Can you believe that Tina Brown, former Vanity Fair editor, offered this extraordinary political insight into why millennials didn’t seem overly fond of Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton: It may have something to do with her wardrobe. Her actual words were Ms Clinton should ditch “the Sgt Pepper trouser suits” and “own her own inner bitch …(be) the fierce-faced Hillary with the black shades and the Blackberry.”
It may be worth remembering that Ms Clinton is running for president not the Nation’s Top Model.
Even The Economist blog on Ms Clinton’s Tuesday night primary victory mentioned that she was “clad in bridal white”.
But back to Tina Brown. Now she has never been credited with penetrating political analytical skills (and I remember my surprise at her deliberate outrageousness when I met her at the Jaipur Literature Festival and in Delhi some years ago. She asked someone if hijras, as transgender people are called in India, had oral sex! As if that meant anything about anything.)
Anyway, Tina Brown is not at issue here.
It’s important to recognize that in our more-equal world, women are still judged by different standards. More particularly:
** their clothes
** their hair
** their skin
** their softness
** their feminine charm
** their nurturing capability
Almost no one would judge a man running for president by his frumpy clothes, bad hair, coarseness or a propensity to shout.
But Hillary Clinton is judged on the criteria identified above.
Interestingly, President Obama noted the different “expectations” placed on a woman politician and a man running exactly the same race – the 2008 presidential election. In an interview in January with Politico’s Glenn Thrush, Mr Obama recalled that “we had as competitive and lengthy and expensive and tough primary fight as there has been in modern American politics, and she had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels.”
He went on: “She had to wake up earlier than I did because she had to get her hair done. She had to, you know, handle all the expectations that were placed on her.”
Remember when the media constantly criticized German chancellor Angela Merkel for seeming not to have made much of an effort with her appearance? She subsequently agreed to a fashion makeover, donning bright jewel-like jackets and getting her hair done.
And remember when she appeared at the Oslo opera with the Norwegian king and queen one night in 2008? All that the media could talk about was the plunging depths of her neckline and the fact that she wore pearls.
That’s life. That’s reality. Everyone – men and women – has an interest in a woman’s appearance. That’s what keeps the fashion business ticking over and the beauty industry glowing.
Let’s just not pretend that women – politicians, professionals – are judged by the same standards as men.