Niki Savva

Nov 23, 2010

Politics in The Australian: “how you look is as important as what you say and how you say it”

Nikki Savva offers the Prime Minister some "advice" that - no

Nikki Savva offers the Prime Minister some “advice” that – no, honestly – applies “equally to male and female politicians”:

Some people welcomed her recent performances in parliament as feisty. To others they were scratchy and screechy.

Her humour often lapses into bitchiness or condescension. As Prime Minister, she has to be measured and respectful. She needs to delegate the attack dog role.

She should sack her hairdresser (sorry, Tim) get a decent cut and colour, pack up all her clothes and send them to the Smith Family. There are plenty of stylists who can buy her smart clothes that fit her properly. She needs to hire a good one or get the name of the Governor-General’s dressmaker.

If all this sounds gratuitous, it isn’t. The photograph of Julia Gillard in Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph yesterday, wearing a coat that looked as if it was made out of an army blanket by one of the infantry, said it all.

How you look is as important as what you say and how you say it. And the rules apply equally to male and female politicians.

A bit of exercise wouldn’t go astray either, a healthy body and a healthy mind and all that.

Oh of course those rules “apply equally to male and female politicians”. Who could deny it?

So many male politicians described as “scratchy and screechy”. So many male politicians described as “bitchy”. So many male politicians criticised for their hairdressing decisions. So many male politicians condemned for their inadequately classy coats. So many male politicians told that “a bit of exercise wouldn’t go astray”.

This is NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the PM’s gender.

No, it’s just because “how you look is as important as what you say and how you say it”.

And you know what? While Niki’s nasty little not-at-all-gendered attacks above are pretty damn pathetic, the saddest thing of all is that conclusion. And that, based on the quality of political reporting in this country, so many of Niki’s colleagues throughout the national media seem to believe it.

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35 comments

35 thoughts on “Politics in The Australian: “how you look is as important as what you say and how you say it”

  1. Lastest Ballot Box News | Ballot Box

    […] she has to be measured and respectful. She needs to delegate the attack dog role. Read more on Crikey This entry was posted in Ballot Box and tagged Ballot, Lastest, News. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  2. fred p

    No, but we did see pieces about the electoral implications of these things.

    Sorry, no. We did not see purportedly serious editorial pieces about the “electoral implications” of John Howard’s tracksuit. None. Let’s differentiate between gags about someone’s clothes or apeparance, on the one hand, and what’s masquerading as serious comment, on the other.

    And why did we not see serious comment about the electoral implications of wearing a daggy Wallabies tracksuit? I suggest because there aren’t any. You’re not suggesting Howard either gained or lost votes based on his tracksuit, are you?

    But even if there were electoral implications, that would not justify the press in lecturing the Prime Minister on what he or she ought to wear, which is really a matter for the PM him/herself. It should not be the province of people like Ms Savva, who is not the appointed arbiter of style as far as I’m aware, to give the PM fashion advice. It’s petty and stupid.

    I defy you to link to any purportedly serious comment from any major news organisation telling a male PM what he should or shouldn’t wear.

  3. confessions

    Electoral implications? Yes Howard was embarrassing overseas, but he won four elections in a row. Comedians took the piss out of Keating and his clocks, but he was still the greatest Treasurer of Australia’s modern era, able to succeed as PM as well. The only electoral implications which exist for what women wear and the colour of their hair is inside the heads of the immature misogynists who are legion in our MSM. Thankfully most voters seem to dismiss these juvenile observations when casting their vote.

    As for the small section not being representative of the article, the article in its entirety is worse. Savva talks about Gillard’s childlessness, stating that it hurt her in the campaign. Where is the evidence for this? She still out-ranked Tone as preferred PM in all polling conducted throughout the campaign. Even now, she still does.

    Savva’s piece is indeed anti-woman. It ranks alongside the other sexist rubbish that’s been printed about Gillard since she became PM. I can’t recall such a concerted effort on behalf of a major newspaper to ridicule and demean a Prime Minister for his/her physical appearance, dress style and mannerisms.

  4. rhwombat

    Um… Daics, despite Frank Campbell’s glorious contribution to this debate, the issue here is Savva’s “journalism” and all who sail in her. {Snip}

  5. Daics

    “As they did with Howie’s tracksuit and Keating’s clocks. Did we ever see opinion pieces in major Australian newspapers suggesting the way they looked and dressed, or their family circumstances impeded their abilities to do their jobs?”

    No, but we did see pieces about the electoral implications of these things. Keating was out of touch. Howard was embarrasssing overseas and a not a statesman kind of arguments. Unfair perhaps, but valid.

    Of course Gilard could arrive at work in her pyjamas and do the job perfectly. But there would be electoral implications if she did this.

    That is Savva’s point, and I agree with it.

    It is not an anti-woman diatribe, no matter how you may wish to skew it Confessions.

    And the small section of the piece shown above is not indicative of the entire article. It does make criticisms of other areas where she believes Gillard is failing, and she believes her general appearance isn’t helping.

    As an aside, I recall that Gillard herself mocked Christopher Pyne in Parliament for “mincing.”

