Today in pretty pretty princess news: A new survey out of UCLA found that female politicians with "stereotypical feminine facial features" are more likely to be Republicans than women with gender-ambiguous or masculine facial features. The more gender-atypical the woman, in fact, the more likely she is to vote Democrat. Simplistic? Sure. Gross? Yeah. But super fascinating.
Via The Daily Beast:
Psychology Professor Kerri Johnson and graduate student Colleen Carpinella applied computer modeling to pictures of the entire 111th U.S. Congress to determine which facial features and the spacing between them connote a more masculine or more feminine face. They then asked college students to look at the 434 portraits and guess which women belonged to each party-and they pegged Republican women correctly 98 percent of the time. Johnson and Carpinella posit that the reason for these facial correlations in women politicians stem from perceived gender roles entrenched in each party's DNA.
Now, a couple of caveats before I jump two-footed into wild speculation here:
1. Because "pretty" is a thing. Sure. "Prettiness," clearly, is subjective. I think that all of my wonderful liberal female friends are fucking gorgeous, and I think Sarah Palin is hideous because of her shriveled goblin-heart. Ugly personality, ugly person. However, in this case, there are certain metrics of conventional attractiveness that are measurable. We all know what "conventionally attractive" means, no matter how much we rail against its destructiveness. Fine. I will allow it.
2. The stuff I'm about to say, clearly, has one million exceptions. Almost everything has exceptions. Obviously some conservative women are frumps. And plenty of liberal women wear make-up. That doesn't mean we can't speak in speculative generalities, right? We're grown-ups, right? Right.
Okay. So why is this happening? American conservatism is profoundly tied up with the old-fashioned gender paradigm in which husbands are active providers and women are passive nurturers. In that paradigm, a woman's job—the core of her femininity—is to make herself as pretty as possible and then sit back and wait to be picked. That is a deeply conservative idea. You could argue that the conservative path is much friendlier to conventionally attractive women than it is to those with less "mainstream" looks. So is it any surprise that Republican women tend to read "pretty"? It's a much tougher path for the women who don't.
And beyond that, the fact that it's something of a conservative mandate to be "pretty" encourages conservative women—no matter what physical hand they're dealt—to make signaling "pretty" a top priority. It's not unusual to hear men describe a woman as "hot," regardless of her actual physical features, when all she's really doing is fulfilling the tenets of stereotypical "hotness." Makeup, perfume, plastic surgery, blow-outs, pearls—these things, in our culture, represent "pretty." They represent "making an effort." Conservative women care more (or, at least, care differently), because they buy into the structure. Liberal women, while we're clearly affected by that structure (if we were completely free of it, I wouldn't have a job), don't have to live by it. We conform, but we also push back. We've got other shit to do.
And, on the flipside, I can imagine that liberalism actively attracts people who are shut out of that old-timey paradigm, because once you find yourself outside of it, it's easier to call bullshit on the whole thing. The women who can't "pass" for hot are forced to consider why. Maybe this is far-fetched, but I feel like people who feel less welcomed by the system are more likely to question the system. I want to be pretty, because it's fun to have fun with your appearance—but I want to do it for me. Not for some antiquated, patriarchal idea about my womanly duty.
The study itself came to a similar conclusion:
Johnson and Carpinella posit that the reason for these facial correlations in women politicians stem from perceived gender roles entrenched in each party's DNA.
"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," Johnson said in a UCLA release.
So yeah, conservatives, you can keep your "hot." I'm good. I'll be over here, with my job and my brain and my personality and with this lady.
Survey Says GOP Women Are Prettier [DailyBeast]