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Gender bias: why appearance focus fuels sexism in media

Much has been written in the past few days about the legacy of the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, including many mentions of her hair. It is difficult to imagine similar attention being…

Julia Gillard’s appearance is regularly commented on: is it just another way to talk about her gender? AAP/Alan Porritt

Much has been written in the past few days about the legacy of the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, including many mentions of her hair.

It is difficult to imagine similar attention being paid to the sartorial or grooming practices of a male politician. References to Thatcher’s “bouffant” hairstyle are typically accompanied by observations that no other traditionally feminine elements were part of her famously tough, uncompromising political style and her relentless prosecution of her political agenda.

This is a familiar story. “Hair and costume commentary” routinely overlays analysis of the leadership style and policy positions of women in high office. Julia Gillard has received a steady stream of media coverage of every aspect of her appearance from her hair to her shoes, her earlobes to her buttocks. But she is not alone.

German chancellor Angela Merkel was pilloried for her allegedly dowdy appearance. An image makeover after becoming leader of the Christian Democratic Union brought no relief: she was ridiculed for an awkward fit between her new, feminine look and her direct and sometimes terse political persona.

Hilary Clinton’s fashion choices may be more well known than her political ones. AAP/Simon Santi

Closer to home, Helen Clark’s time as prime minister of New Zealand featured a media narrative that read her tough and aggressive political persona through her masculine personal style. And in the United States 2008 presidential campaign, people were preoccupied with Hillary Clinton’s hairstyles and pantsuits and breathless debates over the cost of Sarah Palin’s campaign wardrobe. The apparent newsworthiness of female politicians’ appearance extends well beyond the Australian media.

Attention to appearance is a placeholder for gender. While public comments about whether Gillard’s jackets flatter her figure may be more irritating than important, they encourage other aspects of her leadership to be viewed through a gendered lens. Certainly, Gillard’s gender has been a feature of media portrayals since her elevation to the prime ministership in 2010.

Although there are notable exceptions (such as Alan Jones’ declaration that Gillard and other women are “destroying the joint”), most media commentators do not directly link their analyses of Gillard to her gender. Instead they attribute gender-based expectations to “the public”.

For example, in coverage of the Rudd-Gillard transition, journalists did not suggest that Gillard’s actions in taking the leadership from Rudd were worse because she was a women. Rather the issue was that they would look worse to “the public” who were deemed to expect a “softer, gentler" style of leadership from a woman. By locating interest in female leaders’ gender with unspecified others, journalists deflect accusations of sexism and make it hard for women leaders to respond.

Conventional wisdom has had it that female leaders must not “play the gender card” for fear of undermining their credibility. But the overwhelming support for Gillard’s misogyny speech last October shows that the sexism in public life is indeed noticed and protested to by many members of the public. The speed with which YouTube viewings of the speech spread beyond Australia illustrates the international resonance - particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States - of Gillard’s frustration and anger at sexist behaviour in politics.

Attention to gender seems to magnify and entrench any perceived moral lapses made by female leaders. Sexism in politics is at its most insidious in the double standards applied to the actions of male and female politicians. Women can be highly popular leaders (recall Gillard’s high levels of personal popularity and job approval in her first weeks in the role of PM), but when they take actions of which people disapprove the fall from grace can be brutal.

Carmen Lawrence’s political career was irreparably damaged the ‘Penny Easton affair’. AAP/Alan Porritt

Reneging on an election promise or being caught in a lie is likely to be met with anger and disapproval for any politician. But for women leaders these acts seem to become signs of fundamentally flawed character, rather than just individually judged political actions. Gillard’s reversal on carbon pricing has become incorporated into her political character (“JuLIAR”) in a manner similar to that which befell West Australian premier Carmen Lawrence over her failure to recall key events relating to Penny Easton, or Cheryl Kernot for her “treachery” in defecting from the Democrats to Labor.

The constant comments about the wardrobes and hairstyles of female politicians may seem among the least of the worries facing women in negotiating the demands of high public office. But by holding open the door to gender, this kind of commentary clears the path for sexism to come marching through.

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  1. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Phil Dolan

      Viticulturist

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      'Every Labor member around Julia Gillard seems to be getting grey hairs, except Julia Gillard, and I have sometimes wondered about that.'

      I'm having a lazy day in the rain so thought I'd check that statement out. Result? Crap. So why make it?
      It's obviously designed to suggest the image of Gillard worrying her colleagues so much that they are getting grey hair. And she wears pearls so she doesn't care about working people!