    It’s a tough business, and as I’ve noted above, Gillard, as a ferocious and worthy smasher of glass ceilings in her legal and political career, does not need to be mollycoddled by confused, hyper-sensitive women, or men for that matter.

  6. Daniel

    Jennifer Hawkins owns the Universe, which includes the world in its jurisdiction. Maybe there is a flaw in your logic???????

  7. twobob

    If the way you look is as important as what you say then I am wondering why Jennifer Hawkins does not rule the world?

    Hmmm, there must be some flaw in the logic?

  8. Cuppa

    Confessions,

    [Who will pay for this when it goes behind a paywall?]

    Mr Denmore reports on worrying developments in the US …

    [… As for the giant US market, the Federal Trade Commission has been considering exemptions from anti-trust laws to provide a lifeline to a dying newspaper market. One proposal is to allow news organisations there to collaborate in erecting pay walls that would require consumers to pay for online content.]

    http://thefailedestate.blogspot.com/2010/11/death-of-diversity.html

  9. confessions

    Grog on Savva and the Oz more generally. Who will pay for this when it goes behind a paywall?

  10. quantize

    Oh dear I just googled some pictures of Niki Savva

    She would be wise to shut up on this topic.

  11. Durutticolumn

    Two words Joe Hockey

  12. monkeywrench

    Occasionally, there are articles in The Australian that stand as indicators of the Conservative nature of the papers’ editorial line. This is one of them. You can almost imagine the guffawing, backslapping bonhomie in the place, with its coterie of willing female columnists desperate to underline their faithful support of the alpha-male ethos in journalism.

  13. confessions

    [Comedians have had a field day with the way he dresses and talks but you can’t tell me that’s who he really was.]

    As they did with Howie’s tracksuit and Keating’s clocks. Did we ever see opinion pieces in major Australian newspapers suggesting the way they looked and dressed, or their family circumstances impeded their abilities to do their jobs?

    The stuff about Gillard is simply spiteful, and is designed to undermine her leadership.

  14. James T

    “Howard was mocked for the wallabies tracksuit thing, Keating for his expensive italian suits (not of the people etc).”

    Did we have entire editorials addressing this inane shit? And if not, what novel fashion blunder is Gillard committing which is so disastrous that the people direly need such analysis? We seemed to get through the ’90s just fine without any searingly insightful thousand-word critiques of John Howard’s fucking eyebrows.

  15. hegemoniac

    I think Daics (and this Nikki Savva chick) has a real point here. It’s really unfortunate but image plays a valuable role in politics and anyone who says anything else is deluding themselves.

    Howard was mocked for the wallabies tracksuit thing, Keating for his expensive italian suits (not of the people etc).

    Research has shown that people will vote for candidates based on the image that they portray rather than their policies (I’ll dig some of this research up for you guys later when I get home). George Bush had a very carefully cultivated image as the “everyman” while hiding successfully his life of privilege and a lot of people voted for him without bothering to dig into his policies. Comedians have had a field day with the way he dresses and talks but you can’t tell me that’s who he really was.

    I would suggest that the people in this forum are better educated and more finely tuned into politics than the regular “punter” who form their opinions based on 30 second segments from the nightly news and so probably aren’t as susceptible to image (not always though).

    Politically Julia needs to find a narrative for herself and the Labor party and cultivate an image accordingly. Before anyone jumps in to say that Bob Brown isn’t doing any of this image thing, I would say that he has carefully cultivated an image as an honest and passionate defender of left wing politics and the way he dresses, speaks and carries himself on the nightly news has played a part his popularity with any voter who isn’t deeply into politics.

    This bit made me laugh though (from the article)

    and the Centre Right of Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party

    Centre Right my ass…

  16. quantize

    Well by comparison, Frank Campbell still makes Gillard sound fascinating…but either way he’s completely wrong about it making Abbott look even a fraction more appealing.

    That’s wishful thinking, nothing more.

  17. confessions

    I think it’s clear that Liberals prefer women MPs to have style over substance. I now understand how it is that Julie Bishop has been able to remain deputy leader all this time despite her obvious policy shortcomings.

  18. shepherdmarilyn

    Oh dear, Abbott suave and well informed. Well that’s a great comedy routine for the day because even after almost a year as lieberal leader he is still scraping just over 30% as preferred PM which I would suggest makes Australian’s smarter than I often give them credit for.

  19. Pistachio

    quantize @ 2
    the Oz has become a toilet of venomous whining right wing hacks
    I take great offence at this statement. Show me a point in time where it was anything but?

  20. rhwombat

    Thanks for the well-reasoned objectivity Frank. Bound to be appreciated here. Slainte.

  21. Frank Campbell

    No amount of hair dye, speech training or fashionalia could disguise Gillard’s banality. A tone-deaf opportunist, she makes Friar Abbott look well-informed and, umm, suave.

  22. Davo

    Indeed, I was beaten to the punch – Mirabella is who I meant, and the useless noise that she is means focussing on her appearance only detracts from the dumb and useless things she says.

