The other day as I was sitting in the Case Library cafe on campus, enjoying a grapefruit (they're surprisingly delicious this time of year) and reading the Colgate Maroon News: Special Election Edition. I leafed through the paper skimming through articles about the economy, the emphasis (or not) on education in our current political agenda, how students have engaged themselves in the election on campus etc etc. until, on the second to last page of the paper, I stumbled across something that raised one or both of my eyebrows. It was an article about Michelle Obama and Ann Romney on "Who wore it better?"; "it" being the color hot pink. I quickly went back through the rest of the paper and, sure enough, there were no articles that spoke about "Who wore it better?" - Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?
Of course, being involved in politics - or any position scrutinized by the public eye - image is of utmost importance and, unfortunately, can not be avoided. Especially in politics, millions of campaign dollars are spent on how a candidate looks to the public eye. But it does not seem that men and women are being held to the same standard. I think back on the ads I've seen about Obama and Romney; policies aside, they drew their appeal on highlighting the candidates' character, their leadership skills, their steadfastness, their integrity. I'm not sure I encountered even a single conversation about what they wore on their bodies. True, one argument for this could be that "normal" professional attire for men is generally not too varied and would not make for as interesting of conversation as that of women's attire. Ok. But why is it more "interesting" to talk about what women wear than men? Perhaps talking about the outer shifts focus away from the inner, perhaps summing Michelle and Ann by their outfits keeps them confined to the role of ornamentation to their husbands, perhaps if we think hot pink is the most interesting thing they have going for them there probably isn't much else they have to say. It is easy to write this off as a fault of the fashion industry, but this is an incomplete assessment of the power behind fashion: what we wear is important because it can provide an entryway into what we have to say - it is not meant to start and end with the outer.
My mind jumps to the snarky comments that are often made about Hillary Clinton's outfit choices and the condemnations made about her seemingly lack of femininity in outfit choice. A recent SNL skit following the election showed several images of female Senators while stating that we have more women in the Senate after this recent election than ever before... which means the pantsuit industry is probably thrilled.
I salute the women who are brave enough to be in politics - a world that is still largely compiled of men and, unfortunately, one that still adheres closely to patriarchal standards. I salute their constant negotiations of femininity and masculinity in a field that will not take them seriously if they are too feminine, and laugh at them if they are too masculine. I salute them for speaking loudly through their messages, not their attires.
- Christina Liu '13 (intern)