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If Justin Trudeau were a woman, would we be calling him a ‘hot babe’?

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau

Geoff Robbins/The Globe and Mail

Enough already, with the references to Justin Trudeau's looks.

"He's the skinny kid with the hair," according to the National Post. "He's the bomb," gushed a Calgary Herald headline, when he joined in on wedding pictures and - gasp! - kissed the bride on the cheek, prompting her to flash "a big smile." (Harper has also "photobombed" a wedding party, but didn't get the fawning headline.)

But then, Trudeau can "wear a suit," vouched a columnist for the Toronto Star. Even The Globe referred to him as "a pretty boy." We aren't the first - the Toronto Sun has already dubbed him as such in an aside about his Twitter followers.

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At this rate, should Justin Trudeau become prime minister, his first thank-you should go to his hair.

Comments about looks are part of the cost of being a politician. Pack on a few pounds, change your hair, and someone is going to notice. Female candidates have been grimacing their way through these kinds of observations since they won the right to step into the political race. After paragraphs wasted on her make-up or lack thereof, Hillary Clinton gave a great, dismissive answer. And surely U.S. President Barack Obama must have gotten sick of people bringing up his "big ears."

Obviously, in these days of celebrity, looks matter. But equating appearance with a person's level of gravitas is sexist, no matter which gender we're talking about. In this case it also comes across as more than a little ageist. (If Trudeau were a woman, would we be tossing around terms such as "hot babe" or "cute girl," or commenting on how well she "wears a skirt"? I really hope not.)

When Trudeau distributed an invitation with pictures of his Twitter pic treated in Andy Warhol style, inviting "ladies" to meet the "future prime minister" and ask him about his "favourite virtue," he was soundly and rightfully criticized. He likely won't try that again, and if he does, we shouldn't fall for it. But that's no excuse for pundits to join in with equally reductive asides about his appearance.

These references distract from discussing real policy, track records, quality of leadership - the issues that should count in the next election. Trudeau is a 42-year-old father of three, elected by voters and chosen by his party - his sons are "boys," their dad is not.

As the elections looms, let's hope we focus on what lies underneath that "wavy hair." In the end, it shouldn't - and doesn't - matter how well Canada's next prime minister wears a suit. It matters how well that person wears the responsibility of the office.

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