      With so much going on in the world, with so much joy and misery to laugh and be sad about, you think about grey hair and pearls. Goodness me. What a happy country of well balanced folk we are.

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    2. In reply to Phil Dolan

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. Phil Dolan

      Viticulturist

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Tanya Plibersek, Michael Ferguson, Greg Combet, Kate Ellis...............I'm bored now.

      'In the weeks after she became PM, the West Australian jewellers sent her a pair of $2000 Kailis pearl earrings and a mother-of-pearl pen.'

      Hardly a million dollar show piece.

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    4. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Phil Dolan

      So Western Australian jewellers sent her pearls?

      The plot thickens.

      Our Prime Minister does not represent families on $50 K a year. That is all talk by the Prime Minister.

      In fact, she is more likely to represent Western Australian jewellers.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      No end of women may have pearl necklaces Dale, a bit dated probably a view of some and whatever the view, not all pearls are expensive or even real, a bit like the colour of hair for many and nothing suspicious about that if you go to the hair care aisle of any supermarket.
      You might even bump into Tim there getting ideas for the latest colouring trick or treat, kind of goes with Julia and the real Julia or whichever one that might be about!

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    6. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      None of the politicians represent families on $50 000 a year. What is your point?

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    7. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Adam Richards

      “None of the politicians represent families on $50 000 a year.”

      Probably not, but if one of them says that they do, then they are simply trying to deceive the public.

      Myself, I have had a number of female bosses, a number of female mayors, and one female state premier.

      It never greatly worried me they were female, and I voted for a number of them.

      But after Julia Gillard, I will not vote for a politician just because they belong to a particular political party.

      I will also be taking into consideration their projected image, and how much they are trying to deceive the public.

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    8. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      I am in no means defending Gillard, but Abbott is no better and you know this.

      It would benefit all Australia if people didn't simply vote Labor or Liberal because they always have.

      As for taking into consideration 'projected image', good luck. Have you ever hobnobbed with successful politicians? They have this amazing ability to make you the centre of their world while talking to you, and the second they turn away... Sadly politics isn't about substance it is about image.

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    9. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Greg North

      Well, compare the top photo with is one:

      http://menzieshouse.typepad.com/.a/6a012876778d82970c015434c79ba3970c-pi

      There does appear to be a change of hair colour, (even to my untrained male eye).

      Julia Gillard’s comment that it was “A great day for redheads” does seem a little suspect if she keeps dying her hair.

      She does seem to get along very well with Obama, and she has seemed to comply with what the US administration wanted, but that is another story.

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    10. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Adam Richards

      I probably won't vote for the Libs based on their policies, but I feel more connection to Tony Abbot, than I have ever felt with Julia Gillard.

      Her attempts to wear a safety helmet have been laughable, and showed she has never been in a real worksite in her life.

      At least Abbot does do voluntary work, and mix with the lads at the fire station.

      In fact, I would like to see every politician do community service at least one day a month.

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    11. Rod Andrew

      Editor, teacher, engineer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      This is The Conversation website Dale - it's not a forum for you to present your political beliefs. I thought comments were meant to discuss the article and actually help to develop a meaningful conversation about the issue. A statement like your last sentence does neither. I'm surprised it got through.

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    12. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Rod Andrew

      The idea that people vote along gender lines was outdated I believe, but that may change after Julia Gillard.

      Her little speech regards alleged misogyny in politics did not go down too well in certain areas.

      Julia Gillard has at her disposal the Attorney-General's Department, which oversees the Sex Discrimination Commission.

      If there was sexism in politics she could address her concerns to the Attorney-General's Department or the Sex Discrimination Commission for them to investigate.

      That would be the correct path to follow, but she didn’t follow it.

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    13. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      How does hair colour affect the professional capacity of a politician?
      I have never checked what brand and value jewelry or watches male politicians wear, or what brand of shoes or suits - it wouldn't really affect their leadership or professional capacity, so why would it make a difference in a female politician?

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    14. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Probably the biggest problem for Julia Gillard was that she has tried to run a one woman show. I don't even know who most of the Federal Minister's are, because they are seldom in the news.

      Its all Julia Gillard, and there is rarely anything heard from her Ministers.

      So when that is the case, it is understandable how people will look at her and her portrayed or presented image, that does seem to be artificially propped up.

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    15. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Isn't the media responsible for who they choose to focus on?
      Who do you see as the active party of TV coverage? The media or the subject?
      From personal experience, an individual has little influence over the focus of the media on the self - they pick and choose the news and even make it up.

