If state Sen. Wendy Davis hadn't been a pretty, blond, clearly feminine woman, would she have ever had the chance to stage a filibuster? Would Ann Richards have been governor if she didn't have a girl face? We kind of thought the days of a woman being judged by how she looks and whether or not she is wearing makeup, doing her hair and showing off her darling little ankles were long gone. These are things that shouldn't matter in this day and age in politics, but a Dartmouth study has found that while men can run for anything and look any way they like, if a woman in a red state is running for office, she has a much better chance of being elected if she has a clearly feminine face.
The study was conducted by polling 260 people across the country about facial cues -- the information collected in just milliseconds when you first see someone. Dartmouth psychology professor Jon Freeman and his four co-authors started by showing people computer images of the faces of politicians, according to Vox. Participants were then asked to quickly categorize the pictures of each politician as male or female. The study traced how quickly the participants actually recognized each face as male or female and clicked on the box on the computerized test. Then the test results were compared to actual electoral results. That's where things start to get depressing.
For male politicians, the study found that there was no connection between gender uncertainty and whether or not a guy was going to win an election. Not so much for women, particularly those running for office in red (as in Republican-dominated) states.
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Conservatives in particular want to vote for women who are easily identified by Western expectations of femininity -- long hair, a feminine face, all that jazz.
Now, we do have some questions about this study, and the professors themselves acknowledge that there are some limitations in it. They used 80 photos of women who have run in recent elections, and they acknowledged that it's possible that the women with good hair and makeup and overall good photos are also the ones who might just be savvy enough to be elected on their own merit.
These women would release the kinds of photos that would get them elected, because they're good politicians who know how to play the game, not just because they're pretty.
So it's very possible that even though Ann Richards and Wendy Davis came to political prominence and elected office in the great red state of Texas, it was their political savvy and not just their looks that got them there. Plus, if the study is true, at least we finally have a real explanation for Sarah Palin.