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Presidential Race 2000

Presidential Race 2004

PDF version - Full Theory 1999

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As of 7/19/2008, the blogosphere is abuzz with news and commentary about Hillary Clinton's new hairstyle, where she has switched it from left to right. There are many many comments and stories that have one big point:

Who cares! This isn't a story! Its more fluff and a distraction from the real issues of the day. What about men - isn't this another example of sexism?

Media Matters was the most pointed in showing the two clips from MSNBC as examples of pure fluff instead of real news. This was followed by page after page of readers outraged at yet another distraction from the mainstream media:

I would have to agree that hearing people talk on a news channels on fluff stories is highly annoying, but then again, they assumed it was a fluff story, rather than explore if it was significant or not.

The changing of a hair part doesn't do anything right away, but it does create an entirely different look that will affect things in the long run. And the way people vote is tied to how they feel about a person and where they are "coming from". Almost always, the right part induces people to see a softer side, more receptive, holistic, and somewhat mysterious persona, whereas the left part creates an impression of assertiveness, logical, and is usually the more acceptable view. The problem for women is that it is cross gender to part on the left, and while it works for operating in our current society (which is very left brained and "rational"), it comes at a price of the feminine side.

Take a look at a photo of Hillary when she was younger...and flipped so she looks like she has a right part:

Now contrast that image with the actual image:

Do you see the difference? It is subtle of course, but she definitely looks softer and more feminine with the right part. Think about having that difference present every day of your life for 40 years - it really does affect the way you are perceived.

(click here for full Hair Part Theory page)

The Hair Part Theory is understandably a wacky theory - why on earth should hair parts have any kind of effect on personality and politics? The answer lies in two areas -
  • its an extension of the right brain left brain theory that has helped explain how our brains work,
  • parting on one side or the other draws attention to that side of the head - left part, left eye, left brain, right part, right eye, right brain. The other side is de-emphasized. (note - while the left side of the body is controlled by the right brain, and vice versa, when it comes to your eyes, the information is direct. Try this experiment - take a large photo of a public persona, and cover each half of the face and subjectively gauge what you see in each eye...you will see the left is more logical, the right is more feeling, which matches the brain functions).
  • through a process known as "interactional continuity", a person will always project this right or left image (for men, its often for their entire lives), and if you are always seen as left brained or right brained, you will naturally become that as well.

This was clearly in play during the 2000 election, when George Bush won over people in the personality department ("I would have a beer with him" was the common refrain), whereas Al Gore with his right part led people to wonder about him, (the refrain about him was "there's something about him I don't like"). See the article in the New Yorker's Talk of the Town

In 2004, there was a choice between two left parters, Bush and Kerry, and again the likability factor came into play. Kerry's unlikability factor can not be chalked up to anything with the HPT, so that illustrates an example of why its not a 100% predictor of behavior (not a "necessary nor sufficient condition").

However the effect has always been stronger for those wearing the right part, since it often leads to very atypical personalities. Witness the slate of candidates for president this year with right parts: Huckabee, McCaine, Gravelle, Edwards, Thompson all are not your typical men...and McCain is often seen as a maverick who disturbs many in his party as to his true credentials as a conservative.

So Hillary Clinton has switched to the right hair part. The only media we have currently is her giving a speech on the floor of the Senate, and we will have to see if it actually does anything to soften her image. So many times she has been accused of being unfeminine, inauthentic and overly assertive. Lets see if she can use the new hair part to her advantage, so that she can operate effectively without the constant negative and yes, overly sexist, criticisms.

Finally, just to follow up on the original idea that talking about her hair is sexist...well, talk to Jimmy Carter, John Edwards, Al Gore, Mitt Romney, and a host of other hair stories. Hair is very important in the image conscious age we live in, regardless of whether you are male or female. Talking about dress or cleavage might be sexist, but hair? Maybe as the fluff piece on MSNBC, yes, that isn't really relevant, but if it actually does affect voter perceptions...now that is a story. Wait til the media looks at McCain's atypical right hair part and how that has affected his life...


Here is the Daily News's first story on the hair part change:

The Daily News had this extensive look at all of Hillary's do's...and yes, they do focus more on her hair than say Jon Edwards, but as far as we know, this is the first time she has parted on the right: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/galleries/hillary_plays_a_new_part/hillary_plays_a_new_part.html

Patricia Sellers followed her recent Fortune 500 piece on CEOs and Hair Part Theory with this post: http://postcards.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2008/07/17/applying-fortunes-hair-part-theory-to-hillarys-new-look/

Jake Tapper of ABC put together this piece that drew from previous articles about the Hair Part Theory: http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/07/hillary-clinton.html

The carpetbagger report had this post "It has come to this...", complaining about covering Hillary this way instead of the issues of the day. Understandable, if it really is about fluff, but maybe it could be something else?

Note: What does Hair Parts have to do with the True Mirror? Well its simple - the mirror reverses things...so if one wears a left part, in the mirror it looks like a right part, and vice versa. Its a very strong example of how the traditional mirror is fooling us - the True Mirror shows your hair part as it is, so if you decide to wear a side part, then at least you are choosing the one that projects the image you really think you are projecting!

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