Camila Vallejo is beautiful! She’s glamorous! She’s captivating and young! She is a favorite topic in the tabloids! She has a secret boyfriend she kisses “languorously!”
And that is why she is a popular and effective leader in Chile’s student revolution.
The New York Times Magazine dedicates an inordinate amount of space over its seven pages relaying anecdotes about her looks and explaining how captivating her appearance is, rather than, you know, offering a detailed account of her personal history or, say, an in-depth look at her politics. The print version leads with this:
The result trivializes her achievements and reduces her story to a sexist cliche. People like Camila Vallejo because she is beautiful.
From the very first paragraph:
“With guarded smiles, they let us know they supported the Chilean student movement and especially its most prominent leader, Camila Vallejo. A bartender said, “La Camila es valiente”; he laughed and added, “Está bien buena la mina” — “She’s hot.”
The very next sentence describes Vallejo as “a Botticelli beauty who wears a silver nose ring”.
There are also sentences like this:
-”(people are always debating who is more beautiful, Camila or Karol)”
-”Vallejo’s air of serene self-confidence, he elaborated, her girl-next-door demeanor and, of course, her pretty face, won sympathy and trust in working- and middle-class households throughout Chile.”
There are others.
It is certainly valid to analyze the role the prominent person’s appearance plays in their public perception. But from the title on down, the article fetishizes her looks, makes it a focus of the profile, and tacitly uses it to explain away her power and popularity. Not only does this lead to a one-dimensional rendering of her story, it undermines her work and person.
For a woman to be an icon, she must first be a “hot” “glamorous” “Botticelli beauty” [[echoing the perspective of male dominated society]]. Then she might take up politics and organizing. But seriously, have you seen how hot and glamorous and Botticellian she is? Damn!