Pity poor Hillary. (Sort of). Like most female politicians she has struggled over the years to look crisp and serious in the way she dresses for public appearances. Hence those pants suits - businesslike whilst not being butch, and ever-so-slightly suggesting the female form in sky blues and yellows that aren't gender-specific. It's a tricky act to pull off, especially as the scrutiny is blistering
, in a way that it still isn't for her male colleagues (unless they're handsome black men). Look too feminine, the argument goes, and you'll be taken as soft. And then comes along Sarah Palin, flashing shapely legs and a tousled, come-hither hairdo, and suddenly paens
are being written to her gorgeousness. And, the first heady week, at least, she's being taken seriously! The pit bull with lipstick! The Barbie with balls!
Here's the thing. Sarah Palin's style is pitch-perfect
for a female politician. Modern but retro; instanly recognisable as her own. I'm frankly sick to death of those pants suits, on Hillary or anyone else. One might argue that sex appeal has no place in the political chamber. But I disagree. Politicians spend an inordinant amount of time regulating our sexual and procreational behaviour, so why should women kit up as if they're entering a nunnery? If you've ever sat in on a parliamentary or congressional session, you'll note how much it is about pumped-up, testosterone-stimulating male posturing. A few female hormones released into the air is simply redressing the balance. Unsex me now,
said Lady Macbeth and, sadly, female politicans, with a couple of notable exceptions (Cicciolina comes to mind) have been taking her advice ever since.
In Australia, we have Julie Bishop, Deputy Opposition Leader, a tiny-waisted blonde with enormous cross-eyed baby blues and a penchant for florals, who is the wet dream of every right-leaning male in the country.
It seems to me no one has taken her to task for the occassional glimpse of expensive lingerie peaking out from her substantial cleavage or the excessive attention to getting the flip of her frosted locks immaculately correct. (And why should they?) And yet, our Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has copped a regular serve, as they say, about the perigrinations of her own flamboyant red hairdo.
So, here's the other
thing. Feminine and sexy is a strength if you're on the right side of the House, but if you're on the left, it's a weakness. Somewhere in there lies the hoary (or whore-y) old chestnut about strong women being unfeminine - as if you can't be pretty and a feminist too (or right-wing and a feminist for that matter). But maybe the glass ceiling is in fact a glass mirror.
I'm sure the inner girl in Hillary would love to wear a figure-flattering frock sometimes, but she's been put on the Pants Suit Express by her stylists and there's no getting off.
Rather than being a sexist issue, I think it's an intra-sex issue. Women are making these judgements about each other as much as men are. It works against men too. Obama is getting flack for being too
elegant, too body and health-conscious, vain even. Cranky and crumpled McCain was trumpeted as the Alpha Dog after the first debate. Not because he spent the debate talking over the top of Obama, but because Barry was calm and unruffled and piss elegant. A bit suspiciously poofy
, don't you think? And poofy equates to weak.
If more female politicans had frocked up, Sarah Palin would not have seen so unusually attractive to John McCain and the Republican Viagra-chomping set. McCain wouldsn't have exposed himself as desperate and we wouldn't have had Tina Fey... OK, I take it back.
Footnote: This just in from Joan Walsh at salon.com
: "(there is) a recent outbreak of misplaced Palin pity among liberals – the New York Times' Judith Warner, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, the New Republic's Christopher Orr have all expressed sympathy for the sinking VP nominee. I'm with Traister; I'm not feeling it. Palin "didn't blink" when McCain asked her to join the ticket, didn't think twice, because she's a supremely self-confident woman with a limited worldview, impressed with her own greatness and not terribly curious about anyone else. She reaps what she sows. I'm with conservative Kathleen Parker and Zakaria: I believe Palin would be a menace as commander in chief, and she's got to get off the GOP ticket."