Berlusconi’s bum looks big in that

Ngaire Donaghue at The Conversation looks at gender bias in politics:

This is a familiar story. “Hair and costume commentary” routinely overlays analysis of the leadership style and policy positions of women in high office. Julia Gillard has received a steady stream of media coverage of every aspect of her appearance from her hair to her shoes, her earlobes to her buttocks. But she is not alone.

German chancellor Angela Merkel was pilloried for her allegedly dowdy appearance. An image makeover after becoming leader of the Christian Democratic Union brought no relief: she was ridiculed for an awkward fit between her new, feminine look and her direct and sometimes terse political persona.

Closer to home, Helen Clark’s time as prime minister of New Zealand featured a media narrative that read her tough and aggressive political persona through her masculine personal style. And in the United States 2008 presidential campaign, people were preoccupied with Hillary Clinton’s hairstyles and pantsuits and breathless debates over the cost of Sarah Palin’s campaign wardrobe. The apparent newsworthiness of female politicians’ appearance extends well beyond the Australian media.

Like we saw last week, it’s the stuff that doesn’t raise eyebrows that we should be concerned about.