  23. twobob

    How you look is as important as what you say and how you say it.

    What utter bullshit. How you look is nowhere near as important as what you have said.

    If it were, then a verbal threat to my families safety by an immaculately dressed person is just as important as a scruffy looking innocent kid walking along a street. I bet the author of such tripe would concede the point in a moment if confronted by the former.

    These are simply assertions for those too lazy to think, which is a common denominator amongst coalition supporters, unfortunately.

  24. Davo

    naturally, if one pointed out that Julie Bishop didn’t always look her best, or that Sophie Panopoulous might need to lose a kilo or two, that wouldn’t be gendered either. Oh, wait, yes it was. Debate at this level is facile, juvenile and pointless. Can we get some real journalists? I mean, I don’t vote for or against these women because they get 10/10 on some other scale. they all look professionally dressed – that’s all we should ask.

  25. Holden Back

    I think I missed the irony button, judging by Daics response.

    Bishop clearly spends a great deal of time and money over her appearance to arguable effect. Perhaps Savva likes her hair, perhaps not. But has this tactic improved her standing with a public beyond the rusted-on voters of MacKellar who like to see her looking ‘nice’? I doubt it. To unsympathetic others it may make her seem vain and shallow, or in possession of questionable taste. Thats the other side of the equation.

    On the stump, as it were, I have first-hand experience of Sophie Mirabella who spends a great deal of time on her appearance, and Sussan Ley, who doesn’t. Can you guess who is the more impressive politician?

  26. Chade

    If you want a proper dressing down of one of Savva’s columns, read Andrew Elder’s reponse…

  27. confessions

    The gender sliming of Gillard goes far beyond the partisan mockery of the men you’ve listed, Daics. But thanks for trying to defend the indefensible – I wondered who would be the first to attempt it.

  28. Cuppa

    Writer sounding a bit bitchy…

  29. Daics

    “But what a shining paragon Bronwyn Bishop is by comparison to the PM: taking a deal trouble over her appearance hasn’t had any negative effect on her career.

    See, one is a washed up back-bencher the other is the Prime Minister . . .”

    But that’s essentially the point isn’t it?

    Bronwyn Bishop (bless her) leaves herself open to criticisms because of what she thinks, says and does. Let the floodgates open.

    Julia Gillard is similarly open to such criticism but you can add her fashion sense and hairstyle as fair game – things she could change and improve on to better focus attention onto her ideas, policies and aspirations.

    Of course it also happens to male politicians (Beazley, Howard, Costello, Hawke and Kennett have all had aspects of their appearance mocked) but it is an unfortunate double standard that women are held to higher account than men for their appearance. There is also the fact that dressing a man is very easy – pinstripe or not, which colour shirt, which colour tie pretty much sees it out. Women do not really have that luxury, but that is just the world we live in.

    Savva is aware of the double standard, but it does perhaps have (admittedly fuzzy) electoral implications so is surely fair game. Her piece is about Gillard’s present struggles and how best she can turn it around. Her dress and general appearance is an area Savva argues she could improve. I think it is a brave article – and no different to what her own taxpayer funded stylists would be telling her.

    Kim Beazley used to get fit before elections or leadership tilts partly in order to combat the admittedly ridiculous line – that somebody who cant control their own weight will show similar ill-discipline when in charge of the purse strings of the nation.

    It might be unfair, it might be callous, but this is the real world and judgment of your appearance happens, as it always has and always will.

    I might add that the earlobe thing was cruel and unfair, as is the criticism of her voice. She can’t change those things.

    How do people feel about the Costello smirk I wonder and the constant use of it to fit people’s own judgment of him as an arrogant smart arse? Unfair or fair game?

    “Little” Johnny Howard?

  30. Chistery

    The same day that article came out, Newspoll shows Gillard is moving further ahead of Abbott as preferred PM and that Labor is now ahead of the coalition for the first time since the election. This would suggest that Nikki’s advice is not required at this point in time.

  31. Holden Back

    But what a shining paragon Bronwyn Bishop is by comparison to the PM: taking a deal trouble over her appearance hasn’t had any negative effect on her career.

    See, one is a washed up back-bencher the other is the Prime Minister . . .

  32. fredex

    Somehow or other my comment at Savva’s site on the partisan sexism of the OO has failed to be published.
    As has the other two from friends of mine who are offended, but not surprised, by this continuing of ‘play the woman not the ball’ attack of the OO.

  33. oldskool

    Surely Christopher Pyne is the scratchy screetchy, bitchy one in politics?

  34. quantize

    the Oz has become a toilet of venomous whining right wing hacks

  35. confessions

    Since she became PM the gender sliming of Gillard by our misogynistic media really has been something to behold. ‘No handbag’, ‘distracting ear lobes’, ‘can’t be a role model for women cause she’s unmarried and childless’ have all appeared in the Oz.

    In addition to alienating progressive readers by hysterically beating up anything the govt does, and declaring the Greens should be destroyed at the ballot box, the Oz seems to want to alienate its women readers as well. Bring on the paywall so our public discourse is spared this kind of sexist rubbish!

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