Is Clinton Scrutinized About Her Looks Too Much?

Clinton's looks focused on more than her opponents', political gurus say.

ByABC News
February 6, 2009, 8:43 PM

Jan. 28, 2008 — -- From the color of her suit to her latest choice in hairstyle, Hillary Clinton and her appearance is a common topic of conversation, and according to political analysts, the female presidential candidate is scrutinized for her looks more so than her male counterparts.

"There's no doubt that [Clinton] is held to a different standard the evaluation of appearance has always been traditionally different for female candidates," said Sarah Brewer, the associate director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University.

"It's really very sexist," Geraldine Ferraro, a former vice presidential candidate, told "Nobody is going to say they don't like how [Illinois Sen.] Barack Obama looks and nobody is going to say that about [former South Carolina Sen.] John Edwards."

Throughout the campaign season, Clinton's appearance has made headlines particularly after an unflattering photo was featured on Matt Drudge's Drudge Report in December 2007 zooming in on every line and wrinkle on the New York senator's face.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh spoke about the photograph in December, posing the question that was on many people's minds: "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," Limbaugh said. "It will impact perceptions."

While political gurus told that it's too soon to tell whether a droopy physical appearance will translate into drooping support at the polls, they said that gender bias is responsible for the media's willingness to openly discuss Clinton's Botox options while hardly mentioning Obama's worn-out appearance.

"Male candidates can get away with a few more wrinkles than women can," said Ben Shapiro, author of "Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House." "Obama looks a lot more tired in the past few months, but it tends to show up more on Hillary."

In past elections, male contenders have been critiqued for their appearances, but not to the same degree as Clinton, added Shapiro.

In 2004, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was forced to deny rumors that his Lincolnesque face looked suddenly youthful because of Botox injections. And his running mate, John Edwards, was derided by Republicans as the "Breck Girl of politics," a reference to a popular woman's shampoo and Edwards' notorious $400 haircut habit.