Obama’s gaffe a distraction from bigger issues2 min read

Jason Leung, Staff Writer

President Barack Obama complimented California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ looks in a fundraising event a few weeks ago.

Unsurprisingly, the casual comment was blown way out of proportion by the public as some immediately jumped on the bandwagon and accused Obama of being sexist.

“It’s not a compliment. And for a president who has become a cultural model for many of his supporters in so many other ways, the example he’s setting here is disgraceful,” Jonathan Chait wrote for New York Magazine.

Chait’s argument is valid ,considering a survey that was commissioned by “Name It. Change It,” a women’s media center organization, which found that when media coverage focuses on a female political candidate’s appearance, her candidacy experiences a major decline. Such is the case regardless of the descriptions’ tone – positive, negative or neutral.

Another point of interest is how male candidates are not affected by similar comments made on their looks.

Such data reflects a greater problem than a casual, unintentional compliment.

So why do we care so much about how a female candidate looks? If we do judge talents based on a meritocratic system, then why do looks matter?

The answer is simple. We assume women, unlike men, cannot be good at their jobs and be attractive at the same time.

Why else would any voter be fazed by such media hyperboles?

Let us take a look at male politicians who were known for something else other than their ideologies.

As Joe Matthews of City Watch pointed out, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan were known as Hollywood celebrities before their respective tenures as the Governor of California.

I would argue that there was more hype about Obama’s race than his ideologies before he was officially elected as the figurehead of this country in 2008.

Despite their superficial qualities or histories, voters never cast doubt upon these male politicians. Unfortunately for women, they do not receive the same benefit of the doubt.

Obama’s comments were not entirely appropriate, considering Harris is his colleague, but let us not solely make this a matter of sexism.

While it is indeed the mainstream media’s fault, ask yourself whether you are shallow enough to vote against someone simply based on the media’s portrayal of his or her looks.

Until then, let us get back to something a little more worthy of our time, such as rising tuition costs or the utterly depressing job market.