[S]tyle encompasses far more than good looks. In fact, it trumps beauty because it's rooted in deep cultural knowledge and self-confidence. Style is an expression of choices -- a declaration of individuality. And thus, the lack of it is not a matter of poor genetic luck. It is, a particularly judgmental soul could argue, your fault....Givhan concludes that Fiorina was making an indirect but effective political argument that Boxer is out of step with the times. But let's take a closer look at what was really going on. Rewatch the short clip and think about whether what we are really seeing is a woman "ooz[ing] delight" because she thought her hair was "chic" — a "chic pixie" — and the other woman's hair really was so much worse. Does Fiorina even agree with the friend she quotes? Watch carefully, and keep in mind that Carly Fiorina was only quite recently bald (as a consequence of cancer treatment):
[I]t can make others feel terribly old-fashioned and parochial by comparison.... Women -- and men -- use style as a tool of intimidation, self-promotion and belittlement all the time. U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina's off-topic remark about Sen. Barbara Boxer's hair caused quite the explosion when it was captured by a live microphone. Fiorina quipped that Boxer's hair was "so yesterday." Fiorina has said she was quoting a friend, but her tone oozed delight in the observation as she happily repeated it...
Fiorina's words weren't, by any means, vulgar or angry. Indeed, she had the cutting tone of a gossipy girlfriend who knows a thing or two about hair travails. But as she gently fingered her own chic pixie, while relaying an insulting description of Boxer's hair, the polite smile never faded from her face -- until she realized her microphone was on. She bore all the earmarks of a style bully.
It's a bit hard to tell unless you look for it, but I'm looking after hearing a friend, a cancer survivor who lost her own hair, insist that what we are seeing is a cancer survivor's humorous attitude about hair. I now think that Fiorina stopped in the middle of an anecdote when someone off camera signaled for her to shut up, but that if she had gone on, she would have made a self-effacing/sarcastic wisecrack about her own hair along the lines of: Oh, yes, because my hair is so today, if by "today," you mean not utterly bald.
The gesture she makes at her own hair, just before she clams up, is not, I think, a mean girl's I'm-so-gorgeous primp. It's comic business that would have fit amusingly with the wisecrack that was never cracked. My friend, a woman who, like Fiorina, has recently regrown hair, feels sure she has the ability to recognize a shared dark humor about hair that women who have not gone through the experience don't pick up on. Hair is a big deal to women, and our ears perk up when we hear talk about other women's hair. Givhan explores that with good sensibility, but I think she, like many others, is judging Fiorina without a full understanding of the context.
On the other hand, Fiorina's private psychodrama is a bit beside the point when she's running for the Senate. She's got to get these things right and not give her opponents material to use against her. In that light, it doesn't matter what the explanation is, because she's running for office, and she needs to do that competently.
And speaking of context, this is funny: