To say it mildly, President Barack Obama’s comments about the looks of California Attorney General Kamala Harris didn’t go over well with an Iowa State University professor.
Dr. Dianne Bystrom is the director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics and has written or contributed to 15 books over the years on women in politics, particularly the portrayal and treatment of women.
“Would the president praise the good looks of a male elected official?” Bystrom asked rhetorically.
The president made his comments Thursday during a Democratic fundraiser near San Francisco. The president, with Attorney General Harris in the room, said, “She’s brilliant and she’s dedicated. She’s tough. She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general…It’s true. Come on.”
“I think the statement is inappropriate,” Bystrom said. “It places emphasis on her appearance on the same level as relevant qualifications, like intelligence, dedication and toughness,” she added.
For Bystrom, the president’s comments play into what she call the stereotypes of leadership positions in government. She said, “Attorney General, at the state and federal level, is very much considered a masculine (male) position. So his comment also brings up stereotypes, that is, women in masculine positions are not feminine or attractive.”