Hill’s hills: The stuff that got edited out

Because a 3-second soundbite wasn’t enough… Here’s what else I was going to say about the so-called controversy over Hillary Clinton sporting a v-neck top. Then I promise to stop yammering about it.
First off, Robin Givhan is a fashion writer for a paper in the political capital of the country. Of course she’s going to write about what the ’08 frontrunners are wearing. The difference between Hillary and the boys, though, is that she gets WAY more attention paid to what she wears. And even though Givhan’s article appeared in the style section (where, if anywhere, such an article belongs), the unfortunate thing is that other news outlets took it for news, and interspersed it with their political coverage. That’s when it gets really offensive.
Another difference between this incident and, say, the totally unwarranted flap over John Edwards’ hair, is that when it’s about a female candidate, it’s all about sex. Givhan even compared Hillary sporting a v-neck to one of the male candidates appearing in public with his zipper down. Umm… really? And in her article, she even noted that Hillary’s sedate, conservative black pantsuits during her senate campaign were “desexualized.” But the minute Hillary goes to work (because that’s where she was — at work, on the Senate floor, not on the campaign trail) in something other than a collared shirt or turtleneck (in 90-degree weather, no less), she’s supposedly making a break for “sexy.”
We’re going to run into this problem again and again. Because you know what? Hillary can never just grab a sedate gray suit out of the closet, pick a “fun” tie, and hit the road. She cannot make a fashion choice that doesn’t “say something” about her, because there is no default, nondescript outfit. The default for politicians is the traditional male suit, because for so long, all major national politicians were male. She doesn’t fit that mold. And try as she might, there is no clothing selection Hillary can make that won’t elicit some sort of commentary.
The Clinton campaign was very smart to turn this into a fundraising issue. Every female public or political figure faces the same no-win situation that Hillary does when it comes to her clothes. Too conservative? You’re a stuffy matron. A little lower-cut? You’re practically baring your boobs, you slut. Women can relate to the experience of having every aspect of their personal appearance analyzed and critiqued. So even if the fundraising appeal didn’t come right out and say, “Hillary has to put up with bullshit criticism of her appearance, just like you!” that was the sentiment they were capitalizing on. And rightfully so.

Join the Conversation