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    16. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Julia Gillard calls the press conferences, and she is there speaking in front of the camera.

      She rarely seems to delegate anything to Ministers.

      In regards her image, she seems to be trying to project an image that she is a woman who is in command, young, with her finger on the pulse, “feisty” and a fighter for the common people etc.

      After a number of years of this, the opinion polls seem to reflect the difference between what she tries to project, and what people actually think.

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    17. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      of course it did not go down well in certain areas, particularly the local press monopolies, in other - more socially owned - areas it was very appreciated and struck a major chord across the globe. as i said before, you can't really control what other people think ;)

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    18. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Oh yes they can, and various spin doctors are employed by politicians.

      It would be great if there were no political parties, just policies alone.

      Unfortunately, so many political parties seem to form policies after they have been elected.

      So, its back to considering the image a politician attempts to portray or project, and whether that image seems real, or is just for show.

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    19. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Well then, close down the Sex Discrimination Commission, and politicians take matters into their own hands, and ignore the fact that the Sex Discrimination Commission is being publicly financed to investigate matters of sexism.

      Closing down the Sex Discrimination Commission would be a saving to the public.

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    20. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      No argument from me Dale re hair colouring and the link does show a behaviour very befitting of our parliament or at least Julia would seem to think so and yes she does seem to like making an impression with or around Barack.
      One of the best cartoons going around at the time of his visit showed a pic. of his leg being hung on to as he attempted to get up Airforce One steps and an associated pic of him reading a brief called Crocodile Insurance and Michelle asking whether he had read the fine print.

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    21. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, how exactly do you control what someone is thinking? How are your thoughts controlled by spin doctors? I suppose discouraging critical independent thinking is a strategy that may be employed, but I doubt it would be generally effective unless one cooperates.
      Apart from that, I agree that we would be better off if all representatives were independent and judged on their judgement and performance on behalf of their electorate. Since the whole nation basically wants to work together (i assume…

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    22. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      I believe the commission is there to protect those who are not able to speak up for themselves or be heard in any other way and as such has an important function to protect those who are unable to protect themselves without suffering retribution or penalties. The PM would not have been able to get to where she is without displaying personal strengths, self assurance and an ability to stand her own ground in the face of such issues. She does not require the SDC to speak on her behalf, that does not mean others, male or female, do not require help in these matters.

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    23. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      The Prime Minister said there was wide scale sexism in politics.

      Fines could actually be issued to various political organisations if it was investigated by the Sex Discrimination Commission and found to be true.

      But she did not take it to the Sex Discrimination Commission, which probably means her accusations of sexism were simply made up as part of character assassination.

      It did not go down very well in certain areas because people are fed up with unfounded claims of sexism.

      Claims of sexism are about as stale as 3 week old bread.

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    24. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      How does one 'attempt' to wear a safety helmet? Does it sort of slide off constantly? And I thought anyone visiting a building site had to wear one. I've never seen anyone unsuccessfully attempting to put one on :) although they aren't terribly fashionable ;)

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    25. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Phil Dolan

      I do recall a rather distinguished looking Bob Menzies and fire side chats; there was a certain theatrical flair about them, I know there was a lot of media gabble about Keating’s Italian suits, and of course Bob Hawke was the silver bodgie with his chains and rings and longish hair and his lady’s man moments. Then there was that vigorous image of Holt in his snorkel and flippers. And poor old Billy McMahon was caricatured with his largish ears. You couldn’t in all politeness comment on John Howard’s appearance so I think in the main he was left alone, but Peacock was thought to be by name and by nature and then of course Bob Carr thought he rather favoured Abraham Lincoln, and poor old Downer, although in retrospect you might think he deserved, it was caught and demolished by fish-net stockings.

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  2. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    as i've said many many times in this forum, it is not surprising that issues as this arise when advertising on tv and other media is saturated with hair, beauty, aging creams cosmetics etc ads for women.

    either the media have got it completely wrong or women are very concerned about such products, and by default their appearance - nothing wrong with that.

    let's remember the brownlow awards on teev - the red carpet appraisal of womens fashion - the women seem eager to participate - as well…

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  3. Adam Spence

    logged in via Facebook

    "It is difficult to imagine similar attention being paid to the sartorial or grooming practices of a male politician. References to Thatcher’s “bouffant” hairstyle are typically accompanied by observations that no other traditionally feminine elements were part of her famously tough, uncompromising political style and her relentless prosecution of her political agenda."

