Now, however, the 1960 presidential campaign is remembered for the first televised presidential debates. And the salient point about those debates, which gave John Kennedy the presidency, is that people who heard them on the radio thought Nixon had won while those who watched on television gave the nod to Kennedy.
Why? Because of the hotness gap. John Kennedy was largely hotter than Richard Nixon. Women ogled him; they fell in love with him. Men wanted to be like him; they wanted to emulate his example.
It didn't stop with John Kennedy. Women ogled Bill Clinton and fell in love with Barack Obama. When called upon to defend Bill Clinton against charges of sexual predation, many women replied that he could not be a sexual predator because they, for their part, would happily give him their all. He would just have to ask. Clearly, men could see the advantage in being like Clinton, or, at least, in saying nice things about him.
The same applied to Barack Obama. How many women were more than willing to overlook his lack of relevant experience because, after all, he was really, really hot?
Good looks, even hotness, is part of everyone's human packaging. Some people have more of it; some less. It does not much matter whether it is fair or unfair. As long as we get to see these candidates on television, day in and day out, their appearance matters.
For some an alluring appearance makes us want to get to know them better. A good first impression makes us more likely to want to associate with them, to be part of their circle. With politicians good looks or raw hotness can make a message more appealing. We might start out being dazzled by an appearance, but if it holds our attention it offers the candidate an opportunity to make his or her case.
Some politicians are clearly deficient in hotness. If they are clever enough they can use it to their advantage. Take Chris Christie. Gov. Christie is the ultimate in hotlessness-- but he has worked it to his advantage. He has forged a strong connection with voters because many of them were initially disinclined to ogle him. In many ways the same applied to Margaret Thatcher.
Hotness matters, but it is not the only thing that matters in politics. And it has a limited shelf life.
I wanted to introduce this discussion on a coldly, rational note, because now our discussion of hotness is going to heat up. When it comes to the newest political phenomenon, the hot Republican woman, some very strange things have been happening.
It is not news that prominent Republican women are considered to be hotter and prettier than prominent Democratic women. Among the punditry compare Ann Coulter with Janeane Garolfalo. And it is not news that Democrats and feminists consider this to be a problem.
Sarah Palin crystallized the trend and also elicited the hottest backlash. When she arrived on the scene, it seemed like Bush Derangement Syndrome instantly morphed into Palin Derangement Syndrome.
Now, thanks to Palin among others, attractive Republican women candidates are starting to gain political success, and it is clearly upsetting the feminist matriarchy.
Newsweek's resident feminist, Julia Baird writes: "Something pretty creepy has been happening to conservative women lately. There seems to be an insistent, increasingly excitable focus on the supposed hotness of Republican women in the public eye, like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Michelle Malkin, and Nikki Haley-- not to mention the likes of Ann Coulter. The sexual references are pervasive; they come from left, right, and center, and range from gushing to highly offensive." Link here.
Creepy to whom? Are these women complaining because people find them attractive? Don't they dress themselves in order to enhance their good looks and allure? Why does Julia Baird think it is her job to complain on their behalf?
And isn't Baird perpetuating the same kind of stereotyping when she fails to denounce the relentless and gender-based stereotyping of Sarah Palin as ignorant, as what used to be called a dumb broad.
Such stereotyping is not coming at us from all sides of the political spectrum. It has become the stock-in-trade in the leftist media. As a group of reporters covering Palin in California the other week made perfectly clear, it is thoroughly acceptable, even desirable, to impugn Palin's intelligence.
Besides, no one thought it was creepy when women swooned over John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. And why does Baird ignore the two most important female Republican candidates this year, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman? Could it be that they do not merit mention because they are not hot enough, or because their success was not based on their hotness or their feminism?
Like a good feminist Baird believes that the patriarchy has been organized to oppress women. She believes that when women gain power they are naturally going to be diminished and demeaned for their hotness. Or else that they cannot succeed unless they keep their hotness under wraps.
