Martin Luther King once wished that we could be judged by not by the colour of our skin but by our personal achievements.

I’m old enough to remember my own medical school had a (unacknowledged) quota for Jewish students (ten percent of the class), blacks and Asians (one or two token students), and up to a few years before I was accepted, did not accept women at all.

Ah, the good old days.

We are now supposedly in the “post racial” era, yet for women, we still face subtle ridicule, as was seen by the ridicule of Hillary during the last campaign, not by Republicans, but by a press.

And although some of ridicule is political, by left wing Democratic blogs and reporters, a lot of it seems to be a the snottiness of the elite women against those they dislike and envy: something that I call “The Heathers Factor“.

Many of us who fought for careers in the early days of feminism could usually handle outright discrimination; what we could not fight was the envy and backstabbing by other women who got ahead by means other than ability.

We saw this in the last campaign for President.

Megan McArdle of the Atlantic, early in the campaign, said it was okay to criticize Senator Clinton for her clothes.

And the press seemed to go out of their way to photograph the New York Senator in unflattering ways, while making sure that only flattering photographs of their own candidate, Senator Obama, were printed. (Quick: can you find an unflattering photo of the President taken during the campaign? My point exactly).

This week’s news shows things haven’t changed much.

Here is a quote worthy of Manolo the Shoe Blogger, but it actually was written by Ben Smith at the The Politico:

…(in) Seneca Falls, where Palin, bright red toenails visible in open shoes, trooped through a museum that focuses on the 19th-century origins of the American women’s movement in Upstate New York…

My first thought was “what kind of a pervert looks that closely at women’s shoes”, let alone writes about it”.

But we women all know what happened: One of the snotty female reporters was looking for something to criticize, and whispered to the rest of the reporters “look at the toenails”.

How gauche. Red nailpolish.

But a similar snottiness has sometimes been aimed against Michele Obama.

Here is a black woman from the neighborhoods of Chicago who became a lawyer. But we are still reading about Michelle’s clothes: usually flattering, but sometimes quite snotty.

Oh, she wore a Crew teeshirt to visit the queen. (Not Dior). It’s a good thing she didn’t wear a Lands End teeshirt, I guess.

A similar snottiness is found in the conversation on Judge Sotomeyer.

Here is a commenter on NPR:

Just look at Sotomayor – she’s got that wavy-hair-with-the-big-earrings thing. She wears bright colors. She smiles broadly and she means it! She could be me!

Uh, not really.

You are a light skinned Latina from Mexico City (i.e. not a metziso farm worker’s kid from rural Mexico), who went to Barnard College. You are fashionably thin, your photo shows you wearing a designer suit with cleavage, your hair is straightened, and you are using the latest colours of makeup.

You brag you are a “Latina” but admit you have left your roots, and hang out with elites, not the hoi polloi:

My high-powered Latina friends are not just Puerto Rican. They are Mexican, Colombian, Cuban, Dominican and more.

High powered friends?

What, you don’t have ordinary friends?

You, my friend, like a lot of reporters are a “Heather”. The perfect girls who made it, and revel in their power.

Sotomeyer, on the other hand, is not “you.

She is me, or Palin, or Michelle Obama.

We are the poor girls who made good, despite all you “Heathers” that ridiculed us for our clothing and for not being from the correct class, or for being stubborn enough not to kow tow to your ideas just because you are from the “in”crowd and we are not.

So, until the “Heather” factor of media bias is eliminated, I guess we will hear more about Palin’s nail polish than her position on the Alaska pipeline, more about Sotomeyer being a “Latina” with big hair than the quality of her judicial decisions, and more about Michelle’s wardrobe than about her achievements.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines and blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. She wears pink toenail polish.

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