Evaluate policies, not bodies

Press coverage dedicated to politicians’ appearances and personalities is diverting focus from the discussion of policies and legitimate concerns.

“If Justin Trudeau were a woman, would we be calling him a ‘hot babe’?”

The Globe and Mail posed this question in the headline of an article published on Friday. The article questioned the amount of political press coverage that’s been dedicated to Trudeau’s good looks, citing the Toronto Star, the National Post, the Globe and other news sources as examples.

The Globe’s headline is misleading, as it doesn’t reflect the content of the article, which doesn’t frame this issue as one of gender.

The question isn’t whether an attractive female politician would experience the same sort of attention. The faces and bodies of female politicians have continuously been subject to scrutiny, as seen by the extensive criticism Hillary Clinton has faced for not wearing make-up and the sexualisation of Sarah Palin.

For women, there exists the implicit question within politics of whether they belong, and these discussions of appearance seek to find a reason for why they are ill-suited. There are instances in which this has been applied to men. The 1993 attack ads against then-Liberal leader Jean Chrétien that sought to discredit him due to his facial deformity is merely one example.

While most politicians who’ve experienced objectification and criticism for their looks have attempted to steer clear of such discussions, Trudeau is using it to his advantage.

Last November, Trudeau tweeted a link to an invitation for all “ladies” where they could “get to know the future Prime Minister.”

Such incidents make it clear that Trudeau is aware of his physical appeal, and that he’s not above using it to his advantage and allowing it to get in the way of policy discussion.

These instances demonstrate a systemic issue within the voting process. Appearances and personalities are key determinants that voters base their decisions on, potentially obscuring policies.

Politicians strive to project a memorable character in order to gain public favour. As such, our perception of their personality can’t be taken at face value.

Journal Editorial Board

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