Walking a Mile in Our Shoes: Thoughts on Marco Rubio’s Boot “Craziness”

Marco Rubio wore boots with a heel and the Internet went crazy. This may be the first time a presidential candidate has been presented in a “who wore it best” scenario with a boy bander.

As Emily Crockett aptly put it, “sexism is often trivial, and trivializing,” and the focus on Rubio’s boots at a time when the United States is confronting many serious challenges seems to be the definition of trivial. However, we can’t simply say that the media (both social and traditional) should not call out the appearance of either male or female politicians, period, because stopping there ignores the effect gender has on the impact of such coverage.

download (19)While Rubio was right to call the amount of attention he has been receiving for his boots “craziness,” let’s face it: women have had to deal with this “craziness” much longer and can face high political consequences for it. A study from Name It. Change It., a project of the Women’s Media Center and She Should Run, found that appearance coverage undercuts women running for office by undermining their qualifications. It didn’t matter whether the coverage was positive, negative, or neutral: in each case, coverage of a woman’s appearance made voters less likely to vote for that woman.

Women already need to work hard to overcome the initial bias that comes with not possessing historically presidential traits (namely, being a man). While there are signs that this traditional way of thinking is changing, clothing coverage certainly doesn’t help candidates focus on their qualifications, which is essential for women to succeed.

I applaud Marco Rubio’s awareness that it is ridiculous to focus on his boots. However, we all need to realize that it is ridiculous to focus on any candidate’s clothing, especially given the harm such commentary can bring for women running for office.