Hillary Clinton – or more specifically Hillary Clinton’s appearance … or more specifically still, Hillary Clinton’s appearance without make-up – was a focus of attention in last week’s Daily Mail, and it was refreshing to hear the US Secretary of State herself say that she had given up trying to look “immaculate” in public, and that she felt “relieved” not to have to put her lenses in and style her hair just to walk out of her front door. She was putting “comfort” and “practicality” first, and she was happy to do so.
Quite why this revelation necessitated a flurry of activity at CNN, who raced to capture her thoughts after pictures of her without makeup had surfaced in the press, is – on one level, at least – quite perplexing. Why on earth does it matter what a senior politician wears; surely substance speaks louder than superficial appearance? On another level, of course, the elevation of Mrs Clinton’s actions (or non-actions) to serious news status is entirely understandable (if rather depressing to those of us who fight hard to orientate discussion of women towards their achievements rather than how they look): our society is currently obsessed with superficiality, and has developed a distorted idea of how women in particular should present themselves, to the extent that this approach dominates the majority of media coverage of women in powerful positions. Rare is the article or news report which does not comment on appearance; and if it doesn’t, then it can pretty much be guaranteed that online commentators will fill this gap.
And so it was with Hillary Clinton and the “story” of her non-make-up. When you read the coverage and the comments, you would be forgiven for wondering whether the Secretary of State’s role was anything other than to model styling products, but, thankfully, in and amongst the remarks made, are strong and sensible comments about how we should just move on as a society and stop obsessing over women’s appearance. Mrs Clinton’s assured and relaxed performance on CNN was a powerful statement, too; here was a woman – one of the most powerful women in the world – who really couldn’t give two hoots about how she looked, but was instead far more interested in what she was doing to make the world work more effectively.
Quite right too. We could do far worse than to encourage our daughters to emulate her, and our sons to admire her.