Hillary Clinton is done giving a fuck — about what she looks like, at least.
In the handful of public appearances she's made since her concession speech on Nov. 9, Clinton has departed from the coiffed, airbrushed appearance she's maintained over her 30 years in the public eye. Instead, she's gone everywhere from the woods near her house to a Children's Defense Fund fundraiser with very little makeup, a decision that hasn't gone unnoticed.
While many people have praised Clinton for bypassing the beautician's chair before so much as leaving her house, others have trolled the former secretary of state for committing an egregious sin: that of looking like a 69-year-old woman.
After surviving a campaign that will go down as one of the most brutal — not to mention sexist — in American history, Clinton lost. We know this. We also know she won the popular vote by a significant margin, indicating she might've done something right. While commentators and historians will no doubt spend years trying to parse the myriad reasons she didn't win the election, one of the most glaring explanations has been clear for a long time: She's a woman.
The fact that people are still fixated on Clinton's appearance is perhaps the best example of the gender-based double standard that exists for women in all areas of society — but especially for women in positions of power. For Clinton, scrutiny — about everything from her last name to her demeanor to her wrinkles — has been intense, and the public has been concerned with how she presents herself for years. The list of sexist remarks people have made about Clinton's appearance is long and plentiful, from Rush Limbaugh wondering if the American people really want to see a woman age publicly (gasp!) to the Washington Post making observations about her cleavage.
Her appearance has never had any bearing on her ability to do her job. Clinton has not only had to be more experienced than any of the men she's campaigned against — most notably Donald Trump — but has also had to be sure to meet the culture's standards of youthful, respectable femininity. And so, throughout the campaign, we saw Clinton's face highlighted and contoured, her eyes brightened with shadow and liner and mascara, her hair blown out voluminously, such that her Twitter bio now identifies her as a "hair icon."
"Clinton, and everyone around her, knew that if she ever went outside without her hair perfectly coiffed and her face covered in makeup, she would get raked through the coals for looking old and ragged," the writer L.V. Anderson recently observed on Slate. "Politics is a game that requires women to put approximately 10 times more thought and effort into their appearance than men do, and Clinton played the game."
Now that the campaign is over, Clinton no longer has to do what it takes to convince the world she's as good or better than a man out for the same job. For a woman, "what it takes" means looking the part as much as it means being exceptionally qualified. While "looking the part" takes time and costs a lot of money, whereas "giving up" — as society allows older men to do without much scrutiny — could save a person time that could well be better spent.
Indeed, since Clinton stopped performing for the presidency, she has already gone back to advocating on behalf of children and families, a task she's capable of performing with or without lipstick. The president-elect might learn a thing or two from Clinton's example. Instead, he seems to be the one more preoccupied with his appearance.
As he transitions to the White House, Trump has already indicated he might be out of his depth taking on his new role as commander-in-chief, and will be receiving additional counseling from President Barack Obama before he takes office. Busy as he is, though, Trump recently devoted several moments during an off-the-record meeting with reporters this week to demand their publications use more flattering photos of him, according to both Politico and the Wall Street Journal.
Politico reported, "[Trump] complained about photos of himself that NBC used that he found unflattering ... [and] turned to NBC News President Deborah Turness at one point, the source said, and told her the network won't run a nice picture of him, instead choosing 'this picture of me,' as he made a face with a double chin."
Trump may have a point that some less-than-fortunate photos of him have circulated over the course of his campaign. But his physical appearance, not to mention his utter lack of qualifications to be president, certainly didn't stop him from winning the nation's highest office. Perhaps Clinton's looks weren't quite the issue that eliminated her, but they have always been considered relevant. Good thing she's too busy to care at this point.