Dawe: America’s obsession with criticizing women’s appearance


DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Michelle Obama (left) and Dr. Jill Biden (right) are both heavily criticized for their appearance.

Fiona Dawe, Opinion Editor

America has an obsession with the way women dress. Not only is it rude, but it dismisses the other wonderful qualities that women have, like their intelligence. 

Getting critiques for outfit choices is something that all women have to suffer through. What we wear has no indication of our education, sexuality, sexual activity or occupation. I have had comments made about my appearance for as long as I can remember. It’s weird and gross, so stop commenting on womens’, especially girls’, appearance. 

This is something that especially happens to female political figures which was highlighted in early April, when Dr. Jill Biden wore fishnets. Various communities on Twitter called the outfit “trashy” and even likened Dr. Jill to Madonna and Cardi B, which, to my mind, are more compliments than anything. Besides having the only effect of making her legs look great, they did nothing to affect how she performs at her job. Insinuating otherwise is disrespectful and dismissive of her as a person. 

These kinds of comments, like “her hair is messy” or “she puts on too much makeup,” rarely happen to male politicians, especially white male politicians. How ridiculous would these critiques sound if they were about male politicians?

For example, a lot of former President Trump’s clothes were ill-fitting and wrinkly, which is especially shocking since he has a net worth of around $2.3 billion.

Justin Trudeau’s outfits have always been a hit or miss (mostly miss). A lot of them have been offensive, as Trudeau has several instances of blackface and brownface. Another large problem with his appearance? The salt and pepper beard. While some men can pull it off, aka Steve Carrell, Trudeau simply can’t.

While wearing appropriate attire is important, women are put under a different set of criteria than men. Their clothes and appearance are discussed in a higher percentage of news reports than male politicians. In cases where male politicians’ clothes were described, it was in such a way to further illustrate their political attitude, rather than to critique them as a person. For example, in Michelle Obama’s first official photos as First Lady, she showed off her arms, which caused an uproar in the media. There was a new First Lady in office and, instead of discussing what changes she would bring, people were discussing her arms. 

This hyper fixation of what women wear, especially in politics is an attempt at delegitimization. Delegitimization is the process of undermining a person to diminish their validity, as a form of exclusion. 

What I am trying to show is how ridiculous it sounds when people criticize politically prominent women’s outfits, hair etc. Besides the fact that most of the time it is thinly veiled sexism and racism, the claims are simply ridiculous. Stop policing women’s bodies and let them do their work in peace.