January 30, 2014

"The female power brokers of Washington wear color like virtually no other group of working women."

Observes Robin Givhan, describing the absurdly bright colors worn by the female members of Congress at the State of the Union spectacle.
When will the gentlewomen of Congress stop feeling as though they must announce themselves for the cameras, their constituents and their colleagues? How many more women will it take in the upper echelons of Washington before they can all relax, suit up with authority — see Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) — and stop dressing like gumdrops?...

Congresswomen, there’s no need to peacock for the cameras.
Here's how I observed the same scene (in yesterday's post "10 things I might have live-blogged, if I'd blogged the State of the Union Address"):
Is every woman wearing bright red? As Obama squeezes in down the aisle, the backdrop of red looks like an array of military personnel from some European country, but it's just the congresswomen, bulging into the aisles. Of course, military personnel would clear a path, not make it more difficult for The Commander to walk by. The congressmen are less showily dressed. What choice do they have? If a male member wore anything other than a dark, neutral color, you'd think he's lost his mind, but the women seem to think they can't look crazy....  Incredible what women can do to themselves and still be taken seriously. Respect the women! You'd better. Or else!
Here's how Givhan describes what Michelle Obama wore:

And, of course, the first lady was the most subdued of all: She chose monochromatic, almost-black pine green, with a full skirt and cropped jacket... by Azzedine Alaia.... The signature cut, with its fitted waist and exuberant skirt, speaks of grace rather than power. Personal preference rather than politics.
Here's how I described the same outfit:
Michelle Obama... is wearing something that seems halfway between a 1950s little girl's party dress and an enlarged insect's carapace.
The First Lady knew the cameras would focus on her, so she was free to wear any color she chose, and she chose what Robin Givhan called almost-black pine green and what had me doing a Google image search for a bottle fly. The Congresswomen knew they would be dots in a crowd, and both Givhan and I spoke in terms of mental problems. You might think she sounds a lot nicer than I do, but she's the one who perceives the women as having a psychological deficiency that makes them overdo the demand for attention. I was talking about how the viewer accepts women displaying themselves so outlandishly without regarding them as insane.

Both Givhan and I talk about the difference between the way men and women dress. She is saying that the women seem beset by discomfort with the authority they in fact possess, and the arc of progress bends toward a day when, finally relaxed, they wear something more like what the men wear. I'm saying the men are more constrained, by strict fashion convention, by the judgment that would befall them if they deviated — we'd think them nuts if they dressed like Tom Wolfe — controlled for the expectation that they confine themselves to convention, and by the demand that they never let it show that they think the women look ridiculous.



That's Connecticut Congresswoman, Rosa DeLaurio. Respect the woman! You may not laugh! Behind her is Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In my "10 things" post, I wrote:
"Shirley Temple is there," I said, spotting Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and being unfair to Shirley Temple, whose ringlets — as I do an image search this morning — look artlessly subtle and not at all like Debbie's headful of boing-y springs.
My laughing at the woman, there, produced this long column from Neo-Neocon. Purporting to defend Wasserman Schultz, Neo-Neocon relies heavily on the belief that she probably didn't do much to her hair to cause it to look like that:
She’s probably desperate for an “artlessly subtle” look, but that’s probably beyond her powers, or would take so much “doing” for her as to be all-consuming. She’s lucky if her hair doesn’t frizz up into a big puffball or frizz down into a limp and wan collection of wires.
Why is it a defense to say that little work was put into the achievement of the look? Is that a special defense for women or can men get similar support? Seems to me the male members are poofing and puffing whatever they've got and adding fake hair too. In them, we look at the result, and pronounce it ridiculous when it seems ridiculous. We feel perfectly free to point and laugh at this:



Those few curls on a man make us think he's pretty wild. Too nutty to take seriously? What if he let it go a little farther into something more like this:



Mental?! Do you recognize who that is? He's not in politics. Here he is in a younger condition:



What if Rand Paul wore blond, brilliantined, biblical hair, like Jesus wore it (Hallelujah I adore it)? What would you think? You couldn't imagine that you could defend him by saying he wasn't putting much effort into the achievement of that look!

