We know that when the media covers male politicians, they focus on political platforms. But when they report on female candidates, they talk about character traits because of all the page one newspaper potential those have. Here’s a new development. When a woman doesn’t look feminine enough — if, say, she has bushy eyebrows — she’s less likely to be elected in certain parts of the country.
A recent study by Dartmouth University, revealed that female candidates are less likely to win elections if their faces have atypical or masculine features in conservative states.
They begin with the example of how Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic bid while Sarah Palin was the first female Vice President candidate. Palin=typical female traits, Clinton=less typical female traits. That could have been all the data we needed, but Darthmouth analysts had the presence of mind to prove it. The study examined one possible answer to the female politician success gap by stacking two headshots of politicians next to each other and tracking who the participants moved their mouses toward.
Women who weren’t being feminine in quite the right manner: (larger eyes, thin eyebrows, rounded features) deviated from typical feminine features as defined by the study. Women who had more pronounced upper brows activated the “male” category, and they were clicked on less. Way less in conservative states.
Researchers wrote, “Most importantly, female politicians who activated the male category to a greater extent received less electoral support, an effect exacerbated in more conservative constituencies.” Interestingly, the map in the study showed a widespread selection of participants, and the results were polarized. Most blue states sailed high above such consistent biases, while the red states were the ones standing in the way of women progress. Right on cue.
The study found that while facial features can predict electoral success for women, the same was not true for men. Thus, the study recommends this no-brainer tightrope – look feminine but exude the competence of a man. Researchers wrote that for women, being electable “may require a delicate balance between retaining associations with traditional femininity and attractiveness while additionally evoking perceptions of competence, a masculinity-associated trait.” That means the masculinity will not come from facial hair, but the woman’s political panache. If this study has taken you from bewilderment, to heartfelt concern and then finally dropped you off at annoyance, here’s a tip. A persuasive low-cut top, and a wax or two never fail to help your approval rating spike to huge numbers. It will even go over well with people who don’t vote.
In the conservative states, the female candidates in the study considered not womanly-looking were less appealing to participants of both genders hand movement wise, and in every case, less likely to be chosen as a result. The study proposed the explanation that history books and our memory are both bulging with male leaders, and that voters may have internalized the thought that women aren’t leader-type deals. But women still shouldn’t try for a manly look.
In the conclusion, researchers wrote “The more feminine female politicians were more likely to win the more conservative the state.” The feminine-looking women outearned more clicks than the women who deviated, but the gender conformity test didn’t influence participants in “liberal” states. If hope is something women are running out of, it’s not that grim. So even though this doesn’t bring more encouragement to the kicking through the eyebrow ceiling picture, a woman’s looks don’t count for everything somewhere.
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