We’d all like to say that we have greater concerns than what a person looks like, but the truth isn’t quite so clear. Our society is very concerned about looks. Is that so very wrong? Maybe not. We know that when we look good, and when other people think we look our best, we get doors opened to us, we get that first chance, or even that second chance.
Did you know that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, US president from 1932 to 1945, suffered from polio and spent much of his time as President in a wheelchair? He contracted polio in 1921 and managed to persuade much of the press to keep his secret. He insisted that only photos of him be taken from the waist up. He didn’t want the world to know he was disabled.
It’s easy to understand why. This was the world over 60 years ago, and the value we put on appearances has only become more evident. Just recently, Carly Fiorina, the GOP Republican representative in the race for a Senate seat in California made a comment on a hot microphone about US Senator Barbara Boxer’s hair as being “so yesterday”.
Was it a catty remark? Certainly.
Was it appropriate? Certainly not.
Was it a valid observation? That’s what we’re trying to determine.
Studies of infants show that they prefer people who have more regular features; which typically translates into more beautiful features. There are a host of theories as to why this is true. One of them suggests that people who are more visually appealing have a better chance of attracting a mate which increases the likelihood of survival.
Looking our best is an important thing to do. When we’re in the public eye, we can choose to just “be our own person” or we can try to make the most of our physical attributes. Was Fiorina’s criticism of Boxer’s hair appropriate? It was simply Fiorina’s opinion. It may or may not reflect the opinion of Boxer’s constituency.
In recent years more has been said about the hair-dos of female politicians. Consider Yulia Tymoshenko, the Prime Minister of the Ukraine. She wears a crown of blonde braids, a peasant look that appeals to her constituency. It is not a look that would persuade many American women. They are looking for something more chic like the coifs of Michelle Obama or Hilary Clinton.
When you’re in politics or in the public eye for any purpose, you know that people make determinations based on how they perceive you. If you look like you don’t care about your looks, people may believe that you don’t care about important things like health care, jobs, the economic crisis, the Gulf oil spill. How we present ourselves to the world is a distinct form of communication.