Sarah Palin: too attractive for her own good?

Some interesting research recently published:

In a Sept. 4, 2008 column,
just after Sarah Palin accepted the Republican nomination for
vice-president, Will Wilkinson wrote admiringly of her “sexual power,”
adding: “I think she is a tremendously sexy woman. How this will affect
the race, I have no idea, but it’s just got to.” …

In a paper just published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, psychologists Nathan Heflick and Jamie Goldenberg
of the University of South Florida describe an experiment they
conducted shortly after Wilkinson wrote those words. Building upon
1980s research suggesting attractive women in high-status jobs are
perceived as less competent (a finding that has been challenged
in recent years), they examined whether Palin’s sex appeal — the
subject of endless media chatter in the weeks after she joined the
ticket — hindered her ability to make the case she was up for the job.

“It wasn’t her appearance per se” that soured people on Palin,
Heflick said in an interview. “It was the effect her appearance had on
their perception of her competence and humanity. Those variables made
people less likely to vote for her.” 

Of course, the gender and politics scholar (and feminist) in me is disturbed by these findings, but not at all surprised.


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