If she is referring to the fact that Nikki Haley was accused of being an adulteress, she might have a point. Unfortunately, the accusations did nothing to reduce Haley's support. They may even have enhanced it.
Beyond that, most of the attacks against Sarah Palin's hotness have come from the left, partially couched in the stereotype of the dumb broad, but also in the most bizarre birther fantasies.
The birther movement claims, based on no real evidence, that Trig Palin is not Sarah Palin's son. Of course, this evinces an unhealthy obsession with Palin's reproductive system, but it also seems to want to deprive her of the capacity to bear another child.
Hot Republican women are a political issue, but they are also a cultural force. If that bastion of patriarchal oppression, the Republican party, is nominating more and more women, and being represented by more and more attractive women, what are the cultural consequences?
It is worth mentioning, even if only in passing, that the hot Republican women in question are not in the same category as Paris Hilton and Lady Gaga. They do not represent the kind of hotness that plays well in music videos. They are adult women; they have husbands and families; they have worked hard on their careers and have garnered a measure of success.
But they have done it without compromising their womanhood. None has ever pretended to be anything other than a woman.
If you believe that the world of men can only accept women who leave their femininity at the door, then these Republican women are saying that you are wrong.
Moreover, these women are not feminists. They are not leftist ideological zealots. They did not try to overthrow the patriarchy. They took the opportunities that were available, and they did not spend their time agitating about the opportunities that were not available. They competed and succeeded on the playing field that existed, and did not ask for special favors and dispensations because they were women. They did not spend their time airing grievances because they were too busy with their lives to involve themselves in such self-indulgent exercises.
If you read to the end of Julia Baird's article, you will discover that she does not conclude by saying how wonderful it is that the Republican party has fielded so many great women candidates. Instead she falls into knee-jerk grievance mode by complaining that there are not enough women in government.
You have to wonder why Baird is so thoroughly out of sorts about hotness gap between Republican and Democratic women, or better, between conservative women and feminists. Why is she so worried that leftist men are now fantasizing about hot Republican women?
Here's a guess. Feminism and radical leftism has always tried to deal with dissent by making the dissenters into outcasts and pariahs. If you disagree with the basic dogmas of feminist ideology you will, in many communities, be shunned from polite society.
There are many places in this country where men hesitate to admit that they are Republicans because they will not just lose friends, but they will lose dating opportunities. Many women openly brag that they will not date Republicans; often they will not even talk with them.
Say something nice about Sarah Palin in many communities and you will immediately be labeled as deranged. I do not even want to think about what it is going to do to your sex life.
If all women are feminists, then this strategy can work. But if the most attractive women are Republicans, then it will start breaking down. If a man had to choose between a fantasy date with Nikki Haley or one with Elena Kagan, which would he choose? If he had to choose between being married to Sarah Palin or being married to Hillary Clinton, who would he prefer?
There is worse yet. As I believe, feminism is a cult. It is directly in the business of recruiting new adherents. From the perspective of feminist recruitment efforts, ask yourself this: if a girl is going to choose an adult female role model, who is she more likely to choose, Sonia Sotomayor or Michelle Bachmann?
Feminists need to demonize these attractive Republican women because they pose an existential threat to feminism.
Perhaps feminism deserves some credit for breaking down barriers, but the fact remains that if they patriarchy was really as all-powerful and oppressive as feminism believes, then these women would not have the career success that they have achieved. As it happens, they are great role models for young girls and young women, and, in point of fact, they have achieved what feminists are constantly complaining that the patriarchy is preventing them from achieving.
In many ways they have it all. The worst part, apparently, is that, to get it all, they did not have to leave their womanhood at the door.
[A warm welcome to those of you who arrived here via Instapundit and Dr. Helen. And my special thanks to Prof. Glenn Reynolds and Dr. Helen Smith for linking this post.]
[For those who would like some visual evidence of the hotness gap, this link will take you to the now classical representation.]