Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mirror, Mirror

This photo of Hillary Clinton was recently posted on the right-leaning Drudge Report blog, ostensibly to illustrate the toll the campaign is taking on the Senator – but I don’t think I’m paranoid in believing it was also a deliberate, cheap shot (as in: see how old and ugly she is?? – please!). That might have been the end of the story, but the picture motivated a controversial radio monologue by Rush Limbaugh, which has prompted mucho buzz on blogs across the land. On those sites where Clinton is routinely called Shrillary and Her Thighness, the posts have ranged from really mean to absolutely hateful. In blue-state territory, the tables have been turned on Rush with the bloggers assailing his looks (English translation: fat! fat! fat!). My head is throbbing from the idea that I’m about to defend Limbaugh, but even though he’s a mega-conservative asshole, he’s also a fat, middle-aged man who knows what it’s like to be reviled for his appearance. So, in fairness, it's important to note that what he said is that we are a beauty- and youth-obsessed culture; he cited the innumerable ways that women, especially, suffer in our society in this regard; and he posed a timely, albeit rude, question about the appeal and presidential electability of Hillary Clinton, to wit: “Does Our Looks-Obsessed Culture Want to Stare at an Aging Woman?” (For the transcript of RL’s remarks, click here.)

Limbaugh aside, as we approach the first really plausible candidacy of a woman for president, it is not unreasonable to address the issue of her age and looks, because we are a beauty- and youth-obsessed culture and there are registered voters who will actually take her looks into consideration when making their voting decision. I would scoff derisively at this, except I remember that back in 1960, people who watched the televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon regarded the young, handsome Kennedy the winner, while those who listened to it on radio (and therefore didn’t see the 5-0-clock shadow move across Nixon’s grimacing, sweaty face) believed Tricky Dick had won.

Jackie Kennedy set the exalted standard for White House beauty and every First Lady since has been assessed in dim comparison, including Hillary, who developed a rep for never quite figuring out what to do with her hair and wearing charmless outfits that didn’t flatter her chunky legs. When she ran for the Senate, she was teased mercilessly about her black pantsuit uniform, and from the moment she threw her pill-box hat into the presidential ring, she hasn’t made a single stylish move, according to the ever-watchful fashionistas.

Needless to say, this is all very irritating – and alarming. Edwards was taken to task for his $400 haircut, but that was about economics and class, not style. Nobody says boo about the looks and couture of the men in the race, which is as it should be. Yet when it comes to Hillary, the double-standard waves its freak-flag high. Every facial wrinkle and fly-away hair is occasion for nasty comment. But this most recent assault by the blog-posting public is really beyond the pale, because it’s not gossipy nit-picking about cleavage or eye shadow color, it’s an outright assertion that Hillary is too old and ugly to be president, which is positively outrageous!

In my none-too-humble opinion, 60 isn’t too old for anything, let alone national leadership, and while Hillary may not be a classic beauty, ugly is not an apt or reasonable description of her. Ugly isn’t about being fair of face or not, it’s about being hateful, mean, violent, envious, vindictive, and any other kind of relentless awfulness of character and spirit. To not support Hillary Clinton because you disagree with her politics or even dislike her seemingly-cold personality is one thing. But to rake the woman over the coals because she isn’t young and pretty is breathtakingly shallow and really frightening!

Limbaugh said the wildly superficial standards of Hollywood and television have brought us to this sorry juncture and he is correct. But is it really possible that we as a nation have our Botoxed heads so far up our buff, toned asses that we can’t tell the difference between electing a president and selecting America’s Next Top Model? Are we so ignorant, so superficial, and so out of touch with genuine human values and social imperatives that we are unable to make sober political decisions? Have we learned nothing from nearly eight years of George W. Bush – who, by the way, bears a striking resemblance to the moronic Alfred E. Newman of Mad Magazine fame. When did it become okay to look stupid, but not old? Whether or not Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic candidate and, subsequently, President of the United States, one can only pray that our decision will be based on substance instead of fluff – unless, of course, we really do think Jennifer Love-Hewitt is the right man for the job.

1 comment:

sevnetus said...

If the election was today, I would not vote for her. I'm in my forties and contact lenses leave bags under my eyes (maybe like her.) I find her very pretty, attractive, but she's MARRIED, so I can't do anything with this. I think, in your post, you say bad things about her, and you should not.