09/06/2010 02:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Secretary Clinton, Middle East Negotiations and Her Hair? Get Over It.

Have you seen it? Secretary Clinton is in the midst of probably the most intense and arguably most important diplomatic talks in years, and what are some of the newspapers writing about? The length of her hair!

"In her latest act of defiance, Hillary Rodham Clinton gets a new, longer hairdo," The Washington Post titled an article on Sunday, Aug. 29, just before the talks began; The Buffalo News titled an article: "Clinton's longer hair opens debate for women of a certain age" on Sept. 3, toward the end of a week filled with talks. These articles delve into age and hair-length and psyche and what this all means for someone in her sixties to be wearing hair at, G-d forbid, shoulder length. And so, I say, who cares?

When John Edwards turned to Hillary Clinton during the South Carolina presidential debate in July of 2007 and criticized her jacket, that was painful enough -- but at this stage of the game one would think, or at the very least hope, that we would be past all of this. Sure, some of these articles are complimentary (i.e. The Washington Post piece). Yet, this is entirely beside the point.

Find me parallel articles where a man in the midst of such important meetings has running commentary on his hair length; they don't exist. Newspapers don't write articles about the length of hair or face wrinkles or growing bald spots or suits and ties on men. This is the case unless, of course, there is something patently absurd to write about.

Is this because our societal values are so overtly placed on the importance of women's beauty and men's machismo? And thus, in such a universe, we occasionally see a photo-op with a male politician throwing around a football or playing basketball or golf, but rarely does the media demand certain "look" standards of male politicians. Now don't get me wrong, I have studied media and recall the Kennedy-Nixon debates well. As many of you likely already know, the majority of those watching on television thought that Kennedy won. The majority of those listening on the radio thought that Nixon won. Why? Watch the video. Of course looks matter.

But overall, with men today is it possible that it is the opposite societal structure? If a man (back to Mr. Edwards) gets an expensive haircut that is over the top -- this is where the criticism comes in, not the other way around.

So, what does this tell us about society that we don't already know? That ultimately we are all captivated by sexism? Or is sexism so ingrained that it is no longer sexism but entirely something else? Does the media continually spin us into this sexist state, if one does exist, or are we in one naturally -- in a world blinded from papers and television; a little bit of the chicken-and-egg phenomenon. But when Secretary of State Clinton is working on negotiating peace in the Middle East, let's not paparazzi this. Let's lay off the hair. Frankly, it's a bit of an embarrassment to us, isn't it?

David Helfenbein has also posted this blog posting on his site,, under his blog, The Bean Blog.