    Perhaps Ngaire is unfamiliar with the attention paid to Gough Whitlam's softer, more bouffant or 'fuzzy' hair after coming back…

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    1. Brad Rath

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      That is obviously photoshoped. Maybe that is why it wasn't mentioned ;)

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  4. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    from memory it was germaine greer or another woman who commented that JG's bum looked big in a pantsuit on Q & A a while back................

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  5. Pat Moore

    gardener

    Human behaviour needs to be observed and understood like any great ape society. 21st century Western society is not immune to an anthropological eye? Secondary sexual characteristics-blanketing suits signify a woman's preparedness to undertake the serious business of a high profile, powerful public office, very much traditionally the masculine sphere. This camouflage and adaptational dressing in quasimasculinist attire in attempt to evade constant judgement or outright rejection is the only chance…

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    1. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Pat Moore

      I can remember there was a claim that a certain QLD female state premier had been voted out because of sexism, until it was discovered there had been a massive swing against her party in every age group, every income group, every ethnic group, and in both genders.

      I think the claim tht there is sexism against Julia Gillard is similar.

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  6. Leigh Burrell

    Trophy hunter at Trophy hunter

    "It is difficult to imagine similar attention being paid to the sartorial or grooming practices of a male politician. References to Thatcher’s “bouffant” hairstyle..."

    No need to imagine, and you'd have to be living under a rock to not be familiar with Kim Jong-il's bouffant hairstyle. It's even deemed deserving of two mentions in his Wikipedia page.

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  7. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    I am left wondering a bit Ngaire as to the purpose of this article or could it also be titled " Media Biases and How some in the media can be a bit sneaky in their reporting "

    Fun often gets made of all politicians and whilst prominent targets can be leaders, be it a PM or other party leaders, that is more likely because they are more front and centre when it comes to announcements and party representation, however if you look at the various cartoons that get put into daily newspapers, you will…

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  8. Adam Richards

    Teacher

    Sorry to say it, but in terms of focusing on appearance, that is much more the domain of the females audience. I just got back from the shops and while standing in line at the checkout my eyes glazed over upon noticing all those women's magazines. Every single one talking about the latest fashion, who is wearing what, and what hair styles they have. Female editors, female consumers, there is your answer.

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    1. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Adam Richards

      Adam did you see any women buying them? Its interesting that these magazines are barely surviving these days. Perhaps the times are a changing.

      My friend works in a newsagent in the local shopping centre, she showed me the boxes and boxes of magazines that get returned every week. Womens magazines are becoming some of the worst sellers and she has dropped several of them from her stock order.

      She tells me the most popular magazines are gardening , home decorating and renovating, and cooking…

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    2. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Of course it is society as a whole, but women in particular. Women spend a lot more on beautification and clothes than men. The reasons for this can be debated, but the fact is women are more aware of, and spend more on, appearance.

      Good to hear about people not buying women's mags. It will be of benefit to society if they go bust.

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    3. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Adam Richards

      Adam, I look at it as a bit of a chicken and egg thing, would women be more focused on appearance if society did not expect them to be? Do little girls growing up in our society become brainwashed into thinking that they should focus on appearance more than boys?

      I personally think it would be better to have a decrease in the sales of porn, both magazines and online, this would have a much greater benefit to society IMHO. But, I agree with you womens magazines are mostly advertising rubbish which has no benefit to society at all.

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    4. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Frankly, I don’t think most men could care less if the Prime Minister wore high vis and steel caps, and attention to the Prime Minister’s clothes or accessories could well be driven by women’s media.

      Out of the top 10 magazines sold in Australia, I count 7 that could be classified as “women’s magazines”. Out of the top 25, I count 15.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_magazines_by_circulation#Australia

      Digital media is gradually taking over from printed media, but women’s media is a big player, if not the biggest player in digital media also.

      http://www.bandt.com.au/news/archive/she-media-is-on-the-move

      I would like to see various psychologist make a detailed review of women’s media, to see exactly what it is doing to people’s perceptions of reality.

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    5. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Yes, it is a chicken and egg thing. The problem, is at the moment it is a chicken.

      I think banning Photoshopping of models altogether would be an ideal outcome.

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    6. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Adam Richards

      Gotta agree with you there Adam. It would also be interesting to look at the demographic breakdown of the buyers of magazines, rather than just overall sales, this would give an indication of changes in social trends.

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    7. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      I had a look at that list, what strikes me is how small their circulation actually is. Only the top 8 have a circulation of more than 200 000. The largest circulation belongs to Woman's weekly at 470 000. That is only around 2% of the population, I wonder how many GP clinics there are around the country, since that is the only place I see them.

