Politics and the Beauty Hierarchy

945640_507526312662938_1896119513_nHierarchies of women are going to be a prevalent theme on this blog. I see them pretty frequently during my research, and their purpose is always the same – not as one might suspect, to convey value on those who are sorted and graded – but rather to reaffirm the authority of whoever is doing the assessing.

There is nothing objective about these hierarchies of women, although the discourse of the practice suggests that there is, and that such subjective ordering can then be held as evidence for some wider aim. Usually this aim relates to maintaining and promoting the male gaze, in which women are encouraged to internalize an acceptance of being looked at and graded, as a way of eliciting compliance with a range of related gender norms. As long as the subject who is being assessed concentrates on where on the scale they might be positioned, their attention is directed away from challenging the legitimacy of the assessor, and from questioning their motives.

The sorting of female representatives and supporters of the Republican and Democrat parties demonstrates the political motivation behind classifying women.3155353576_liberal_women_xlarge

The photograph here acts as evidence for the political message of the assessor. By virtue of what the women look like, the (non)validity of their message is held to be obvious. “But just look at them!” the compiler seems to be saying, “isn’t it clear who you should want to align yourself with?” Republican women, with their smiles and staged portraits, are presented as naturally superior to their Democratic counterparts, the ‘dogs’ whose unflattering photographs are used to suggest their ugly agendas.

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