Debates reveal media’s criticism of appearance

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Although there have been tremendous strides in women’s rights in recent years, there is still a significant amount of disparity in the way that men and women are perceived, particularly in the political world. A little under a century after women gained the right to vote, there is finally a real potential that we will elect our first female president into office.

At the same time, people on every side, whether it be the press, the general public, or her opponent, are highly critical of things like her speech patterns, her clothing, and the way her hair is cut.

Since the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy election physical appearance has played an integral role in politics. The presidential debates of that election, which would make history for being the first ones to ever be televised, held implications far beyond what anyone could have imagined. Based on polls after the debate,, radio listeners believed it was a draw, where those who watched on television believed Kennedy won by a landslide. This vast discrepancy supposedly had to do with the disheveled, exhausted appearance of Nixon as opposed to the well composed, clean cut appearance of Kennedy. This is a pretty good argument considering the vast difference between radio listeners’ and television viewers’ perceptions.

With the era of the television at hand, physical appearance began to make a difference in things that appearance should have no weight in whatsoever. But this is the flaw in humanity; despite every warning, we do judge a book by its cover.

Our culture places a tremendous amount of emphasis on the physical attractiveness of a woman. This is evident in everything from magazine advertisements to the way women are depicted in films. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this same sexism that infiltrates our media carries over to other realms.

I don’t care what your political affiliation is, or what your opinion of Hillary Clinton is, but the sexist remarks she she has faced during this race are despicable. These comments come from the public, from the press, and even her running opponent. Trump is the worst of all of them, dmaking comments like “I just don’t think she has a presidential look and you need a presidential look,” during an interview with ABC. A ‘presidential look? What does a president look like? If we were to make the argument that to be president of the United States you must be an old, white, male the trend was broken long ago. Appearance does not require the adjective “presidential” to qualify you for the job.

Similarly to appearance, the sound of one’s voice is absolutely no indication of the way someone would run a country. This is a particularly hot subject as after the debate last Monday Twitter was flooded by comments about the “shrill” nature of Clinton’s voice. Even Trump joined in, describing Clinton’s voice as a “very average scream.” These things have absolutely no relevance in how fit one is for the presidency.

Clinton recently released an advertisement which highlighted the countless things that Trump has said which degrade and shame woman for their physical appearance. The advertisement ends with the line “Is this the president we want for our daughters?” It is a campaign strategy that is the perfect appeal to ethos. Any woman, or person for that matter, who watches that advertisement will understand the emotional damage such objectification of another human being has on a person. People are not defined by what they look like and what they sound like, and neither are presidents.