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?...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"):
Congresswomen, there’s no need to peacock for the cameras.
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!