Even powerful women can’t escape looks trap

Rebekah Brooks in London in this July 1, 2011 file photograph.
Rebekah Brooks in London in this July 1, 2011 file photograph.
Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of News International, was charged today in England for conspiring to obstruct justice for her role in the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and his closest deputies, including his son James and Brooks.

Brooks - guilty or not - is facing an incredible personal crisis. Her husband is expected to be charged as well. Yet, it’s Brooks’ wild, curly red hair that people can’t stop talking about on Twitter - and sometimes her clothes, too.

Today.com pointed out this phenomenon, noting there’s a Facebook page dedicated to making fun of Brooks’ hair, though there are just barely 300 “likes” for it.

It goes to show that no matter how high up in business or politics a woman gets — or how hard she falls — in the end the focus is often about how she looks and not what she does.

(For more on Brooks and the phone hacking scandal, watch this clip from msnbc’s Now with Alex Wagner.)

Just last week, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, arguably the most powerful woman in America, was chided for going a day without contacts or makeup. She responded smartly in an interview with CNN:

Because you know 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.


These attacks on women are nothing new, and women such as Brooks and Clinton who have made their way to upper echelons of their careers certainly aren’t unaccustomed or unaware of such attacks. Yet, it’s disturbing that they, and other women, continue to endure such trivial critiques when clearly they are involved in much more serious matters.





U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to students at the Dhaka International School in Dhaka May 6, 2012.

On the campaign trail there is the occasional criticism over a candidate’s choice between sports coat or simple button down, jeans or khakis. It tends to be hand-wringing over what the candidate is communicating to voters: casual enough? serious? just one of us?

There was the fun Rick Santorum sweater vest meme this past GOP primary season and outrage over a $400 haircut for John Edwards (well, his priorities have become clearer) the last time around, but none of these carry the same scrutiny and mean-spirited tone that attaches itself to takedowns on women’s looks. Was I the only one who felt bad for Callista and the constant chatter about her hair?  


Hillary Clinton

Even powerful women can't escape looks trap