70 comments:

Quayle said...

And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right

stlcdr said...

Althouse: part-time fashionista.

It is actually quite amusing - bemusing - that the discussion regarding the state of the nation boils down to the fact that, as always, women have a vast choice in clothing for any given occasion, and they choose to exercise that choice.

Men have always had little choice (shall I wear the blue tie with dark stripes or the dark tie with blue stripes?) but I don't think they would want it any other way.

Huh. I guess clothing is much more interesting that was and was not said during this media staged event.

virgil xenophon said...

Althouse, WHY oh WHY do you (and everyone else, apparently) continue to use the clunky term "congresswoman" (or Congressman, for that matter?) This has long been a pet peeve of mine. There are two Houses of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Senators are "Congressmen" no less than are Representatives. (I've often dreamed of the delicious delight I would take were I President in calling Senators "Congressmen" just to drive the point home) SOoo.....why not use the CORRECT term "Representative" when describing women in the House? It is, after all a UNISEX term, is it not? And further, rolls off the tongue just as easily as "Congresswoman" if not more so. Therefore I ask: How come, how come, how come whaafo you be consistently usin' the term "Congresswoman" viz the correct unisex term "Representative?"

How come, how come, how come?

Bob Ellison said...

virgil xenophon, that used to bug me, too, but I've grown accustomed to it.

James Taranto likes to tease people for referring to female chairmen as "chairs". Taranto wonders how a piece of furniture can run a committee.

In this video, Mike Lee starts with "Thank you, Madame Chair." But maybe it's a pet name for "Klobuchar".

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...


Just look at those women in red!
And that one with curls on her head!
Not what they intended
They simply offended
As if they were naked in bed.

Broomhandle said...

Good old Roger Daltrey. Better hair than the average congressman and a better work ethic. I'm not surprised that he's one of the rock'n'roll survivors.

Kirk said...

At the next State of the Union, will the Democratic women go with candy apple red or olive green pantsuits?

Ralph Hyatt said...

"Men have always had little choice (shall I wear the blue tie with dark stripes or the dark tie with blue stripes?) but I don't think they would want it any other way."

I don't think this is true. Men's clothing, among the upper classes, used to be much more elaborate. Think about how aristocrats are attired in movies that are set in pre-revolutionary France for instance.

But for some reason mens' fashion choices contracted while womens', not so much.

And while I would not care to wear aristocratic styles from an earlier age, I do not begrude women their wider choices in this manner.

Ralph Hyatt said...

this matter.

Drinks more coffee.

Ann Althouse said...

"How come, how come, how come?"

This is the worst post for that complaint, since the relevant crowd consisted of members of both houses of Congress.

Ann Althouse said...

"James Taranto likes to tease people for referring to female chairmen as "chairs". Taranto wonders how a piece of furniture can run a committee."

Send him back to high school English class to learn about metonymy.

Does he have the same problem with referring to a king as "the crown"?

Ralph Hyatt said...

And of course, no discussion of fashion is complete without a link to images of mens' fashion in the 1970s.

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=men's+fashion+1970s+photos&qpvt=men%27s+fashion+1970s+photos&FORM=IGRE

Ann Althouse said...

Does ever talk about "boots on the ground"?

Laslo Spatula said...

Following Debbie Wasserman Schultz's eye-line in the photo I assume she is laughing at Rosa DeLaurio's visible panty line. I see no other valid interpretation.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Ann Althouse said...

"How come, how come, how come?"

This is the worst post for that complaint, since the relevant crowd consisted of members of both houses of Congress.


Objection, non-responsive.

Ann Althouse said...

Meade reminds me — on this subject of the limitations on men — that while we were watching the SOTU — I called out 2 men for deviating from the norm:

1. Some Congressman had a light blue sweater vest under his suit jacket. (He also had a white shirt and tie.)

2. Boehner had a mint green tie. That seemed really weird. Why was he doing that?!!!

Laslo Spatula said...

