Media Coverage of Name It. Change It’s New Research

On Monday we released our new studies with the blockbuster finding that any mention of a woman candidate’s appearance by the media actually harms her electability. And we are happy to report the media is picking up on the message. Check out some of our coverage of  our reports from this week:

Amanda Hess in

…we do know that despite President Obama’s commitment to equal-opportunity physical flattery, female candidates contend with far more superficial coverage of their campaigns than do men, and that seriously undermines their success. In Women for President: Media Bias in Nine Campaigns, Erika Falk examined media coverage of every female presidential candidate in American history, from Victoria Woodhull in 1872 to Hillary Clinton in 2008. Female candidates were subjected to four times the appearance-based coverage that male candidates were. And the trend didn’t budge across the 136-year sample…

Garance Franke-Ruta in The Atlantic

All of which is just to say that female appearance is a complicated semiotic system women use to communicate with each other and with men, and I’m not sure it’s something that can ever be spoken of entirely neutrally. The very act of praising a woman’s appearance, for example, can provoke an outpouring of contrary opinions, and creates a framework in which assessing her appearance can become a dominant theme.

Digby in Hullaballo

Women standing up for themselves always results in some people saying they are strident and humorless. It’s an uncomfortable situation. But in the end, it’s worth it because over time it raises most people’s consciousness. And according to this study, it reverses the negative impact almost immediately, which is very good news. It gives women some ammunition in their arsenal when this happens.

Erik Wemple in Washington Post

Whether you believe in the Politics-Style divide; whether you believe this study has methodological or conceptual limitations; whether you want more appearance coverage of men, less of women or more of both; whether you believe that the range of clothing options available to women makes commentary on their choices inevitable, perhaps we can all agree that Clinton’s hair has had its day in the sun. As Burton is fond of noting, that topic is certain to fetch millions of Google hits. It also has its own topic page on the Huffington Post.

Jennifer Vanasco in Columbia Journalism Review

I wasn’t planning to write about the dust-up after Obama called California’s Kamala Harris the country’s “best-looking attorney general.” After all, he apologized almost immediately, it happened a week ago, and I thought we could all agree he shouldn’t have done that and then move on.

But then I saw this headline: “Kamala Harris’ Star Power Buoyed by Obama ‘Best-Looking Attorney General’ Comment.” …. Basically, writer Chris Roberts is saying: Harris is lucky that Obama said she was attractive! It boosted her prospects!

Sarah Seltzer in The Jewish Daily Forward

Like most women, at various points in my life I’ve felt impacted by these kinds of comments. I’ve winced when I felt like my presence was getting erased because I was not presenting as “pretty” and someone else was — and I have also worried that my intelligence was being overlooked for the exact opposite reason, because I was too pretty to be taken seriously. Either way, it’s completely unpleasant.

Also Erik Wemple in Washington Post again

Well, what about [Donald] Trump? Sure, he’s not a politician, though he’s quite political. And he’s been the topic of a great deal of appearance-oriented coverage. Could the hair stories possibly diminish The Donald? That’s a question that the Erik Wemple Blog put to him during a session today at the Washington Post.

Trump responded with some quips suggesting he spends little time pondering ways in which he could be diminished. “It is my hair, actually,” he said, and he acknowledged that it’s a big “topic” out there in the world. “I’ve been combing my hair this way my whole life, I work at it.”


Published by Kate McCarthy on 04/12/2013

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