“Telegenic” Is Not a Sexist Term
On a number of occasions, education historian Diane Ravitch has referred to former CNN anchor and corporate reform advocate Campbell Brown as “telegenic” or “pretty.”
Apparently Brown hates this, and she views such references to her appearance as “sexist.”
It seems she was willing to overlook being referred to as “telegenic” in this November 2014 Observer gush piece. But for others to use the term (i.e., Ravitch): sexist.
However, the term “telegenic” is not sexist.
According to Merriam-Webster, the term “telegenic” first appeared in print in 1939 and is a hybrid of the terms “television” and “photogenic.” It means,
Well-suited to the medium of television; especially: having an appearance and manner that are markedly attractive to television viewers.
It is not a term reserved for women.
I remember studying about the televised, Kennedy-Nixon debates. Kennedy had a telegenic advantage over Nixon, which is captured in this History.com article:
Before the first debate, both men declined the services of CBS’s top makeup artist, who had been summoned from New York for the event. Bronzed and glowing from weeks of open-air campaigning, Kennedy was more than ready for his close-up–though sources later claimed that the naturally telegenic senator still got a touch-up from his team. Nixon, on the other hand, had a pale complexion and fast-growing stubble that together lent him a perpetually grayish pallor; during an interview with Walter Cronkite two weeks before the debate, the vice president had confided, “I can shave within 30 seconds before I go on television and still have a beard.”At his aides’ urging, Nixon submitted to a coat of Lazy Shave, a drugstore pancake makeup he had used in the past to mask his five o’clock shadow. But when the candidate started sweating under the hot studio lights, the powder seemed to melt off his face, giving way to visible beads of perspiration. It didn’t help that Nixon had chosen a light gray suit for the occasion, which faded into the backdrop of the set and seemed to match his ashen skin tone. Reacting to the vice president’s on-air appearance, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley reportedly said, “My God, they’ve embalmed him before he even died.”
For those presenting themselves to the public via the TV camera, being telegenic is “Telegenic” Is Not a Sexist Term | deutsch29: