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Gender bias: Why appearance focus fuels sexism in media

Donaghue, N. (2013) Gender bias: Why appearance focus fuels sexism in media. The Conversation, 13 April (2013).

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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.

Publication Type: Non-refereed Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: The Conversation Media Group
Copyright: The Author
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