In a sea of middle-aged male pundits — whose looks alone have earned them no significant following over the course of their careers — women like (formerly) Rebel Media’s Faith Goldy and The Blaze’s Tomi Lahren make waves.
Despite being just as loud and obnoxious as their male counterparts, these commentators stand out for being young and objectively hot. Google searches for either woman yield both Youtube videos of their impassioned rants against abortion and Colin Kaepernick, and photo galleries with titles like “10 Awesome Photos of Faith Goldy with Guns” and “15 Absurdly Sexy Pictures of Tomi Lahren That Will Make You Want to Register with the Republican Party.”
Despite their aversion to the feminist movement, these women’s capacity to harness their good looks in order to leverage power in a world dominated by men yields surprising similarities with the agendas of women on the left. Not only are these pundits objectively talented anchorwomen, but they have a unique ability to seize the social and political moment to benefit themselves.
At surface level, conservative media’s obsession with hot female pundits seems obvious: attractive people yield a larger audience, which brings in more money for broadcasters. But why have these women become the face of right-wing media in only the past few years — and why does the left have no comparable phenomenon?
According to two researchers at the University of California (Los Angeles), attractive conservative commentators are incidental because, scientifically, conservative women are more likely than liberal women to be perceived as attractive. An extensive survey developed by psychology students in 2012 revealed what is now known in political psychology as the “Michele Bachmann effect”: female politicians with stereotypically feminine facial features are more likely to be Republican than Democrat.
For some journalists on left-wing feminist websites, conservativism’s traditionally rigid gender paradigm is to blame. Women on the right make “being pretty” a top priority, because women are expected to be superficially appealing above all else. This doesn’t explain, however, why women like Tomi Lahren and Faith Goldy — despite being attractive — are outspoken and offensive, which are qualities that ideal women, according to conservativism, should not possess.
For all of the discussion by psychologists, journalists, and feminists alike, little has been said about the agency of the women in question. I think this is where the answer ultimately lies. In the same way that many self-proclaimed “sex-positive” feminists on the left claim to be acting within their own agency when engaging with patriarchal and misogynistic structures like prostitution or the porn industry, women like Lahren and Goldy use their femininity in order to achieve success in a field that values them primarily for their appearance. These pundits put on a performance, just like any other broadcaster — and a crucial part of that performance is self-presentation.
Surely viewers of TheBlaze aren’t focusing exclusively on the “godless left” as Dana Loesch endlessly reels on about while her cleavage takes up a quarter of the screen. But the significant presence of young attractive female pundits in conservative news outlets indicates a major shift in the empowerment of women in the media and the public sphere more generally. Whether this change is positive or negative is up to debate.