There’s a Simple Reason Why Our Society Still Values Female Sex Symbols More Than Female Leaders


Over at NationalJounal, Kathy Kiely is bemoaning the fact that our society still puts a higher premium on beautiful women than women leaders.

Sex and Power: Our society still values female sex symbols more than female leaders. The pace of change is too slow.

Like bookends on an era, the passing of two well-known American women last week underscored how much times have changed – and how much they have not.

The first to depart was Elizabeth Taylor, a woman of undoubted savvy and accomplishment who did a lot for others, especially those with AIDS, but one whose celebrity and power derived from her status as one of the sultriest sex symbols of all time.

The other to leave was Geraldine Ferraro, who turned her own traditional feminine role into a political base and who, in a bid for the vice presidency, changed American politics forever. She took the “only men need apply” sign off the White House, said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

…Further consider: More than a quarter-century after Ferraro’s historic breakthrough, women still constitute just 17 percent of the national legislature in a country where they make up 51 percent of the population. To put it another way, My National Journal colleague Jessica Taylor notes that she wasn’t yet born when Ferraro was nominated as the Democratic vice presidential candidate but was already a working journalist by the next time a major party put a woman on its national ticket (the GOP’s 2008 nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president).

“It’s disheartening,” says Debbie Walsh of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “There is still such a long way for women to go.”

Let me suggest something rather obvious that seems to slip past a lot of people who get hung up on gender quotas in politics.

To set it up, consider this: There are some extraordinarily successful women in politics already. Ann Coulter is the single most popular conservative columnist. Michelle Malkin is arguably the most successful conservative blogger. Sarah Palin probably has a larger dedicated fan base than any other politician in America. Laura Ingraham has an audience of roughly 6 million people who listen to her every week. You can continue on down the list and find plenty of women who’ve been very successful in politics. When you consider all of that, it becomes clear that women certainly CAN BE successful in politics. So, why aren’t more of them doing it?

More to the point, why is it that, “our society still values female sex symbols more than female leaders?”

Here’s a radical suggestion: Our society values female sex symbols more than female leaders because THAT’S WHAT WOMEN VALUE. Put another way, most women believe that being Elizabeth Taylor is more likely to get them the things they want in life than being Geraldine Ferraro. They’re probably right about that, by the way. The world is a beautiful woman’s oyster.

On the other hand, power, influence, and leadership may have a certain appeal to women, but they’re primarily still male fantasies — and no wonder. If you’re as beautiful as Elizabeth Taylor, it’s entirely possible that you’ll be able to marry a congressman or senator and share in the rewards of his life without having to do the grinding, sometimes demeaning work that often comes along with being a politician.

If and when women come to the conclusion that it’s more rewarding to be Kay Bailey Hutchinson than Jennifer Anniston, suddenly you’ll start to see the percentage of women in Congress skyrocket. Don’t hold your breath waiting though or you’ll pass out even before you get to read the next sad, sad article about how “society” is somehow keeping women from getting their rightful due in politics.

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