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Deal Divas

Stephanie Hayes, Katie Sanders, Kameel Stanley, & Keyonna Summers

When is it okay to talk about the clothing of a woman in politics?

The outfits of Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren looked a lot more similar in color on TV than in photographs, I promise.

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The outfits of Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren looked a lot more similar in color on TV than in photographs, I promise.

23

August

It's a question 10 women would answer 10 different ways. And as a political journalist with an eye for what people are wearing, it's one I've wrestled with, too.

Is it so wrong to incorporate what a woman is wearing into a story when she's running for office?

After all of this time, I explored the question in a story for Sunday's politics-themed issue of the Times' Latitudes section, the Art of Politics.

Political scientists were firm: It shouldn't be brought up.

"In an ideal world, journalists would just let that temptation pass by and not take it. Because the implication is that appearance is more important for women than substance," said Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown University professor and author of the book You're Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation.  

But Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan (whose columns are fab, read her Pulitzer-winning work immediately) said we shouldn't pretend our observations aren't just human.

"If you reduce a woman to nothing but her clothes or her appearance, then it is a problem," Givhan said. "But if it's part of a full picture of who that woman is, then I think in many ways it tells us more about the person."

Reactions to the story have been interesting. One guy wondered how different it becomes when a wardrobe observation comes from a man instead of another woman. 

My mom had the best reaction, after acknowledging an appearance double standard for women.

"I don't really care what men wear on the red carpet. Except for those shorts," she texted. "Those were bad."

(Sorry, Pharrell.)

The story is here.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2016 11:49am]

    

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