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.