Clothes don’t make woman

Illustration by Emily Sicilia

Sarah Palin’s wardrobe cost her party $150,000, the New York Times reported Oct. 23. The Republican National Committee said Palin’s advisors purchased the clothing without her approval and will donate the pieces to charity after the campaign.

These figures have some Republicans speaking against the party’s seemingly wasteful excesses.

Although it’s disappointing that American politics is all too often downgraded to an image game, Palin shouldn’t be singled out for a wardrobe that may prove necessary for political success.

Politicians face the daunting challenge of having to look attractive enough to win voters while appearing frugal so as not to alienate them, a balance exacerbated by the media and public perception’s simultaneous critiquing of politicians’ elitist positions and commending their colour choices.

For women politicians, sexist bias has even deeper roots, and they’re rarely covered in the media without adjectives describing their physical attractiveness. This double standard exists across party lines.

Although John McCain charged his stylist to his campaign and Barack Obama wears designer labels—the cost of which, however, doesn’t come from the campaign budget—the public has been forgiving of these oversights, in fact choosing to scrutinize the candidates’ wives’ wardrobes more heavily.

Vanity Fair estimated Cindy McCain’s outfit on opening night of the Republican convention cost over $300,000. After Michelle Obama appeared on The View in a Donna Ricco dress, The Today Show reported it was selling out in stores.

And Democrat Hillary Clinton, who famously made 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, didn’t do so without hundreds of cracks about her notorious pantsuits.

Palin’s expenses are both outrageous and unacceptable, but it’s unfair to put the blame squarely on her shoulders for simply catering to audience expectations.

Instead of reporting on Palin’s style, the media should address women’s portrayal in popular culture as objects.

The media should also focus on politicians’ substance rather than their sexuality.

If voters truly want a country-first mentality in their politicians and change they can believe in, they need to be concerned next Tuesday with the shape of their candidates’ policies, not their calves.

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