One of the difficulties women politicians face is the undue attention paid to their looks instead of their words. That’s why I was surprised when media giant Oprah Winfrey stopped her train of thought in an interview to comment on a curly haired Sarah Palin in an interview recently on the Oprah Winfrey Show. For years rhetorical scholars and political scientists who focus on gender have noted the tendency of the press to focus on the appearance of women politicians (hair, hemlines and husbands) instead of their stands on issues. Researchers conclude that it is a major drawback to the success of women candidates. While simply describing a woman’s appearance (as one would a man) might be considered thorough reporting, stopping an interview (before even really starting it) to call attention to a new hairstyle was a belittling move on the part of Oprah Winfrey. Television is indeed a visual medium, but no doubt, Winfrey’s high pitched “what ya do with your hair?” query at the beginning of this televised interview made most viewers tune out anything Palin said to weigh-in themselves on Palin’s new look.
Shame on you, Oprah.