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    8. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Demographics would be interesting. I teach teenagers. It wasn't long ago that it was common to see girls with Dolly or Cosmo at school. The last magazine I saw was last year, and I think the girls only bought it because there was a life sized poster of One Direction in it.

      All that Dear Dolly stuff is now done online, which is kind of creepy as you don't know who is on the other end.

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    9. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Adam Richards

      The reach of women's magazines is extensive. One magazine is actually increasing its readership, and is now read by over 2.4 million women in Australia, with articles such as “Jessica Rudd: Dad's more likely to become pin-up than PM”

      http://aww.ninemsn.com.au/news/newsstories/8615330/jessica-rudd-dads-more-likely-to-become-pin-up-than-pm

      As well, another women’s magazine was awarded “Magazine of the Year” in 2011, but is focussed totally on clothes, style and fashion.

      If the media is anything to go by, our politicians could be chosen in the future based on what is written in women’s magazines.

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    10. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Adam Richards

      Interesting point about online discussions. With the high rate of use of social networking sites, like face book, is it a case of teenagers no longer looking for life advice from magazines, (where the advice came from one person, and usually someone older), but now seeking advice from their peers?

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    11. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Adam Richards

      This is another case of knowing the demographic of those buying the magazine, Woman's Weekly, would be interesting. I personally know several women, aged 65 and above, who buy this magazine, I often wonder if they do it out of habit, having bought the magazine for many years, as these women are not at all obsessed or focused on appearance or fashion. It would be interesting to also find out their reasons for buying this magazine.

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    12. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Which magazine would that be Dale? As the statistics show that no magazines have actually increased their sales for many years, sales have been steadily declining.

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    13. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Judith Olney

      It came straight from their website, and they wouldn’t misinform the Australian woman.

      The magazine is there to inform women, so they can make better choices, or so they say.

      That’s the magazine with feature articles such as “Gwyneth Paltrow: I'll never do botox again”

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    14. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Ah, well, I wouldn't put to much store in any information you read on that website Dale. I would also not worry yourself about how much influence these magazines have either.

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    15. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Judith Olney

      The PM does seem to think the magazines have an influence, when she posed for photos in a 13 page spread in the magazine.

      I regard politics as work, and I know the PM would not even get past a worksite induction in the vast majority of workplaces.

      They would immediately tell her to remove earrings and necklaces, and to wear high vis and steel caps, and if she doesn’t like it then she hasn’t got a job.

      Far removed from the glam photos she posed for.

      http://www.smh.com.au/federal-election/pm-poses-for-glam-magazine-spread-20100728-10urp.html

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    16. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      I am amazed how familiar you are with women's magazines and headlines, i suppose you use them for research or to read the 'editorial' columns ;) > I contracted for penthouse in my freelance days occasionally, I learned a lot about men's magazines and buyers - interesting research, but I try not to generalise from what I learned there :)

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    17. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Well thankfully there are many different types of workplace, I've done my years in overalls and high vis, and hope not to revisit those particular clothes for quite some time.

      I have no problem at all with how the PM dresses, in fact its probably on the very bottom of my list of things I look for in a politician I would vote for.

      I expect the PM was covering all bases when she did the magazine interview, thankfully that is not the only medium that she chooses to utilise.

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    18. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      You mean the same magazine Tony Abbott appeared in earlier? Did he wear 'sensible' clothes you approve off?
      My workplace allows me to wear jewellery and any shoes I like, the only time I take my earrings out is for some sports and the only time I wear steel capped shoes is maybe during heavy lifting gardening work. Why do you believe the prime minister or politicians need to wear safety equipment to parliament? It's not like they participate in constructi(on)ve work while there.

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    19. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Judith Olney

      You don’t like high vis.

      Many women are like that I have found, but they can’t expect to be paid much working in an office as a public servant on a 35 hr week.

      If the PM wants to have empathy with people in Western Sydney and get their votes, she may have to think about going to Western Sydney wearing high vis, and not a pearl necklace with matching earrings.

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    20. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Whats your point Dale?

      Actually the job I do where I don't wear high vis, is far better paid than the one where I was required to wear high vis.

      I think that most women are far more practical and sensible than you would like to portray Dale, and would not turn down a high paying job, simply because it required the wearing of high vis.

