Posts Tagged ‘women in politics’
The other day I found this post on Sociological Images about the use of breasts in political ads in Germany. The CDU party of Germany has been running this ad:
This ad features two women from the CDU party: Vera Lengsefeld (right) and Angela Merkel (left). Both women are wearing rather low cut tops/dresses. The text on the left, over the picture of Merkel, reads “We have more to offer.”
By choosing pictures of these two women in low cut tops and using the phrase “We have more to offer” (and I’m sure it was purposeful), the ad is drawing attention to these women’s breasts as their one feature to offer that is distinctive. They have more to offer because they have breasts.
It’s really interesting to me that the CDU would use these women’s breasts to an asset where as Hillary Clinton was criticized to no end for showing the slightest amoung of cleavage. Oh my god! Hillary Clinton has breasts! She is obviously not equipped to handle being president. It’s not just that breasts unqualify a person for being president, but focusing on her cleavage in news reports is a way of silencing her intelligence and qualifications for the presidency.
How do the breasts of women in politics function differently in different societies. In Germany, they are obviously viewed as an asset and a good way of differentiating these candidates because they have “more to offer.” But in the U.S., breasts are seen as a death sentence for anyone hoping for a career in politics. The U.S. does not want their leaders sexualized in any way. They are apparently just supposed to be asexual beings. Or they are supposed to be men, because it seems to be the problem is with breasts. But breasts will help the women of the CDU in Germany rise above the rest of the competition.
Have you heard the news? Michelle Obama wore shorts! The world is coming to an end!
Apparently Michelle Obama wore shorts (of a modest length) while on vacation at the Grand Canyon. Why am I talking about this, you ask? Well, I’m talking about it because it seems to have been deemed newsworthy.
Is it really that big of a deal that Michelle Obama was wearing shorts? Especially considering they were on vacation…at the Grand Canyon…in 106 degree heat.
I’d like to say the reporting on this is a result of a slow news day. But even then, it’s not really worth talking about. So why does the media think it is their responsibility to comment on Michelle Obama’s inconsequential fashion decisions? I can kind of understand a commentary on a decision to wear shorts if it was to a political function or something, but on vacation…really?
The Huffington Post had a poll asking if Michelle Obama has “the right to bare legs” (via Jezebel). Most people in the poll said yes, but does this question even warrant a poll? And even the phrasing of the question: the right to bare legs. I’m pretty sure she has the right to wear whatever she wants.
It is pretty disrespectful to comment on Michelle Obama’s fashion decisions (especially such inconsequential ones) instead of the intellectual weight that she adds to the White House and politics. By commenting on her fashion, the media is saying that she doesn’t really have anything to add to the equation other than just looking pretty while standing next to her powerful husband. And do we hear anything about what Barack Obama was wearing? He was probably wearing shorts too, but apparently his legs aren’t as important as his wife’s.
A very similar thing happened during the 2008 presidential campaign. Many media outlets devoted a lot of attention to Hillary Clinton’s pant suits and cleavage. Did these media outlets analyze the fashion decisions of Obama, McCain, or any of the other male candidates? Not really. So why is it so important to consider what Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama wears? It’s just a way to draw attention away from the actual issues at hand and discredit the intellectual assets of the person at hand.
By focusing on the wardrobe of Michelle Obama (and this is not the first time that her outfits have been the subject of news), the media is saying that she has very little else to offer besides her looks and great fashion choices. Aren’t we pass the point where First Ladies (and wives/girlfriends/partners in general) are only there to look pretty? First Ladies have always contributed to the politics of their presidential husbands and they have evolved into a political entity in and of themselves. It’s about time that we stop look at how attractive they are, what they wear, etc. and spend more time focusing on the intellectual and politics of that person.
The focus on clothing instead of intellect is just another silencing technique used against women, particularly smart, powerful women. Like I said, focusing on clothing places the value of a person on their looks instead of their intellectual possibilities. The media is scared that women might actually have something worthy to say that they instead focus on inconsequential things about their appearance to take the attention away from what they might say.
First lady’s shorts draing long, hard, looks [Today Show]
Have you ever noticed that politically powerful women are usually referred to by their first name in the media where as most men are not? Well, I have.
Let me first say that I have been thinking about this for a while (which I will discuss in a little bit), but what really prompted this post and this moment in time was an email that I received from one of my best college buds who is now in D.C. This is what the email said:
I’m really curious as to if you’ve noticed or why you think that women in politics or really any well know women are known by their first name. Hillary, Sonia, Michelle to name a few. I recently read a subtitle in the Economist magazine which was “Judging Sonia” or the movie about Jane Austen “Becoming Jane”. Both great women both only referred to by their first name. I very much doubt that a male justice would get such a headline. Thoughts?
I’m so glad that someone else picked up on this (though I’m sure many have).
During the latter part of my college career I was a research assistant for a professor doing research on the role of gender and race in the 2008 election. As I was gathering articles I often noticed that Obama and McCain were referred to either by solely their last name or as Senator Obama or McCain. But for Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, the media almost always referred to her as Hillary, very rarely as Clinton or Senator Clinton.
I brought this up in the comments of a post on Small Strokes titled “Women and the Family Name” and got some thought-provoking responses. One such response suggested that the media referred to her as Hillary in order to differentiate her from her husband because for 8 years Clinton meant Bill Clinton. I think that the context of the article would make it pretty clear that the were talking about Hillary Clinton. Or they could have referred to her as Senator Clinton because Bill was never a Senator. I think there is more to it than just trying to differentiate Hillary and Bill Clinton.
As my friend pointed out, I have also seen this trend in discussing Judge Sonia Sotomayor. I have often read the “judging Sonia” phrase. I don’t, however, think this case was as “severe” as it was with Hillary. Or maybe I just didn’t notice it as much because it wasn’t put against the stark difference of the referrence to male candidates. But referring to Sotomayor solely as Sonia was pretty widespread throughout the media.
So why is this? Why are women referred to by their first name instead of their last? I see this as a sign of a lack of respect for women in politics; as a way to diminish the power they really have. Men are generally threatened by women with power and this is a way for them to diminish that power.
I also had a discussion with someone a while ago in which it was suggested that Clinton was referred to as Hillary in order to make her more relateable to the general public. If the public is on a “first name basis” with her, maybe it will make her seem more approachable and down to earth. I can kind of see this, but I don’t really buy it.
By referring to powerful women by their first name, the media and men in power are showing that these women are not on their level; these women aren’t good enough to be referred to by their last name or as Senator, Judge, etc. It also takes away some of the legitimacy that these women have. Hillary Clinton and Sonia Sotomayor are both incredibly smart women, but by referring to them by their first name, they might not be taken as seriously as their male counterparts who are referred to by their last name or title.
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to endorse Judge Sonia Sotomayor with a 13 to 6 vote! All that’s left is a full Senate vote which is expected to take place by the end of next week.
Senate Judiciary Committee Endorses Sotomayor [Shakesville]
Senate panel endorses Sotomayor [Feministe]
Sotomayor Approved for Supreme Court by Senate Judiciary Committee [RH Reality Check]
Committee Approves Sotomayor Nomination [Jezebel]
Senate Judiciary Committee Votes for Sotomayor [Feministing]
Senate Panel OKs Sotomayor [Appetite for Equal Rights]