the point they were trying to make?
If you’re a woman and you’re going to wear makeup, etc., which your male counterparts do not, it’s your right, but don’t be surprised if you’re viewed and treated differently because you do. There’s a double standard, all right, and it’s wrong, but most women continue to do little or nothing to discourage it.
We just elected a black man President because most of us don’t care about the color of his skin – or what he, himself, described, as “Alfred E. Newman ears.” I don’t think he wears makeup, at least not in the ordinary course of business. I’m pretty sure that’s his own hair which he spends little or no time preparing, and the heels on his ordinary shoes are minimal. A similar day may come soon, I hope, for women when most of us have stopped considering their appearance as relevant, and focus instead upon their abilities and experience. It’s something they have to believe, too, and probably first, before the rest of us get the point. Personally, I can’t wait.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t that the Republicans spent all that money on Governor Palin’s wardrobe that bothered me so much, as it was that they thought she needed to look better, and that she was, at least tacitly, conceding the point by not opposing it. In retrospect, do his managers think that, if only they had spent more money on Senator McCain’s clothes, he might have won?