Kennedy spent the day of the debate on the roof of his hotel, tanning (and practicing debate answers). He took a nap before the evening debate, and he applied make-up before going on national television. Nixon, having never debated on TV before, apparently didn’t think to do any of those things. Even worse, he had recently been in the hospital and looked pale and sickly. Under the hot studio lights, he began sweating excessively – whereas Kennedy’s make-up hid his sweat. Viewers of the debate saw a contrast between a young, handsome, tan, calm man and an older, sickly, pale, sweaty man. And it influenced who they thought “won” the debate. And not just a little bit – compared to the radio listeners, there was a completely different consensus on who won caused by the mere act of looking at the men as they spoke. Kennedy and his team understood a concept we now call ‘Optics’. In a political and media sense, optics is the way an event, person, or argument is perceived by the public. Optics has very little to do with what the event, person, or argument actually is – it is all about how it is merely perceived by the audience. In Pro-Life activism, there is a lot of time spent practicing Apologetics – how we defend our beliefs and learn to convince others. This is especially true amongst those of us who consider ourselves ‘intellectuals’ – we’re all about apologetics and having the “right answers”. If we want to maximize the impact of our apologetics and all our right answers, we should also be concerned about our optics when advocating for the lives of the preborn. We SHOULD care about how we appear and are being perceived by others – because the whole point is to win them over! We can “be right” and have all the “right answers” all day long – but if we’re not being winsome and convincing towards the people we’re trying to change, have we really done our job? How can we do this?
- When you go out onto the sidewalk or go to church or go to a college campus to be an advocate for the preborn, do what you can to make your appearance more approachable.
- Avoid wearing giant sunglasses (“You wear them around like you’re cooler than me”). Make an effort to make yourself look nice.
- Utilize modern styles of clothing. Breaking visual stereotypes is a good thing (Doing pro-life activism with visible piercings or tattoos? Thumbs up.).
- If your Students for Life group has a big media opportunity, consider choosing a young female spokesperson, to counter false stereotypes.
- Present your pro-life arguments in a way that plays to your audience’s susceptibilities.
- If you’re talking to someone whose main concern is women’s well-being, consider emphasizing first how abortion harms women – even if that’s not the main reason abortion is wrong.
- If you’re talking about the undercover Planned Parenthood videos with a healthcare worker, emphasize the unethical nature of abortionists altering the procedure. Choose points of focus that will be perceived well by your target audience. Before you launch into the “real reasons” abortion is wrong – make them know you DO care about women and ethical health care. This will make them like YOU more, which will make them more open to your hard-hitting arguments.