      Most sensible people wear the required clothes for whatever job they have, including safety wear, the lucky ones are those that get to choose their own clothes…

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    21. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Funny isn't it Suzy, the men I know that have to wear high vis clothes to work, (and I live in a mining area so there are a lot of them), can't wait to get out of their work wear and into rather more stylish and interesting clothes when they are not working. Just like the women that have to wear high vis. Although its not just high vis, most people that have to wear any sort of uniform at work, seem to enjoy the freedom of not having to wear it after work hours.

      Perhaps Dale just has a thing about high vis, and some sort of strange prejudice against those that don't find it quite so alluring.

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    22. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Until she wants their votes.

      The fate of the Labor party may well be decided in regional areas, and in particular regional QLD.

      The PM rarely goes there, but she won't get too many votes by the way she dresses.

      I think a lot of men are tired of working long hours in their high vis, to eventually have to hand money over to women so they can wear pearls.

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    23. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Oh for goodness sake Dale, what a ridiculous statement.

      You may base your voting intention on how the PM dresses, but I will bet my last dollar that most people do not. In fact in all the many political discussions I've had with friends, family and work mates, what the PM wears has never come up. We do, however, discuss policy in great depth.

      My Dad lives in regional QLD, and doesn't give a fig about the clothes politicians wear, he decides his vote on policy, as do most sensible people.

      Perhaps you think the voters of regional QLD are not sensible people.

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    24. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      I always wear high vis when cycling into town, especially since I got hit by a car on the local main road - it's really a small fashion price to pay to protect my life. I wasn't aware the pm was in need of this kind of protection in parliament though, I thought her position makes her visible enough there.
      How does wearing pearls show a lack of empathy exactly? I'm not sure I follow your logic there - people in high vis or without jewellery = emphatic???

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    25. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Policies are now being formed after a party is elected.

      So policies now mean very little, and judging a politician by what they wear will be a part of my decision making process.

      If a politician portrays themselves as a champion of blue collar workers, and then wears massive pearls, I look at the next politician on the list.

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    26. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Well I'm going to call them for what they are, nonsensical, and ridiculous.

      Although in some ways fascinating, I've never seen anyone so in love with high vis, and blokes that work in high vis, and coal mines, with an equally strange and irrational dislike of pearl wearing politicians, women in general. and humanities and arts graduates in particular.

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    27. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      lol, whatever you say Dale, you make your decisions on voting, due to clothes, and pearls, and leave others to make a more considered decision based on policy, and a consideration for who they believe best represents their own values.

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    28. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Judith Olney

      No, I have a distrust of politicians wearing expensive clothes and jewelry who say they support the average worker.

      I think they are trying to deceive the average worker.

      But those politicians do look good in certain magazines.

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    29. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale how are they being deceptive, politicians earn pretty good coin, why wouldn't they wear nice clothes? It would be far more deceptive if they dressed in a Kmart tracksuit and thongs, this would not only be an insult to people who know very well what they earn, it would also be seen as patronising and mocking those that could not afford better. Besides an average workers have been known to wear jewelry and nice clothes, this is not Dickensian England, (well not yet anyway).

      I don't have to wear what a homeless person wears, to have empathy with them, and a desire to help them. Do you feel you have to dress a certain way to be able to empathise or support someone who dresses the same? Do you think Tony Abbott to wear a dress so he can show that he empathises and supports women? Or the PM should get about in footy shorts and singlet?

      Perhaps you are just pulling my leg, as I find it difficult to understand why you would hold such a shallow view.

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    30. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Adam Richards

      Hi Adam, the same death wish could be extended to a number of men's magazines, I think society could benefit from that too. I don't believe playboy or penthouse include content of greater intellectual depth than some women's magazines.

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  9. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    Interesting examples. Is there any research which suggests media focus on the appearance of female politicians is systematic, and, if so, that this has a negative effect on public perceptions?

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  10. Steve Phillips

    Nurse Practitioner

    I agree, it really isnt important what a PM wears or how they do their hair as long as they dont let themselve go. As a bloke I couldnt give a bean for what she wears or looks like. I think that is true for most blokes, we dont really pay much attention to sartorial styles.
    I do recall Bob Hawke being refered to as the "little silver bodgie" presumably refering to his shock of silver hair. John Howard was "monobrow" till he was set upon by a PR person with a pair of tweezers. Larry Pickering had…

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  11. Terrence John Snedden

    retired public servant

    Wardrobe and physical characteristics aside references to PM Gillard's marital status, decision not to have children and the questioning of the legitimacy of her ascendency because she deposed K Rudd seem to have linked gender to the analysis of her since that it didn't previously. She jars the stereotypes. She is many things and not the least of which is a woman and the first to occupy the office of PM in Australia. Inevitably some part of the analysis of her performance will include this fact about…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Terrence John Snedden

      " His expression of personal contempt, ridicule and loathing, his harassment and belittling stabs, the intensity and constancy of abuse of the PM by him directly and through his henchmen left the public reeling with humiliation and shame. "
      That's so easy to say Terrence and yet most people do not get to see much of politicians in verbal battle other than via televised question time or a show like Q & A on which I doubt we would have both the PM and TA together.

