Is It Sexist to Discuss Hillary’s Wrinkles?

By Lindsey Ellerson

Dec 19, 2007 10:30am

Prompted by an unflattering photo of the 61-year-old senator that appeared on Drudge, commentators are discussing not only how Sen. Hillary Clinton looks in that shot (you can view it HERE), but whether the discussion is sexist or appropriate at all.

Rush Limbaugh started much of this conversation, saying “Americans are addicted to physical perfection, thanks to Hollywood and thanks to television.  …There is this thing in this country that, as you age — and this is particularly, you know, women are hardest hit on this, and particularly in Hollywood — America loses interest in you, and we know this is true because we constantly hear from aging actresses, who lament that they can’t get decent roles anymore, other than in supporting roles that will not lead to any direct impact, yay or nay, in the box office.”

Noting that “the presidency ages the occupants of that office rapidly," Limbaugh asked, "Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?  And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she’s getting older, because it will impact poll numbers. It will impact perceptions.”

Maureen Dowd discussed this in her New York Times column today as well, calling it “Hillary’s latest hurdle: the Old Hag routine.”

Said Dowd: “When men want to put down a powerful woman in a sexist way, they will say she’s a hag or a nag or a witch or angry or hysterical…. some conservative pundits who disagree with a woman on matters of policy jump straight into an attack on the woman’s looks or personal life….

“Women are still scrutinized more critically on their looks, which seem to fluctuate more on camera, depending on lighting, bloating and wardrobe.”

On the CBS Early Show, Meg Oliver referred to this as a “question of sexism in politics.”

MSNBC’s David Shuster referred to “some rumblings that certainly the stuff on the Drudge Report and the stuff that Rush Limbaugh’s been saying, is totally over the line, is sort of generating some sympathy” for Clinton.

On The View, Barbara Walters noted that “ there was a woman named Margaret Thatcher — remember her? — British prime minister? Came in at 53, left at 65.  Golda Meir? I mean, hardly a sex symbol — took office at 71, left at 76, came back again, and then Indira Gandhi, how she took office at 48, left at 59, took office again at 62.”

Clinton in person looks loads better than that photograph, but Limbaugh’s point seemed to me to be that this is a sexist culture that judges women more harshly on their looks as they age, and he wondered how that would impact Clinton’s run. Honestly it hadn’t occurred to me until now…

What do you think?

– jpt

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