Men have been citing “their” women’s greater attractiveness as proof of their superiority over political rivals for as long as I can remember. Probably longer. It’s a fun excuse to objectify women and emphasize one’s status as alpha male, if you’re a guy. If you’re a woman who’s into that sort of thing, it’s an opportunity to elevate yourself above other women and prove your worth to the menfolk.
Two international examples have come to my attention this week. Italian women are pushing back against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s sexism. This man is a real piece of work. On top of his nasty, frightening remarks about rape, Berlusconi boasts of the good looks of his party’s young female parliament members, dismissing women of the opposition party as menopausal.
But it was a comment he recently made on a late-night talk show that broke the proverbial camel’s back. “You’re more beautiful than you are intelligent,” he told opposition parliament member Rosy Bindi. Understandably frustrated and outraged, a group of women drafted a petition calling Berlusconi’s statements offensive to female dignity. They added that he denigrates women and democracy by using women’s bodies for his political ends. In 11 days, over 100,000 women signed on.
The second is brought to you by The Calgary Sun, wherein columnist Ian Robinson proposes a new slogan for right-wingers: “Come for the culture war … stay for the chicks.”
You know what follows. Liberal women wear “sensible” shoes; conservative women wear three-inch heels – at least. Liberal woman feed their husbands tofu; conservative women feed their husbands steak (and have it on the table by the time their
masters men get home from work). Liberal women whine about unequal political representation; conservative women cut their losses and… go shoe shopping. Robinson dedicates nearly one-third of his screed to women’s footwear. Also: liberal women recycle and listen to Sarah McLachlan!
Hey Robinson: the 90’s called; they want their cultural references back.
The natural response to these things is to protest: Hey, I’m not menopausal! Check out my Jimmy Choos! And have you seen Angelina Jolie?!
Resist the impulse! The most offensive thing about it is not that they compare conservative women’s Glamour Shots to unflattering photos of liberal women. It’s the very premise: that women’s greatest contribution to the political process is our sex appeal. It’s using women’s bodies as political currency, as a reflection of one group of men’s dominance over another group of men. And it’s not exactly a compliment to be treated as better arm candy, either. Conservatives are not the only ones who are guilty of this. It’s just as bad when liberals defend themselves by citing the beautiful women in their midst, or by denigrating conservative women’s looks. Don’t play that game; all women lose.