Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hillary responds to "Cleavage" story in Washington Post

It’s time to get stupid again—real stupid, I’m talking fashion writer stupid. You may have seen this in the WaPost last week.

Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory

By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 20, 2007; Page C01

There was cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2. It belonged to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

She was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education. She was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape. The cleavage registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn't an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable...

...The last time Clinton wore anything that was remotely sexy in a public setting surely must have been more than a decade ago, during Bill Clinton's first term in office when she was photographed wearing a black Donna Karan gown that revealed her shoulders. It was one of Karan's "cold-shoulder" dresses, inspired, Karan once noted, because a woman's shoulders remain sensuous and appealing regardless of her age.

...To display cleavage in a setting that does not involve cocktails and hors d'oeuvres is a provocation. It requires that a woman be utterly at ease in her skin, coolly confident about her appearance, unflinching about her sense of style. Any hint of ambivalence makes everyone uncomfortable. And in matters of style, Clinton is as noncommittal as ever.

Tonight the Clinton campaign people are on it, of course. From the NYT:

Latest Campaign Issue? One Candidate’s Neckline

Published: July 28, 2007

In an e-mail message titled “Cleavage,” Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign has an eye-catching pitch for campaign contributions.

The subject line of the message refers to a July 20 article in The Washington Post about the neckline on an outfit Mrs. Clinton wore during a floor speech she gave two days earlier. It “sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape,” said the article, by Robin Givhan, a style writer who had watched the speech on C-Span2...

...Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, not at all happy about the article, is hoping its attack on it will prove to be a lucrative tool. “Frankly, focusing on women’s bodies instead of their ideas is insulting,” says the fund-raising e-mail message, written by the senior Clinton adviser Ann Lewis and distributed yesterday...

...In big letters, the note reads: “Clothes? Makeup? Cleavage? What’s really important in this race? Help Hillary fight for what matters.”

...Asked about the criticism, Ms. Givhan said her type of reporting had a role in election coverage.

"I do think that when people are delivering a message, the message is essentially consumed in different ways, and that depends on how it is delivered," she said. "The tone of voice, the appearance, the context, these things all come into play."

Boy, Ms. Givhan is “deep,” isn’t she? So is the Washington Post, for giving her 750 words to analyze what Clinton’s fashion choice “means.” Has Givhan written similar articles analyzing the political significance of Edwards’ haircut or Bush’s Krocs? I remember when AP journalists breathlessly reported “what Condi was wearing” when she was touring the world, failing to make peace.

That kind of “analytical journalism” fell out favor once things began “to get all serious;” by then the press had some kind of epiphany and realized that what Condi was doing or failing to do was more important than what she was wearing. Nobody ever did a piece on Secretary of State Henry Kissinger highlighting the “smart, flawlessly cut Brooks Brothers suit” he was wearing when he authorized the Christmas bombing of Hanoi—did Madeline Albright have to put up with this pointless nonsense?

We will await the Washington Post’s fashion reporting on “what the other presidential candidates are wearing.” Hillary is certainly not the only candidate wearing clothes; I hope that Givhan and her editors will be around to do more lengthy articles on the “sexual message” her male competitors are sending us via their wardrobe choices. I don’t think the WaPost reports on what Alberto Gonzales wears when he’s lying to Congress, not unless he shows up in a Mankini—that would justify a story; this doesn’t. It’s sexist bullshit to single out Hillary.



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