Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Credibility and Perception of “She’s too Sexy?”

I recently read an article that discussed the affect of people's perception of Palin and the possible relation with the unfavorable outcome that resulted for the McCain-Palin campaign. The group of people who focused intensely on Sarah Palin's looks were distracted from the important question of wether Palin was competent enough to be Vice President. The author of the article, Geoffrey Dunn, described a study conducted at the University of South Florida by Nathan A. Heflick and Jamie L. Goldenberg that was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. In this study undergraduate students, whom the study used as a representation of the entire American society, who payed more attention to what Sarah Palin was wearing rather then her political strategies and ideas ended up voting for another candidate thus reducing the votes for the McCain-Palin ticket. The studies main point was the affect of the emphasis by the media on Palin's looks and how it negatively impacted voters opinions.
 Mr. Dunn, who had a doctorate in sociology, says that he takes this study with a "block of salt" since many of these "academic" studies use "false assumptions and bad science" to recreate results that the study desires. The entire study consisted of inaccurate and poor methodology. The study gathered research by having students write down their thoughts about one of two American women celebrities, Sarah Palin or Angelina Jolie.  From that group, half were asked to write their opinions about the person and the remaining group was to discuss the person's appearance. The students then evaluated their subject in terms of certain attributes such as competence. Finally they were to identify who they were intending to vote for in the next election. The study asked questions that would not relay any insightful information. To further support the inaccuracy of this study is the number the subjects observed. The study used 133 students all ranging in the same age group, which does not relay appropriate information to draw an accurate conclusion. Also the study's participants consisted of 96 females and an underrepresented number of males totaling 37. The list goes on for all the variables that were not considered for an appropriate "academic" study. 
I frequently run into studies that are supposedly credible because they are peer reviewed articles, but this study still brought up an interesting point to further analyze. Initially, the Republican party contributed to Sarah Palin's representation as "the hottest governor in the coldest state" and as "Caribou Barbie" with signs at events and buzz words in the press. Although, they soon recognized the sexism behind these loaded words and images which led voters to question her credibility and competence. I believe Sarah Palin was hurt politically by the poor representation by the media and its focus on her looks and unintelligence. Even though Palin played into the objectification, and unfortunately for her campaign she was unable to move past the attacks and prove herself as a reliable, competent candidate. She ultimately could not prove to the country that they should place our economy and safety into her hands. Lack of knowledge and her fumbling interviews only weakened her position. 
   I still would like to know whether or not her portrayal as a sex symbol impacted our perception of her? I believe it has and there is evidence that supports this claim, other than the article mentioned above. There is no doubt in my mind that Sarah Palin was treated in an absolutely sexist manner. None of the male candidate's faced the same scrutiny on their appearance as intensely as Palin. This is simply another example of the media placing emphasis on the materialistic and trivial information of a female candidate, rather than judging qualifications based upon knowledge, skill, and ability. Sara Palin played a part in her on objectification, her winking into the camera and her choice of sexy clothing along with her pageant strides across the stage all contributed to the countries perception of her sexy portrayal. The RNC also played the sex card with Palin, but only when it was beneficial to them and then they turned the table and complained when it blew up in their faces. All in all I feel Palin's lack of knowledge compared to the competing candidates was the ultimate cause of her downfall. Even if her sexy representation lead to her portrayal as unintelligent, she still lacked all other qualities that are required for a Vice President. 

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