Do all the Congresswoman buy their clothing at the same shop in D.C.? Congresswomen's Warehouse? "You're going to like the way you look on TV; I guarantee it."

jacksonjay said...


...let it go a little farther...

Fake hair never looks good! The length is not the issue.

Ralph Hyatt said...

"Boehner had a mint green tie. That seemed really weird. Why was he doing that?!!!"

I wouldn't have went with mint green myself, and I might wear a tie once a year, but from what I see of guys who are wearing ties, the style seems to have gone to interesting colors.

And looking at the selection at Men's Warehouse (not exactly a fashion forward place I imagine) I see pink, and purple, and orange, and green ties among the more staid choices.

Laslo Spatula said...

Head merkins.

rhhardin said...

They're trying to look like ripe fruit.

rhhardin said...

Send him back to high school English class to learn about metonymy.

Does he have the same problem with referring to a king as "the crown"?


Or calling women cunts?

Alan said...

Roger Daltrey may not be a politician, but he's certainly made some political statements lately:
Roger Daltrey: ‘I will never forgive Labour for their immigration policies’

Laslo Spatula said...

Sitting in the direct background, Boehner's Mint green makes Obama look washed-out and tired. The color selection was strategic.

rhhardin said...

If you fling your dinner napkin at a rhetorician instead of a cast iron pot, it's metaphor. But if you fling the matching cloth pot-holder, it's metonymy.

- John Hollander

EDH said...

Some funny SOTU GIFs here.

DeLauro looks like Ron Wood. And what happened to Ron Wyden's face?

Laslo Spatula said...

There are ties, and there are 'you want me to tie you up with my tie?' ties. For the SOTU, congressmen usually go with the former. The congresswomen dress for the latter.

Matthew Sablan said...

So wait -- I shouldn't be wearing magenta suits with neon ties?

Laslo Spatula said...

Congresswomen: Fifty Shades of Red.

Laslo Spatula said...

Re: "So wait -- I shouldn't be wearing magenta suits with neon ties?"

Only with the lemon-colored pants.

tim maguire said...

Bush fixing his hair vs Edwards fixing his hair. It's clear who's being made fun of.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMvt7aye7K8

bbkingfish said...

This blog is the only place I ever have detected any concern about Rand Paul's hair.

When, in 2016, Rand gets no closer to the party nomination than did his father, that he looks a little goofy will be way down the list of the reasons why.

Laslo Spatula said...

How many congressmen were wearing women's lacy underwear under their staid suits? It might explain Biden's facial antics.

virgil xenophon said...

But the question is, AA, when are you going to stop using the awkward term "Congresswoman" and use the more accurate, historically, factually correct unisex
description of "Representative." Is not the law (with which we are led to assume you have at least a nodding acquaintance) all about "words" and their correct usage?

Ann Althouse said...

"This blog is the only place I ever have detected any concern about Rand Paul's hair."

You're not reading enough internet.

But that's okay. I'm doing it for you.

I started reading in 1995, and I can't put it down.

Kelly said...

I was on a plane flying into Houston with Rand Paul on it in December. He sat across the aisle from me and my husband. I kept staring and he kept catching me staring. It was awkward. When we got off the plane I was all wrinkled and rumpled, his suit was as neat as a pin. I'm jealous of people who can still look professional and elegant after being crammed into a plane. He even dozed in a sophisticated way staying upright and not slumping. Not that I stared at him the whole time he slept.

David said...

Red. Scarlet women. It's the whore's outfit.

At least the women are honest about what they are.

Ann Althouse said...

"I started reading in 1995, and I can't put it down."

The Internet!

Hey, I'm on a site....

David said...

Kelly said...
I was on a plane flying into Houston with Rand Paul on it in December. . . . When we got off the plane I was all wrinkled and rumpled, his suit was as neat as a pin. I'm jealous of people who can still look professional and elegant after being crammed into a plane.

Mostly that tells you he has a very expensive suit. When I got married in 2005, I bought a bespoke high end suit for the first and only time in my life. I still wear it. It never wrinkles. Cost about $2k. Worth it, because I rarely wear a suit now and this will be my last suit ever.

William said...

