Can we stop with comments on physical appearance?

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Emily Stivers had had enough.  

After taking comments for months about her toothy smile, the state House candidate in the new 75th House District went to Facebook to vent about those who have called her slight overbite "horse teeth," "white trash teeth," etc. 

Stivers wrote that resetting her jaw would be expensive, painful and, frankly, unnecessary. 

"Thank you for your concern for my dental problem! I'm sure you can spare a few hundred dollars to help me correct it so I can stop offending you with my horse teeth … Assholes." 

Her comment received a couple of hundred "thumbs up" and more than a 100 supportive comments. 

Personal insults come with the territory of running for public office. Always have. Always will. In today's overly contentious and divisive political environment, it's unavoidable.   

Running for public office requires some thick skin. 

That's said, publicly ripping on a political candidate's physical appearance has no place in the debate. 

Let's knock it off. It's rude. It's not relevant. It's likely sexist. And it's hurtful.  

Objectifying another isn't OK, but political candidates are seeking to work for the public to advance ideas he or she feels are important to the jurisdiction they are running for. 

You want to rip on their prior work in a different office? Fair game. You want to pick apart their platform of ideas? Discussion and debate should be encouraged.  

I would even argue that those seeking to run for public office should be cognizant about their attire. I'm not talking about when a candidate wears shorts, short sleeves and tennis shoes when knocking doors.  

In public settings, presenting yourself as a professional comes with the turf of serving in a professional position, regardless of the job. If a candidate looks like a slob or is too revealing, it can be distracting or a sign that you're not taking a job or a position seriously. 

Someone's physical appearance? Keep it to yourself. 

We all aren't supermodels, nor should we be. These political candidates are running to serve the public, not grace the cover of GQ.  

Some of us are carrying a little more weight than wanted. Others have skin spots. Unique hair. Receding hair. No hair. A lazy eye. A tooth that sticks out a little bit. I've heard the attorney general ripped up for allegedly having a "resting bitch face," which I still don't completely understand. 

Too many times, it falls back on women, and it's not fair. 

It's hard enough to attract quality candidates. Contrary to public opinion, the pay isn't great if you're already successful in any type of white-collar or skilled trades profession. The much-ballyhooed benefits don't exist anymore.  

The work is hard (if you're doing it right). Staffing isn't what it was before the Great Recession. Severe cutbacks to state government, local government and school districts have everyone operating with less. 

We've got more death threats. You're having to dispel conspiracy theories to skeptical, under-informed members of the public. 

Add on top of that some faceless, nameless troll picking apart a crooked double-chin? A larger nose? A smile?  

In today's disturbing addiction to social media, such base comments are so easy to make because there's no accountability. Sometimes, they're even "liked." 

We know such insults speak more to the insecurities of the people who hurl them than of the directed targeted.  

Still, it doesn't justify them. Let's be better. 

** 

I wanted to publicly recognize WILS 1320-AM radio host Dave Akerly, who will be leaving his “Morning Wake Up” program July 7 after seven-plus years to be a senior strategist for DTE Energy. 

Dave has not only kept the Lansing area informed, but provided the region with a forum to discuss issues important to us. I'm confident the good folks at WILS will find a capable successor, but as a weekly guest on his program, I wanted to recognize his fine work and wish him the best going forward. 

(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at                                       melinnky@gmail.com.)

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