The Urban Legend

The School Newspaper of Urban School of San Francisco

The Urban Legend

The School Newspaper of Urban School of San Francisco

The Urban Legend

Appearance over achievement

How the hypersexualization of women in the media affects female-identifying leaders at Urban
Illustration+credit%3A+Aida+Cooney.
Illustration credit: Aida Cooney.

According to Pew Research Center, 62% of Americans feel the media focuses on female-identifying politicians’ appearances too much and does not focus enough on their views on key policy issues. The focus on women’s appearance in the media can make young female-identifying leaders feel that their appearance must be their main focus. How does this hypersexualization of women in the media affect female-identifying leaders at Urban? 

Talia Becker ‘25, co-leader of Jew Crew, student admissions representative and leader of Urban Bridge, said, “When I have important things to say I really want people to hear [them], because there’s nothing worse than someone coming up to you and being like, ‘I really liked your outfit,’ instead of being like, ‘I thought what you had to say was really powerful.’”

News outlets will often use female politicians’ appearances as the focal point of articles. Female leaders in politics are subject to critiques on their fashion as evidenced by a 2021 New York Times article titled “100 Days of Vice-Presidential Style” by Vanessa Friedman. The article examined the public’s eagerness to study the outfits of Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden. “Emails to both the vice president’s and the first lady’s offices [asked] whether there was a policy in place to support the American fashion industry,” said Friedman.

Some have noticed that these societal expectations regarding appearance are more prominent for female-identifying people than for male-identifying people. Becker said, “When I worked over the summer, I always made sure that I was wearing something that would make me respected and look put together because I was working in an office job, but my male co-workers that were my age were wearing sweatpants.”

The hypersexualization of female leaders in politics affects some students’ future professional pursuits. Co-Leader of the Students for Women’s Equality and Rights affinity space (SWEAR) Vivienne O’Dell said, “I’ve always wanted to be in politics, I just don’t know if I could handle all of that scrutiny. The portrayal of women in politics has kind of shied me away from [it].”

Student Body Co-President Sephora Haileselassie ‘24 said, “I think [sexualization in the media is] a pretty big issue [because] women can be their own person.”

“In media portrayal, it’s so unnecessary to sexualize female leaders because they should be able to be respected as characters and as people without that aspect of them,” said Becker. “I think [changing] that [would] really help young girls see that they can be powerful and respected without needing to be attractive or a sex object.”

 

About the Contributor
Aida Cooney, Staff Writer