Earlier this week, The Hill posted its list of the 50 Most Beautiful People for 2011. The Hill is a newspaper and website that keeps track of the goings on in Washington, including Congressional session, lobbying, campaigning, and DC-specific items of interest. This is their eighth annual list of the most attractive Congressional staffers, journalists, lobbyists, etc., and it is riddled with problems.
The thing that struck me most about the list was the sheer number of women on it. Of the top 50, 27 of them are women. But if you think more carefully about it, women certainly don’t fill more than half the jobs on Capitol Hill. Women have made inroads into politics over the past decades, moreso in the type of behind-the-scenes work that’s being highlighted here than as candidates. Even so, politics is still very much an old boys’ club. Yet most of the people singled out on the Pretty List are women.
What’s more disturbing is the way the article discusses each of the people on the list. The men are smart, hardworking guys who happen to be attractive. For the most part, the women are gorgeous and ladylike first, anything else second. Here’s a brief sample of what the writers had to say about the ladies:
It’s no accident that Amy Cheng exhibits model-like poise in front of a camera.
Asked how she maintains her looks, the congressional aide says a winning personality is the key. “I think being nice is being pretty,” Johnson said. “Having a bad attitude makes you unattractive.”
Questioned on matters of the heart, Craig said she looks for a man who treats his mother well. “I think how a man treats his mother is very indicative of how he’ll treat you,” she said.
Stephenson also has the looks and the charm to go along with the brains. She says she keeps her hair shiny by using a family recipe: she mashes up an avocado with olive oil, rubs the mixture into her hair, and lets it sit under a shower cap for an hour. When she washes it out, it shines like a freshly waxed limousine.
Even when highlighting Jenna Gibson’s football skills, they still manage to make her sound as feminine as possible. The one-word description they give her? “Tigress.”
Shocking as it might seem, given her petite frame and ebullient smile, for Gibson, taking up football was almost second nature.
Though Representative Kristi Noem declined to interview for the piece, they still managed to sneak in that:
In the sea of white-haired men who dominate Congress, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) stands out. Not because she could make a potato sack look fashionable, but because she traveled a different path to Washington…
What do they have to say about the men, then? Let’s see.
As for maintaining his muscular build, he exercises three days a week ““ mainly with weights ““ and frequently bikes to work.
“I definitely like to work out at least four or five times a week, either the gym or running,” he said.
As for maintaining his fit physique, he regularly hits the gym and makes health a priority. “I typically work out during my lunch here,” he said, adding that he uses the Rayburn House gym. “I work out probably four times a week and play tennis once a week.
“I still do workouts from the “˜70s,” the congressman said during an interview in his office in the Cannon House Office Building. “I’m very traditional, very old-fashioned.” And in the bodybuilding world, traditional and old-fashioned translates to”¦ Arnold Schwarzenegger-style weightlifting.
I could go on and on. In fact, trying to narrow down the above selection of quotes was a pretty difficult task. Every page I clicked to brought the point home, again and again. The men talk about their careers, the women their hobbies and desires for a boyfriend. The men talk about working out to keep fit; the women outline their beauty regimens. Even though all the people featured on The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful People list do the same types of jobs in the same town for the same industry, women and men are described in wildly different ways. The women are subjected to sassy, sexy, smiling photo shoots while the men stand with arms crossed and look unsmiling at the camera with an aura of power.
The immediate reaction to my complaints might be that most of these women are quoted directly. And yet, The Hill’s reporters asked them the questions that gave us those answers. Until we start treating our political staffers and elected representatives with the same measure of respect and interest regardless of what kind of equipment they have in their pants, politics is always going to remain an old boy’s club.