Women with feminine features are more likely to succeed politically in predominantly Republican states, according to a recent, and controversial, study conducted at Dartmouth University.
In the study, feminine features were defined with physical characteristics such as big eyes, longer hair and rounder faces. Additionally, femininity was not necessarily the same thing as beauty.
“Attractiveness is definitely related to the femininity of a face but they’re not the same thing,” said Eric Hehman, lead author of the study, as quoted by The Daily Beast. “There can be females who have masculine facial features that are still considered attractive and controlling for attractiveness — removing it from the equation essentially, doesn’t change the results.”
A similar study conducted by UCLA in 2012 found that female politicians in the Republican Party have more feminine faces than their Democrat counterparts, which seems to coincide with the Dartmouth study.
Kerri Johnson, a senior author of the UCLA study, believes that studies such as these incriminate more than just a gendered view of physical traits.
“Prior research reveals that women are viewed as either feminine or competent — but rarely both,” said Johnson in a 2012 letter to the editor. “If the leadership of the G.O.P. is consciously or unconsciously putting forward and promoting only the most feminine of lawmakers, it is unwittingly undermining its political agenda. That’s no trivial matter.”
The GOP has had increased difficulty electing female candidates recently, according to MSNBC’s writer Jane Timm, in part due to a lack of understanding toward women.
“Democrats have six times the number of women representing them today while Republicans haven’t managed to double their female ranks in three decades,” said Timm. “Not only are fewer Republican women running for office, they’re losing more, too.”
Terri Land, a Michigan Senate hopeful and a Republican woman, counters that any accusations of the GOP having a regressive attitude toward women are off-base.
"Congressman Gary Peters and his buddies want you to believe that I'm waging war on women. Really? Think about that for a moment," says Land in a recent campaign video, implying that acting against her own gender would be ridiculous.
Additionally, many within the GOP believe that any "problem with women" they might have has been misconstrued.
It’s not a problem with women, according to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, as quoted by The Wire. Instead, “we basically have a single women problem under 35 issue." Priebus then posed the following question: "Why does the Democratic Party have so many problems in their engagement with married women, or women with children?"
Despite the flak it gets for not supporting women, according to Priebus, Republicans do a better job with married women and women with children than the Democrats do.
Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2