It’s time to make a pact. From now on, if you are in a professional setting and you’re thinking in your head, “Now that is one attractive man/woman/person/employee/colleague/business associate, etc.” this is what you must do from this day forward –
Keep. It. To. Yourself.
This is especially important if you are the president of the United States and are talking about a high-level government official who is also on some lists to run for the White House herself some day.
Feel free to say things like, “That’s a lovely necklace you’re wearing,” or “Is that a new suit?” But if the thought is even forming in your mind to say anything about a person being particularly pretty or, shall we say, not so pretty, warning bells should be going off in your head a la Lost in Space — “Danger, Will Robinson!! Mayday!! Mayday!!”
Sadly, at a political event, President Obama felt the need to compliment California Attorney General Kamala Harris this way:
“You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. … She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country. It’s true. Come on. And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.”
To be fair, as a Los Angeles Times article notes, many politicians in California are “freakishly good-looking.” But why couldn’t the President stop while he was ahead? Brilliant, dedicated, tough. Why couldn’t he stop there?
If I were a betting woman, I’d say the President will soon be visiting the FLOTUS woodshed for that one.
As Broad Side contributor Rebekah Kuschmider noted on her Facebook page, maybe this is much ado about nothing:
Remember that episode of the West Wing where someone told Sam he was being sexist for complementing Ainsley’s looks and Ainsley said maybe we should focus on real women’s issues like fair pay and affordable child care? Yeah. Life imitates art.
Even though I agree with Rebekah that we having bigger fish to fry, I keep wondering why some people sometimes feel compelled to add a comment about looks when discussing their qualifications or accomplishments? Have we not hashed out this particular issue a million different ways and come to the same conclusion — that nothing good can ever come of commenting on a colleague’s good looks in connection with their professional qualifications?
I’m sure if Joe Biden is reading this now (*waving to the Vice President!*), he is nodding his head vigorously in agreement, having been burned with that 2008 campaign comment about his then challenger Barack Obama being “articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Yeah, that didn’t go over so well. Of course, he IS the vice president now, but we all cringe when things like this happen. And happen again. And again. And it’s just as bad on the flip side, as Hillary Clinton knows well from her 2008 campaign days through her stint as Secretary of State, that many critics and admirers have been focused on her hair, her cleavage, her wrinkles, her ankles, her pantsuits, and so much more, other than her brains and her political acumen.
As she rightly reminded the media shortly before leaving the State Department:
“If I want to wear my glasses, I’m wearing my glasses. If I want to wear my hair back I’m pulling my hair back. You know at some point it’s just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention.”
So can we just make a pact right now that we will all stop commenting on other people’s level of attractiveness when we are in professional or political settings? I’m not saying we should stop telling the people in our personal lives that they look nice. It’s a good thing to tell your girlfriend that she’s having a good hair day. But it’s not rocket science to realize that nothing good can come of remarking on a colleague’s appearance, even if it’s meant with the best of intentions.
To the men who are reading this, please DO NOT interpret this in any way to mean you can stop complimenting your mom/wife/sister/girlfriend.etc. You should be doing that every day.