Look at those high cheekbones, the full lips, and that perfect little nose. And oh my, that flawless symmetry! Who exactly is this beautiful specimen I’m describing? It’s the feminine face of female Republican politicians.
In a recent study looking at the correlation between facial features and political stances, lead author Colleen Carpinella, a UCLA graduate student in psychology, concludes that “female politicians with stereotypically feminine facial features are more likely to be Republican than Democrat, and the correlation increases the more conservative the lawmaker’s voting record.”
“I suppose we could call it the ‘Michele Bachmann effect,’” said Kerri Johnson, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor of communication studies and psychology at UCLA. Ah, good ol’ Michele Bachmann. She may dabble in McCarthyism, and she may show up at places clearly unwanted, but at least she looks good doing it all.
The two researchers were able to come to this conclusion through two experiments. The first experiment consisted of using the FaceGen Modeler, a program that is able to determine where a particular face falls on a scale of highly masculine (-40) to highly feminine (+40). It does this by analyzing more than 100 facial features such as the shape of the jaw, the location of eyebrows, the placement of cheekbones, the shape of eyes, the fullness of lips, etc.
Carpinella and Johnson theorized that because the Republican party is “more frequently associated with policies that uphold traditional sex roles”, they expected to find that Republican men would be more masculine and Republican women would be more feminine. However, this theory did not ring true for men, as not all male Republicans have Mitt Romney’s rugged jawline. In an attempt to explain the unexpected result, Carpinella suggests that “their policy advocacy and leadership roles may already confer these [masculine] characteristics on them.”
The researchers were able to affirm their theory when it came to women though, as it was a completely different story. Female Republican representatives were rated, on average, twice as “sex-typical” as their Democratic counterpart.
The perception that female Republicans are more feminine looking was further bolstered by the next experiment in which researchers showed 120 politically uninformed undergrads pictures of all 434 politicians and asked them to guess which political party each belonged to. The experiment showed that the students’ guesses for the Republican politicians became more accurate the more feminine the face.
Johnson further explains the reasoning behind these findings:
“The Democratic Party is associated with social liberal policies that aim to diminish gender disparities, whereas the Republican Party is associated with socially conservative policy issues that tend to bolster traditional sex roles. These policy platforms are manifest in each party’s image — apparently also in the physical characteristics exhibited by politicians.”
This study begs the question of whether or not the appearance of a female matters more than the appearance of a male politician. It seems to only enforce the sexist view of the way women politicians look and act.
In 2008, Hillary Clinton was under constant scrutiny about her appearance from her hairstyles to her cankles, while continuously being criticized for not being tough–or manly– enough to be president. Meanwhile, in that same presidential election, Sarah Palin became a sex symbol as people were more interested in her “hot photos” than her actual policies. In 2011, Republican Rep. Allen West sent Democrat Rep. Debbie Schultz an email saying that “you are not a Lady” and “shall not be afforded due respect from me!” Most recently, disgraced Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin attacked his women opponent, Democrat Claire McCaskill, as not being “ladylike.” And while Michelle Obama is not a politician, there has been endless debate about her toned arms.
As the study exemplifies, looks matter. And with that, Republican ladies can tell the Democrat ladies to suck it because their conservative ideology means that they’re the hottest politicians around town. Science proved it.