Warren’s Makeover: The Real Debate

In the midst of the nation’s most exciting Senate race and the results of the debate that almost wasn’t, some in the media are focusing on the real question: does Elizabeth Warren need a makeover? Media observer sare increasingly concerned with her looks her so-called “complaining” attitude which they say is giving her a “schoolmarm” image.

Today, Tom Domke writing for 90.9 WBUR blog’s wrote:

Elizabeth Warren seemed to be playing a role: earnest, innocent populist. She obviously had been coached to sound less like a complaining, lecturing professor.

We here at Name It. Change It. know “complain” is word used to discount what women are saying. And according to Payne & Domke, WBUR’s Daily Political Commentary, Warren is quite the complainer.

Last week, Domke’s counterpart Dan Payne said:

Right now, all she does in her ads is complain about national problems, as if she’s running for president.

And the last thing we need in the Oval Office is a woman complaining about problems, amiright? But that’s not all. While determining “What’s Wrong With the Warren Campaign,” Payne also said:

She’s got to stop the finger wagging; it adds to her strict schoolmarm appearance and bossy manner. At last week’s Democratic convention, when the delegates kept applauding, she shushed them with “Enough, enough!” as if the delegates were her pupils.

Bossy is a word reserved for women who aren’t afraid to ask for what they want. The label is an attempt to quiet their voices and regain control. But more importantly, there is nothing more sexist than reducing a Harvard professor and a political candidate to a “schoolmarm” because she is a woman.

Unchallenged, the image encouraged the show Radio Boston (also a WBUR program) to ask “Is Elizabeth Warren Too School Marmish?” Just two days after WBUR published Payne’s blog, Meghna Chakrabarti sat down with Payne who supported his original claims and told Chakrabarti this:

It’s her advertising. Her television commercials seem to turn off people. Women have told me they find her hectoring, they don’t like her attitude, she’s school marmish. These are the opinions of people who support her.

How can Warren win them over? Payne also had some fashion advice:

Lose the granny glasses; they’re 40 years late and add about 10 years to her age on TV. Soften the hair; the Page Boy haircut makes her seem joylessly practical.                 

According to Payne, Warren’s new fall look should be youthful and joyfully impractical. In the world of political commentary, Joan Vennochi, columnist for the Boston Globe, couldn’t agree more:

Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren wasted millions on ads that turned her into every man’s worst nightmare: a smarter-than-thou older woman sporting granny glasses and sensible hair.

Name It. Change It. knows hair is always an important issue when you’re a woman running for office. Criticism of a female candidate’s appearance is the kind of media sexism we anticipate. But equating Warren’s looks with “every man’s worst nightmare” is a new low.

Following Payne and Vennochi’s lead, Domke later said this:

If you haven’t noticed, commentaries and reader comments at WBUR and in other media have generated a great controversy: Some supporters of Elizabeth Warren think she needs a makeover and others believe she’s wonderful as she is.

Following all the local talk about her looks, soon national outlets felt the need to weigh in. Soon journalists at the Los Angeles Times write stories that begin like this:

She’s been accused of dressing like a schoolmarm, wagging her finger too often and misstating her Native American roots. But for the first time in a long time, Elizabeth Warren seems to be winning over voters in her race against incumbent Scott Brown for a U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts.

This is why Elizabeth Warren vs Elizabeth Warren’s looks was the second most discussed topic surrounding the Senate race this week.


Published by Kate McCarthy on 09/21/2012

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