Monday, 2 June 2008

pretty pollies

i got sent an article today from the northern advocate, written by one eva bradley. it's not available on the internet, which is a good thing cos i don't want to link to it anyway. but in the interests of having any kind of informed discussion on it, i'm going to have to include some excerpts.

the title of the piece is "can't we have some pretty pollies". and here are some of the points ms bradley makes:

...And that's when I saw the text: the new Italian cabinet. Was this for real? Were these women beautiful and intelligent? Was it actually possible to be sexy and be taken seriously at the same time? In Europe, apparently so.

... Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has an ex-showgirl in his cabinet and boasts of his right-wing female politicians looking hotter than the opposition's. In Italy, according to the boss, it's politically relevant to point out your rivals have "no taste" in women.

... Across the Med in Spain... A publicity shot with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zaperto shows him centre stage with what appears to be a virtual harem of high heels and short skirts.

... And so here it is, straight: our female politicians are ugly. With a few forgettable exceptions, they are old, thick around the middle and apparently shop and do their hair at the same place as their male counterparts.

Which wouldn't be a problem if they were there only for their brains. But they're not. They work in an entertainment industry, surrounded by cameras, leading news bulletins...

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that John Key has had expensive dental work, while Helen Clark has not. There is your answer for the latest swing to the right.

... Judge me if you will but in a country of four million, is it unreasonable to ask that the few we must look at, read about and listen to, are hot as well as brainy?

i don't even know where to start with this. perhaps the sheer misogyny - why has she failed to turn similar scrutiny to male politicians? why is it only women that have to be eye-candy as well as being smart? at the very least, we should be asking the same of murray mccully, wayne mapp, gerry brownlee, peter brown, bob clarkson, etc etc etc. girls deserve some eye-candy too, don't we, when we watch the news and read the papers?

or maybe it's just the shallowness i should complain about. i should list the numbers of women who have contributed so much to the world, yet remained dowdy, frumpy and totally unconcerned about their appearance. mother teresa, anyone?

i could rant about a culture that places so much value on appearance and so little on personality and behaviour. "handsome is as handsome does" seems to be a dead or terminally ill notion these days. i could challenge those women who contend that popular culture, music videos, girls and women's magazines etc don't have an impact. they clearly have an impact on ms bradley. she has bought into the notion that a women's worth is dependent on her attractiveness, which is what the weight loss and cosmetics industries have spent millions drumming into our heads.

i could rage about the class discrimination inherent in her writing. what about the women from poor backgrounds whose parents couldn't afford expensvie dental work; or even a decent healthy diet? should they be shut out of a political career because they didn't have the money to put towards their appearance at the time it would have made a difference?

i could challenge her by asking if we really want our top women politicians to be spending more time on their appearance than they already do? time that their male counterparts can spend reading cabinet papers or getting out in the community to garner valuable feedback. ms bradley effectively wants women to be spending less time on the actual job, meaning they will be worse at it than males and much less likely to progress and succeed in their careers. either that or women should simply not apply for the job unless they have stunning natural beauty, a perfect figure and a killer metabolism.

i could raise any number of other points, but i know they will fall on deaf ears. from the way the full article is written, one concludes that ms bradley is taking joy at thumbing her nose at us politically correct types. she's enjoying being a rebel in her own way, and should we deign to criticise her, she would simply toss her head and tell us to get a sense of humour. and a decent haircut.

Update: on the off-chance that you would like to inform ms bradley of your unhappiness with her views, please feel free to write a letter to the editor. the email is or you can click on "letters" on their website


Lyn said...

I couldn't agree with your post more.

BigGirlsBlouse said...

It's disgusting the way female polititians are treated in this country and I think it reflects a deep seated misogynist attitude that I find disturbing. Some of our female polititians are really amazing but they never seem to get the respect they deserve.

Psycho Milt said...

Was it actually possible to be sexy and be taken seriously at the same time? In Europe, apparently so.

This concept that Silvio Berlusconi takes his female colleagues seriously is one I'd really want to see some convincing argument for before I accepted it. But then again, I'm not sure the author has any real sense of what "taken seriously" actually means.

Julie said...

I find this stuff so depressing, especially when it is women who are writing these misogynist articles. It's an attitude that to me is at heart saying women are still just for looking at, not for listening to. I assume Ms Bradley meets her own ridiculous standards, and deities help her if she slips from them as she gets older.

