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An Outfit That Showed Only Your Weaknesses

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Regarding the July 20 Style story "Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory":

I hope that there was considerable controversy in your newsroom over the decision to run a story posing as a "fashion" piece on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton's cleavage. The article lowered your paper to the level of a leering celebrity tabloid.

Looking at the picture of Clinton and her "cleavage," I saw a relatively staid outfit that hardly deserved such a column. Yet Robin Givhan wrote, without irony, that looking at Clinton's breasts felt voyeuristic and that her small, "not unseemly" amount of cleavage is the equivalent of a man's unzipped fly, as if Clinton deserved the sexualized attention thanks to a shameful social faux pas.

Surprisingly, there was also no irony in Givhan's analysis of Clinton's tendency to dress conservatively and to avoid "sexy" clothes, as if somehow these choices were an authentic reflection of her personality. Instead, Clinton's fashion choices are largely dictated by an attempt to avoid just such media coverage; Givhan even noted Clinton's overall ambivalence toward fashion.

Unfortunately, Givhan's story illustrated a much larger problem facing professional women, especially those in public office, such as Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. When I am at work, as a young woman often surrounded by older men, I want my mind to be on display and my body to be relatively invisible. Givhan acknowledged this predicament for women, but columns such as hers are part of the problem.

-- Cara Daggett

Washington

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I am not a fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton, but I was appalled at the article on her "cleavage." What's next? An article on viewing men's crotches generally or seeing a difference when they are watching her speak?

This article was beneath what I expect from The Post's political coverage or even Style reviews.

-- Dolores B. Ruth

Annapolis

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Robin Givhan's attempts to turn Hillary Clinton's choice of a scoop-necked shirt on a hot day in the District into social commentary failed miserably. Givhan crossed the line by suggesting that the shirt revealed Clinton's changing comfort level with her sexuality. Not only was Givhan's use of the words "teasing" and "provocation" offensive in connection with a simple shirt commonly worn by women to work, but she ultimately failed in her goal to make Clinton's clothing choice seem important.

Instead, Givhan's generalizations seemed ill-conceived, poorly defended and ultimately absurd. Clinton's discussion of the burdensome cost of higher education was news; what she wore while she was talking was not.

-- Carly Rush

McLean

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It was almost funny that The Post devoted an entire column to the subject of Hillary Rodham Clinton's breasts -- excuse me, cleavage. Robin Givhan compared seeing Clinton to "spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far," but I doubt that would spark a comparable Style article.

Most disturbing, however, was the misogynistic tone Givhan took, most notably with her comment, "No one wants to see that . . . Just look away!" It really should come as no surprise that women tend to have breasts. With breasts come cleavage. They are part of the female body, not "part of a bold, confident style package."

-- Samantha Levine

New York

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I can't decide what horrifies me more: that The Post, which I have often touted for its intelligent reporting, would publish such a sexist, dated article, or even worse, that the author was echoing a common viewpoint still prevalent in society.

As a mother and a professional analyst for the government, I have always believed that my colleagues have respected my work, my mind and my opinions, not whether my cleavage was showing. I dress as I believe all women should: with the ability to choose clothes that represent who they are, be they feminine, nurturing, intelligent, sexy or fashionable. But I do so with the hope that clothes represent my style -- not how much skin is exposed.

-- Christine Williams

Washington

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