Saturday, July 28, 2007

Letter the Washington Post Didn't Publish re Hillary's Cleavage

My friend Friedrike Merck suggested that I create a section on my website called "Salon Refusee", in which we could archive the many letters-to-the-editor that we write but they don't publish. Perhaps I will someday, but meanwhile, here is my latest letter that didn't get published:

To the Editor, Washington Post :

Re: “Hillary Clinton’s Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory”, Robin Givhan, Washington Post, July 20, 2007

When women of my age and Hillary’s began to achieve “firsts” in what had always been exclusively a man’s world, we were told to dress for success in the female equivalent of men’s dark business suit, stiff shirt, and bow tie. It was a given that we should appear sexless. Heaven forfend our pulchritude should distract the men from their terribly serious work.

That was over 30 years ago, but apparently women’s attire—or should I simply say “women?”-- remains a distraction, particularly if the woman in question is breaking some “first” barrier. The focus on physical appearance, especially sexuality, is a time-honored way to demean women. It’s the verbal equivalent of patting them on the head dismissively.

I acknowledge we had a national conversation about whether Bill wore boxers of briefs. But that seemed to have a note of lightness and fun about it. It made him seem more human. Instead, Givhan’s analysis of Hillary Clinton’s cleavage makes it a metaphor for aspersions Givhan proceeds to cast on Clinton's character.

Nancy Pelosi got the same treatment (“the Armani Grandma”, Newsweek called her) until she showed without doubt that she has the chops for her job.

As will Hillary Clinton when she becomes President.

Gloria Feldt


NewsCat said...

The Washington Post ombudswoman, Debra Howell, continued in her job of being "the world's worst ombudsman" in her Sunday column about the cleavage coverage.

Howell seems to view her job as to defend the paper's coverage and while she'll add mild "the reporter should have..." to her columns they always end up deciding that the coverage is warranted. The story about Hillary is no different. Apparently because Robin Givhan once wrote something about Dick Cheney's wearing an inappropriate snow parka to Auschwitz that equals making an entire column devoted to Hillary's cleavage.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog Gloria. Thanks so much for your kind words on the post for YP4! I was just talking to an amazing professor about you last night here at NYU. She mentioned the Elle article and how powerful your words were and I was proud to be able to say you are a mentor and friend to me! Love ALWAYS! xo Jamia

naomi dagen bloom said...

could we talk about "boundaries" and how they have disappeared in western society?

this is what we're dealing with now. maybe it began with lyndon johnson showing his scar (when was that historic moment?), leads us to today's inane cleavage, haircut, boxer shorts focus.

does anyone ever consider that "less is more"? right now i'm feeling buffetted by coverage of karl rove's negativity.