The issue you raise about time is an important one I reckon. Way back when I used to have 8am law lectures and I would basically drag myself out of bed at 6am, have a shower still asleep, usually pick clothes for speed, comfort and warmth, and then sleep my way to uni on the bus. I'd barely be awake when I made it into the lecture theatre and would often have to try really hard not to return to a somnolent state once the lights dimmed and the lecture started (no offence to the excellent lecturers, I am just not a morning person). I used to sit next to a guy who I would chat to from time to time, and most of the male students were in a similar state of half-asleep/half-awake. A few of the women were very "done up", which made me wonder what time they must have got up at - even with practice I imagine it still takes some time to use the hair straighteners and put on liquid eyeliner. Anyway, at some point in the semester I ran for the student exec and of course there were photos of me on my posters. The guy who sat next to me expressed some surprise at how I looked on the posters. He found it hard to believe that the 8am sleep-eyed me was the same person, and expressed an opinion that I must be photoshopped or something. I wasn't, in fact I don't think I was even wearing make-up in the photos. But I don't think he was convinced by my denials, apparently you either look wonderful all the time or crap all the time, and there is no middle ground. And apparently I should have been giving more of my time to looking "good" rather than sleeping. Who knew?

Lyn said...

Julie - *groan*.

Julie said...

This post reminds me also of two quotes I once read, years ago, which I paraphrase:

"Even I don't look like Cindy Crawford in the morning." (Cindy Crawford herself)

"I was so unsure of my looks as a teen that I wouldn't even go to the letterbox without make-up on". Michelle Pfeiffer (I hope I didn't spell that wrong)

Anna McM said...

It's interesting and kind of pitiful how some women assert their independence and 'empowerment' by effectively sinking the boot into the rest of us.

Psycho - you couldn't be more right about the so-called respect that beautiful women receive. Like wolf-whistles and snide comments, for example. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't, I think in my glum moments.

The feminist in me wants liberate Ms Bradley from her false consciousness. The bitch in me can't wait until she's got saggy boobs and stretch marks. Maybe I'm just as bad!

Anonymous said...

I think what she fails to realise is that men and women are being held to different standards.

Men are often viewed as attractive because they are successful and powerful, and present themselves that way, reinforcing both at the same time. The standard of objectification for men is less about aesthetics and more about money and power. Key isn't a fair example to use.

Women are viewed as unattractive, cold, manipulating, and fake when they are successful and powerful. Women who are viewed as attractive have their ideas ignored, they're relegated to supporting roles, and are treated like so much eye-candy. They have to work even harder to maintain a positive image than a man in the same position.

By departing from objectification they can become more successful, but then they have to deal with the negative stereotypes. It's a lose-lose situation until we address the cause: That men are pressured out of finding more powerful women engaging or attractive in order to affirm their masculinity to their friends.

And yeah, it's even worse that women fall for it, too.

Julie- your story sounds familiar, hehe. It's sad that women are pressured out of just being casual about the times they don't look so good, because it's a reality that everyone faces now and then.

Lyn said...

Julie - Contrary to you, I assume that Ms Bradley doesn't, in fact, meet the standards she espouses in the article, but presumably advocates that women who wish to be "in the spot-light" should. Which, if true, is ridiculous. Politicians are not there to be looked at - they're there to be listened to (whether you agree with what they say or not). Politics should be issues and values based, not a f**kin popularity contest. Not that popularity should be based on looks anyway.

I'm also deeply dubious about the idea that Europeans are able to see women as sexy and yet also take them seriously. Although I was often mistaken for an English girl while in Italy and they have a certain reputation (god help us all), in reality, I was a wee overweight plain-Jane in a baggy sweatshirt in winter and STILL I was constantly hasseled by random men who wanted no-strings sex. The idea of friendship or a non-sexually based relationship between a man and a woman who are not related seemed to be a foreign concept, and I strongly suspect that there's a correspondence between that kind of attitude and an inability to respect women outside of the boxes of 'sister' or 'mother', neither of which are necessarily labels you might want to take on as a female politician.

Bevan11 said...

your post reminded me of this funny blog about an Italian woman living in England, wondering why no men ever approached her.

(That blog is quite a nifty read about relationships from a (British) male point of view)