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Cristen Conger Headshot

Stop Ogling Sarah Palin's Breasts

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First it was her beauty pageant figure. Then the glasses, designer duds and hair. And don't forget about those shapely gams.

As if we couldn't collectively deconstruct Sarah Palin's body and appearance any further, now it's time to check out her breasts. Go ahead, take a look at the side-by-side photos. Never mind that the Newsweek cover was probably airbrushed in some way, that she's wearing what looks like a chest-flattening, spandexy workout top and that the camera angles aren't the same. Oh, and as Jezebel aptly points out, it's entirely possible for bosoms to change shape from day to day thanks to newfangled contraptions called brassieres.

Now that we've established that her breasts indeed appear different sizes in the photos, can we move on - and quickly?

I couldn't care less if Palin got a boob job. What's worth questioning is why this woman's body is once again a headline topic - not the screwy faux feminist rhetoric she's been tossing out lately or her next move now that Super Tuesday has come and gone. And why are we yet again appraising a political figure's character and intellect based on physical appearance, which is a pointless exercise in petty judgment?

Moreover, this has nothing to do with politics. Palin's arch nemesis on the left, Nancy Pelosi, has been given similar superficial treatment. A year ago, everyone around Washington was supposedly "whispering about her dewy eyes and seamless features" that simply had to be the product of plastic surgery and Botox. The Speaker of the House has flatly denied the rumor. Around the time when Pelosi was pushing through a little piece of legislation called the Healthcare Reform Bill, we learned that some of her snazzy clothes are picked out by, get this, her husband.

It would be too easy to blame this all on sexism. After all, disgraced John Edwards will be best remembered for his philandering - and how much he paid for a haircut. But women are undoubtedly more frequent targets of attractiveness stereotyping (just ask Debrahlee Lorenzana). Elena Kagan's appearance initially received almost as much press attention as her legal record. And let's not even get into the obsessive analysis of Hillary Clinton's and Condoleezza Rice's sartorial choices.

Not surprisingly, a 2008 study from Northwestern University found that voters evaluate women politicians more on beauty and approachability, while they look for competence and dominance in male politicians. So if we're aware of this tendency, let's stop the senseless speculations.

I understand that political figures inevitably invite criticism from all corners. But this cycle of emphasizing these people's bodies over their brains is just a grownup example of the cheap, celebrity- and plastic surgery-obsessed pop culture so often derided for ignoring relevant issues like public policy and leadership. And given the current state of affairs with the BP oil spill, Gaza blockade, employment crisis and so forth, we have plenty more important cases to solve than the Mystery of the Palin Boob Job.