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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Presidential campaigns aren’t beauty pageants for candidates’ wives

    The United States might as well rename the presidential election the first lady’s pageant, because clearly some Americans care more about how attractive the first lady is in stilettos than how effective her husband will be in office.

    Last week, a rodeo clown in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., compared Michelle Obama and Ann Romney in an off-color joke some have described as racist, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

    “Playboy is offering Ann Romney $250,000 to pose in the magazine, and the White House is upset about it because National Geographic only offered Michelle Obama $50 to pose for them,” the clown quipped over the public-address system of the Creston Classic Rodeo.

    The “joke,” which has garnered national attention and criticism, is not only an insult to Obama, but also an insult to Romney, the presidential candidates and all women.

    First of all, implying that Obama should pose for National Geographic, a magazine that typically features images of animals, dehumanizes her. The statement has racist overtones.

    Secondly, imposing monetary values on Romney and Obama, let alone any woman or human being, objectifies them. How sexy a woman is should never determine her legitimacy or her authority, and it should never make a difference in who wins the presidential election.

    This is not the only time Obama and Romney have been objectified. A columnist for The Boston Globe described the two women as “bright and sprightly accessories,” like one of Mitt Romney’s cars. Countless articles have been devoted to critiquing their respective convention outfits, drawing connections between the most fashionable dress and the most impactful speech.

    Analyzing their wardrobes diminishes their roles as prominent women in American politics. Attention should be given to the contributions to their husbands’ presidential campaigns, not to what they wore at the convention or what seeing them posing in Playboy magazine would be like.

    More importantly, the following months are not about the wives of the presidential candidates. They are about the candidates themselves and what they will do for our country.

    When Americans go to the polls in November, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney will not be on the ballot. Their husbands will be, and if Americans want their votes to count, they should drop the article titled “Fancy Dress Face Off” and read an article on the economy, health care and foreign policy.

    This is not to say the first lady is inconsequential in determining who will win the presidency.

    During their convention speeches, both Romney and Obama helped reveal their husbands’ humanity and compassion, making the candidates more appealing to voters.

    In the White House, the first lady may influence policy decisions, as Hillary Clinton did regarding health care, and she may advocate for social causes, as Obama has with childhood obesity.

    The first lady is the symbolic mother of our nation, and her self-presentation, image and behavior inherently determine whether or not we respect her. So, yes, criticize her, praise her and analyze her.

    But please, quit making sexist, racist jokes and start talking about what really matters — the presidential candidates and how they will shape our nation.

    — Savannah Martin is a junior studying journalism and political science. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @SavannahJual.

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