They say the difference between an expensive toupee and a cheap one, is that an expensive toupee looks expensive and a cheap one looks cheap......Some women like to wear bright colors, and other women like to criticize women who wear bright colors. Diversity, that's what makes the world go round,

Bob Ellison said...

That's a good word, "metonymy". I had never read or heard it before.

Kinda reminds me of "sesquipedalian".

Seeing Red said...

Lemmings.

FedkaTheConvict said...

As Rush observed yesterday; congress "persons" aren't like us and don't look like the rest of America. He was obliquely referring to the plastic surgeries many appear to have had. He teased about mentioning names but then thought better of it.

State of the Coup Overview

"And for the first time in 25 years I never felt more distant from my government than last night. Watching that, practically every aspect of it, I felt like that's not us. That's a whole different world there. That's a whole different mind-set, it's a whole different existence, it's not us. I felt a huge disconnect. And when they switched off from Obama and the cameras showed you the crowd, the Congress sitting there, honestly, folks, I thought I was looking at the Star Wars bar scene half the time.

..."When Obama started talking about women, did you see all these Democrat women standing up and high-fiving each other? I thought, "Man, what a disconnect. What a bunch of tripe." That 77¢ for every $1 a man makes? We don't get it, it doesn't compute for us, but we are not single women. It's hate men, all that. So it's tough to put ourselves in those bras -- shoes. But nevertheless. I saw a lot of smiles. In fact, I saw smiles, folks, that if it were Halloween, it would scare kids. I mean, I saw some really...

Oh, I'm not gonna mention any names.

There's nothing in it for me to mention names.

I would love to.

I would love to.

It was the Star Wars bar scene. And that's part of the disconnect, by the way. Not only are those people not like us, they don't even look like us anymore, a lot of 'em. I've never felt more estranged. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I wouldn't be surprised if you feel much the same way."

Bob Ellison said...

At the ballet.

bbkingfish said...

"You're not reading enough internet"

You may be right. I admit that I do not scour the full spectrum of opinion daily. I find it helps reduce my exposure to redundancy.

Thank you for your service on my behalf, however. I find your comments section the chummiest snarkfest on the internet.

FedkaTheConvict said...

This blog is the only place I ever have detected any concern about Rand Paul's hair.

Really? Ever since he's popped on the scene its been discussed. His father is bald but somehow he managed to have a head full of lustrous curls. I even heard someone described as "faker than Rand Paul's hair."

Renee said...

I wouldn't be able to afford bright colors, because you would then need accessorize with the proper accents. I could only afford a couple of pair of shoes, and I need all of my outfits with work with it.

Color is status (especially in the WINTER), that you can afford it.

Now that I don't work, well I just wear the same thing everyday as long as it isn't pajama pants and flip-flops.

Inga said...

In defense of curly hair:

Althouse what do you have against curly hair? Some people are born with it, some people's hair curls up at puberty. It takes harsh chemicals to straighten hair. Wasserman Schultz obviously has the kind of curly hair that can be tamed into ringlets instead of frizz. I'm sure she must use some mousse or gel or product of some sort to do so.

My daughter has very curly hair, she occasionally has it blown out and ironed striaght, it's hideous. Curly hair has a courser texture that doesn't look natural straightened. If a woman likes her curly hair and it's manageable with just using a product of some sort, she looks every bit as professional as a woman with a straight bob.

I think my daughter's hair is beautiful, she works with some very high ranking people in our state government and they all have commented on her pretty curls. Her husband after dating several girls with straight blond hair, thought her curls were adorable.

So Althouse why bash the girls or boys with the curls, based on the hair on their heads.
Judge them on the content of their character instead.

rehajm said...

Achievers dress above their station. Kelly Ayotte, case in point.

MadisonMan said...

Really? Ever since he's popped on the scene its been discussed. His father is bald but somehow he managed to have a head full of lustrous curls. I even heard someone described as "faker than Rand Paul's hair."

My Dad -- at 91 -- has a head full of wonderful white hair.

I'm going bald.

You need a good instructor in genetics.

Inga said...

