Why Women Politicians Are Judged By Their Looks And Not Competence

By Ashwaq Masoodi
Mint, New Delhi

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) While this article focuses on the bias against female politicians in India, many of the sexist themes regarding a focus on a female candidate’s looks and her wardrobe exist far beyond India.


“What difference will it make? We have more beautiful star campaigners… heroines, artistes… they are better.”

Priyanka laughed it off, saying: “If that’s all he saw in (her) colleagues who are each strong, brave and beautiful women who have battled through all sorts of hardships to get where they are, then he makes me laugh even more. Because he exposes the BJP’s mindset towards the better half of the population of India.”

Priyanka definitely would have seen it coming. As speculation increased over her entry into politics, discussions around her looks, dressing sense and “hotness” picked up.

Among other reports on her, a 2012 Daily Mail piece, titled “The power dressing queen”, talked about her as the woman who introduced power dressing to the world of Indian politics, “sticking to her signature style–of teaming gorgeous cotton saris with longsleeve blouses”. The piece talks about all the saris she wore in Amethi and Rae Bareli–from the yellow checked one with a maroon blouse, to a blue sari with a purple border and matching blouse, with the “pallu falling over her arm”.

This sartorial burden somehow falls more heavily on women. Priyanka is not really an exception. The moment a woman contends for power, people start talking about her looks and her wardrobe, as if she is seeking approval of the electorate not on the basis of her competence but looks.

Whether they come from contemporary male politicians or commentators, coarse and misogynistic remarks about women’s body and their appearance undermine their sense of legitimacy.

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