      I watch the televised Question…

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    2. Steve Phillips

      Nurse Practitioner

      In reply to Terrence John Snedden

      "The one thing that stands out is Tony Abbott's complete lack of sensitivity to the reality that his opponent was a woman and his treatment of her would be appraised in this context."
      You have missed the whole point of feminism and that is that the sexes are equal and should be treated as such, a concept I agree with. So why should Tony make an exception to Julia when he goes at her like an attack dog. He goes at any other opponent like an attack dog because thats his nature, pugilistic and competitive.

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    3. Terrence John Snedden

      retired public servant

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      I can't profess to be an authority on feminism but according to your interpretation Gilllard has attained a right to be mercilessly abused, maligned and ridiculed by whatever means to diminish her status and authority and be displaced from her position by sheer thuggery. Under your interpreation of feminism she shares this right equally with other men and woman that oppose Tony Abbott and the LNP. One observation I would make is that Mr Abbott appears to me to reserve a particular hostility and venom…

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    4. Steve Phillips

      Nurse Practitioner

      In reply to Terrence John Snedden

      Actually as quick browse of Australian Parliamentry history will attest you will see that very little if anything has changed since it's inception. Australian politics has alway been; in Paul Keating's words "robust". Read: loud , brash and sometimes in Paul's case downright insulting. Paul had a wonderful turn of phrase and his caustic comments entertained us mightily during his tenure. I cannot recal very many people on either side getting as 'precious' about it as you are now.

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    5. Terrence John Snedden

      retired public servant

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      The disenchantment of the general public with the political process because of the debasement of public discourse has been a dominant theme since 2010. Politicians and commentators have described the political environment of the past 2 1/2 years as one of unprecedented toxicity. It has been impossible to have a reasoned public discussion about important policy issues or to rise above personal abuse and character assassination. This has been an LNP tactic to frustrate and bring down a minority government…

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  12. Lee Emmett

    Guest House Manager

    In general, and not for any particular reasons, 'men wear suits and women wear dresses'. Nowadays, a lot more women wear suits. I remember when women wore 'power suits' as we pushed our way upwards, towards the glass ceiling barriers in the career ladder. But the awful truth is that there are many more styles of 'dress' than 'suit'', so like it or not, women get a lot more comments about how they are dressed than men tend to get. It must be a real challenge for a man to select the appropriate tie…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      You might want to consider her denial in a television interview about having a succession speech prepared in the weeks before that Wednesday night with Kevin, only for her to attempt something of a cover up the next morning and then of course Andrew Wilkie considers her so trustworthy after his written agreement was cancelled.

      You might want to look up to her especially as she finds parliament a fitting venue for
      http://menzieshouse.typepad.com/.a/6a012876778d82970c015434c79ba3970c-pi

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    2. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      The Prime Minister is at work when she appears in front of a camera, but what she wears would not be allowed in most worksites throughout the country.

      The pearls and earrings are very large. They are an identifiable safety hazard, and no safety officer worth their salt would allow them to be worn on a worksite.

      So although she may look stylish and glamorous, her work clothes immediately show she is not one of the working masses she says she represents.

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    3. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Adam Richards

      Apologies for the photo, but I would like to see no hand pointing, finger pointing or arm waving in Parliament, and this should be outlawed by the speaker.

      The members sit up, stand up, speak up, sit down and then shut up, and that is all they do.

      The quality of debate in Parliament is often deplorable, and nothing has improved with this present government.

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    4. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Appreciate the apology, pity about the deflection.

      "...but I would like to see no hand pointing, finger pointing or arm waving in Parliament, and this should be outlawed by the speaker. "
      I agree, their arms should be taped to their sides.

      "The members sit up, stand up, speak up, sit down and then shut up, and that is all they do."
      Smirking, winking, excessive blinking and even heavy breathing should also be banned.

      "The quality of debate in Parliament is often deplorable, and nothing has improved with this present government."

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    5. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      "The quality of debate in Parliament now seems to involve finger pointing and arm waving."

      Parliament being the key word. Both sides of politics are responsible for all that finger pointing and arm waving.

