For a number of reasons, former Vice President Dick Cheney has never been one of my favored people or respected representatives. His latest comment about Sarah Palin rankles me further. I share Cheney’s sentiment that McCain’s choice of Palin as his running mate sealed the election as a loss for McCain, and his qualification of that opinion that Governor Palin was not capable of being president. However, I am appalled at his sexist attempt to backtrack over any offense he might have caused by claiming Palin was not qualified.
Mr. Cheney said, “I like Governor Palin. I’ve met her. I know her. She’s an attractive candidate.”
If we’re talking about a candidate as attractive, whether the candidate is male or female, I believe “attractive” would be defined as being related to the qualities possessed by the candidate that make him or her acceptable and desirable for the position for which he or she is a candidate. Herein, when Mr. Cheney already disqualifies Ms. Palin based on his opinion that she is not capable of meeting the challenge of the job, he is most certainly referring to her appearance.
We all need to wake up and stop voting based on appearance versus substance and ability. I wish as we consider nominees as candidates for political campaigns, we were presented with resumes as do employers see from job applicants. We see the paper and possibly some back-up proof of a person’s education, experience and accomplishments but no picture of him or her. Once we decide who seems most qualified, we choose one from this pool to nominate. Only then do we “conduct interviews” through their public, in-person campaign. What a relief that would be for accomplished, intelligent, committed people who might have acne scars, use a wheel chair or have a prosthesis of some kind to be able to run for office without their appearance (of ability or inability) to detract from their otherwise obvious qualifications!
What if the major parties in this country were required to examine resumes and choose potential candidates based on the information presented and the back-up proof of the claimed accomplishments? What if they couldn’t judge the “electability” of a person based on his or her appearance? What if all of us could not? I realize we live in a pictorial and digital age. We feel connection with people by face-to-face conversations, and certainly hiring decisions are not based on “paper alone” but rather a combination of the written listing of a person’s accomplishments and his or her ability to interact one-on-one, and to answer the problems posed in the position that needs to be filled. It’s nice to “connect” with a candidate as he or she speaks and conducts him or her self in public.
At the same time, the “attractiveness” of a candidate cannot be based on his or her physical appearance in the slightest. Aside from whether women themselves want to take on challenging political roles while parenting, or can remain committed to challenging jobs long-term while having young children, women need to stop being judged and either loved or hated for their external appearances. The job of Vice President or President is not the September cover model for Vogue or the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. Whether someone would look good in the fashions on the pages of Vogue or in what is claimed as a swimsuit in the pages of S.I., does not qualify or disqualify her for government office.
We all must vote based on whether the candidates are attractive due to their qualities and experience, not on whether they’ve ever been the “bachelor of the month” in Cosmopolitan—one of the “qualifications” touted by a campaign in my home state of Massachusetts for state senate. We must challenge ourselves to read about and listen to candidates, male or female, and hear their message before we determine whether they “look” presidential or physically attractive. Cheney’s comment merely proves that the old-boy network still largely controls our political parties. This is something we women must seriously consider as we vote this November.
Kate Robinson, M.A. adult learning and development, is a Master’s in Social Work candidate at Bridgewater State University. She lives south of Boston with her family.
Kate enjoys writing, reading, collage and felting. She also works in medical education and as a counselor at a women’s health clinic.