Packaging vs. Policy: Beauty in Politics.

First off, not having a vagina doesn’t mean you can’t be a feminist…

First off, not having a vagina doesn’t mean you can’t be a feminist. Not having experience of being a female doesn’t mean you can’t be a feminist too. I am a feminist – I think it’s important to challenge gender stereotypes and to support sexual equality. In the case of politics, the gender imbalance has traditionally been one of the greatest. The traditional view is that successful female politicians haven’t been someone you’d be particularly pleased to roll over to in the morning. A valid point however is that beauty often plays a major role in politics, sometimes in a good way (raising awareness) and sometimes in a bad way (at the expense of policy).

The Huffington Post published a survey last year on ‘style vs. substance’ in U.S politics. Over 55% of those surveyed said that the physical appearance and presentation of a politician is more important than their policies.

Ramping up the gender prejudice, (Chloe Green if you’re reading this, I’m just the messenger and I would like to keep my testicles please!) just under 65% of people surveyed thought that it was harder for an attractive female candidate to prove that she is also intelligent, compared to just 13% that thought the same about males. Figures such as Sarah Palin and countless Miss America contestants often don’t do much to overturn this idea either (why do Americans choose from 2 or 3 people to run their country, and 50 for Miss America by the way?!).

However, these results aren’t to suggest that beauty in politics can’t have a positive effect. In choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain clearly understood that with her beauty came youth, and with her youth came charisma. Not to mention he did something to balance out that fact that his own age can only be determined through carbon dating.

Despite the fact that the survey was conducted on Americans, whose collective wisdom resulted in Bush occupying the White House for 8 years, their answers suggest that perhaps translated across the pond, we’d all be a little more shallow than we’d ideally like to think.

I was going to write a bit more about the potential advantage of beauty in politics here in the UK, but it can be summed up by saying that on the basis of the UK public voting for looks, a major advantage is that at least we’re all safe from this man:

Let’s face it, we all know that in the real world, popularity and looks play a major role in student elections too.

A friend of mine who was considering running for one of the sabbatical positions decided against it on the basis that Jazzy Sherman was rumoured to run, and that he’d therefore have no chance (especially at the rumour that her campaign would be heavily sex-orientated and her slogan was going to be ‘Jazz on your face’).

With this in mind, The Tab is soon aiming to conduct its own survey into our candidate’s policy vs. their packaging, so keep your eyes peeled!