The gene for baldness is carried on the mother's side.

Inga said...

The mint green tie was far better than the Santa Clause tie that fool Gohmert was wearing.

CStanley said...

I think Wasserman Shultz's hair is fine. You work with what God gave you, If I were to critique her physical characteristics, it's her facial expressions that are off puting. Between those and her voice, she would do well to get some speech training.

Inga said...

Yeah Palin too, oy that voice!

CStanley said...

Agree, Inga, except that Palin has gained a huge fan base who clearly don't mind the way she speaks and would be turned off if she became less authentic. Highly doubtful that she'd gain more followers than she'd lose.

Christy said...

Always thought Wasserman-Shultz looked like Chelsea Clinton. A child. Great hair, but not age appropriate.

Am I the only one who considers red a neutral?

Inga said...

Christy,
Age appropriate? Really, how is her hair not age appropriate, should it be shorter? I've thought Palin's hair looked ridiculous for a woman her age, especially this past year or so with the huge rats nest at the crown. When she was the Governor she wore her hair more professionally, then it changed. Bachman has gorgeous hair and wears it long, I believe she is older than Wasserman Schultz. Chelsea Clinton's curls were on the looser softer side as a little girl, easier to straighten as an adult. I think there may be some curly hair prejudice going on here.

I loved seeing all the bright colors, too much red though. More blue needed.

CStanley, Wasserman Schultz has a huge fan base on the left and don mind the way she speaks either. Anything is better than the screech speech of Palin. Sounds like nails on a chalkboard.

CStanley said...

I don't find Palin screechy.

And I thought about the same logic applied to Wasserman Shultz. Perhaps that is so, but it doesn't seem to me that she has built up the same sort of fan base as Palin. And even so, I do think the idea that polishing one's image is viewed in a negative way holds more weight among Palin's base than DWS's.

CB9 said...

The world is biased against curly hair. I know it. I have it. My daughter has it. Whenever there's some makeover show with someone with curly hair, they always straighten it for the 'after'.

Bruce Hayden said...

I do find Palin screechy, but like what she says, but prefer to read it. I find, as I age, that I have less and less tolerance for higher female voices. Luckily the women in my life tend to be altos.

Debbie WS just has one of those voices, and a delivery, designed, I think, to drive men, in particular, away. I invariably switch channels every time I see her speaking on TV.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse what do you have against curly hair?"

Why don't you click on the curly hair tag before you use a premise like that?

Bruce Hayden said...

What must be remembered is that male formal, semi-formal, and business dress is essentially a uniform, designed to show conformity. It is the subtle signals, that you can't see on TV, that matter. I will bet that 90% or better of the men are wearing French cuffs, and more likely than not cuff links indicating their party affiliation. Ties matter too - while Boehner's green tie would normally be questionable, it seems to have done a good job of pointing out Obama's weakness. And, at a juncture like this, Obama would have done better with a red tie to reinforce his authority.

I always wondered why the females of our species were so much colorful than the males, when that is reversed so much with other species. My theory right now is that the females are essentially competing for the alpha males, while the males compete to be alphas using other means to achieve status, usually in the form of simulated combat of some form.

Inga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inga said...

Althouse, ah yes! I see you actually love curly hair, that is good to know, I was beginning to think you had something against it. Your two posts from 2004 make it pretty clear, you're actually a curlyphile. I do apologize for jumping to conclusions.

Inga said...

Althouse,
I do however wonder what it is about Wassermann Schultz's hair that led you to poke fun at it? I think she does the very best she can with her hair.

West Texas Intermediate Crude said...

The Professor asked:
"2. Boehner had a mint green tie. That seemed really weird. Why was he doing that?!!!".

It complements his orange skin. It makes him a person of color.

Doug said...

Is that Rosa DeLauro, or the Stones' Ronnie Wood?

Doug said...

Is that Rosa DeLauro, or the Stones' Ronnie Wood?

Doug said...

Is that Rosa DeLauro, or the Stones' Ronnie Wood?

damikesc said...

Rosa is a PROFOUNDLY unattractive woman.