Remember the gag in the original Batman movie, after the Joker poisons some soap and cosmetic products and news anchors go on the air looking like hell? This story reminded me of that.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has just recently pivoted to race-baiting as a strategy for getting through the pandemic—nice— was forced into defending getting a $500 haircut in defiance of her own state’s stay-at-home order. Lightfoot had appeared recent in a public service announcement urging Chicagoans to stay home to save lives. She also spoke to her city’s women specifically, saying “Getting your roots done is not essential.” I would interpret this as “Forget about vanity: this is a national crisis.” Hairstylists and barbers are not on Illinois’ list of essential businesses and must be closed during the Wuhan virus outbreak.
Nonetheless, the Mayor had the city pay a hairdresser 500 dollars for a private hair-cutting session. If there was ever the appearance of a “laws are for the little people,” this episode is it.
The Mayor’s defense is that because she’s “the face of this city,” maintaining her appearance is a special and necessary exception.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..
Is the Mayor’s explanation and conduct ethical?
My answer: if that’s really the reason she brought in the hairdresser, yes, but she handled it all incompetently. Of course, there’s no way to know what her real motives were. Her credibility here is already shaky; for example, she said, “The woman who cut my hair had a mask and gloves on, so I am practicing what I’m preaching.” Yet a Facebook photo of Lightfoot with her hairstylist shows neither wearing a face mask, and they are just inches from each other.
As I noted yesterday in a comment about President Trump eschewing a face mask, a leader’s demeanor and appearance during a crisis matters a great deal. I recall an excellent Saturday Night Live skit during the 2000 campaign purporting to show alternate futures where a President Bush and a President Gore both addressed the nation during a crisis. Will Farrell, as Bush, was shown addressing the nation disheveled and weeping with his desk on fire. Bad look..
A leader could use her unadorned appearance to make the point that everyone has to sacrifice; but the argument that a confident, professional appearance is an essential leadership tool has merit….not that I believe that anything but vanity and arrogance was behind this leader’s conduct.
Still, I’ll give Lightfoot the benefit of the doubt.