      Identified as a threatening gesture? A picture, with almost no context, a snapshot of time. Now you are clutching at straws.

      Thanks for the link, it was an interesting article.

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    6. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Adam Richards

      There have been articles celebrating the Prime Minister’s use of body language, such as raising her voice, arm waving and finger pointing.

      Such body language would not be accepted within various worksites due to legislation concerning workplace bullying and workplace violence.

      Instead, a supervisor/team leader/site foreman/leading hand would be required to speak to workers with an even tone, and with minimal body language such as pointing their fingers or waving their arms or hands.

      The exact opposite is taking place in Parliament.

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    7. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Gee, dale, I occasionally wear a black dress with pearls to meetings (they're only freshwater, but still nice) - I suppose that excludes me from ever becoming a representative of a community that includes workers, farmers or homeless people? Should labour politicians dress in working overalls to show their support? What should liberals wear? Or greens? Do you have a dress code for politicians you apply for every occasion?

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    8. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, have you ever been to Italy? I happen to use quite a bit of gesturing when I talk in public, but I've always noted the restrained and self conscious way many of my English friends have when delivering a speech... Maybe what you are objecting to are cultural and individual differences in expression?
      I do agree that some of the behaviour or talk observed in parliament is appalling at times, but that extends to individuals on all sides and the opposition is not except from frequently demonstrating 'bad' manners.

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    9. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I have been to Italy, and I have also seen Parliament in Australia, and it shows how removed politicians are from the rest of the country.

      Politicians implemented the workplace bullying legislation, but they carry out bullying of each other that would not be acceptable in a real workplace.

      In a modern workplace with a high regard for safety, it would not be acceptable for someone to be shouting, finger pointing, waving their arms, making accusations etc.

      The PM should explain that to everyone in Parliament.

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    10. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Do you suppose previous PMs should have given these suggested lectures on codes of behaviour and dress too? Or do just female PMs have the obligation to explain this to their colleagues? A kind of "motherhood statement"?

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    11. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      The PM is supposed to be the head of the country, but if the PM wants to make accusations, then the PM goes through the proper channels.

      The PM is a lawyer and should know that.

      The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for the ACT was implemented during the time she was Prime Minister, and that act would regard Parliament as a designated workplace.

      It would be the prime responsibility of the PM to ensure no bullying occurs inside Parliament, and any person carrying out bullying within Parliament is liable under the act.

      http://www.worksafety.act.gov.au/page/view/1211

      It didn’t go down too well in certain areas that the PM made accusations of sexism without going through the proper channels, and those accusations were never proven.

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    12. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Does the OHS for parliament include the steel capped boots you mentioned earlier?
      Can you define "certain areas" a little more? It sounds very vague...
      Have previous male PMs gone through all the "proper" channels? You seem to have some expertise in this area.

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    13. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      You ask a lot of questions, but provide very little information, and I think you don't know much about the real world.

      No offence intended.

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    14. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      You make a lot of questionable statements, Dale, and provide little information to back them up. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt that you actually know what you're talking about and have really thought it through, but I suspect you aren't able to answer questions and are sidestepping this fact with a veiled insult.

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    15. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Numerous links have been supplied, when you have supplied nothing in any post.

      Reminds me of a certain PM making accusations, without following proper channels that would investigate those accusations, and find them true or false.

      It is difficult to understand how there can be misogyny in politics, when the PM wears massive pearls and appears in a 13 page spread of a women’s magazine.

      I would think extreme tolerance would characterises this society.

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    16. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Luckily, our society is very tolerant of all sorts :)
      You mean like you, I don't post links to photoshopped images or women's weekly articles as proof? I believe Tony Abbott appeared in the same magazine, but you did not single him out and judge him by the watch he wore or the statements he made, which were rather controversial. You cannot answer a simple question with a response based on other than your emotive views or can define your vague accusations of "certain" perceived offences. Let's just call a spade a spade: Dale your prejudices and assumptions concerning politicians, gender and attire are incongruous to put it mildly. I look forward to your future suggestions for Malcolm or Tony on wearing appropriate hi-vis gear to launch an opposition industrial policy or clothing guidelines for winning over rural electorates. Thank you for your amusing contributions.

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    17. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      lol, Dale's links to silly photos, (who would actually believe that photo was real??), and tabloid magazines, are a very good indication of where his tastes lay, he even knows where to look for silly articles about celebrities and botox. Just goes to show, that even sexists and misogynists love a good bit of pointless gossip ;)

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