We are still such a sexist society.
Instead of focusing on what Michelle Obama and Ann Romney have to say or what causes either woman supports, we’re obsessing over what they’re wearing – and how much their outfits cost.
Why aren’t we worried about the price tag of the suits, shirts and ties sported by President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney? I hardly think they’re choosing their clothes off the rack at the local discount chain.
Something tells me neither gentleman has worn a $9.99 tie from Walmart. (I know exactly how much they run because my daughter’s spent the summer as a server in a restaurant and must wear a tie to work, though she usually picks up one for $2 or $3 from the local thrift store.)
This weekend the first lady caught flak over her $6,800 jacket from American designer J. Mendel, worn to a reception at Buckingham Palace for the opening of the Olympics. Well, gosh, the Queen of England was there, too, so I hardly think we’d want Michelle Obama decked out in the latest fashion from Kmart. To be honest, if I were going to meet Queen Elizabeth, I would be tempted to cash in my retirement savings for a new outfit.
Let’s take President Obama. He didn’t have any public events scheduled this weekend, but Monday afternoon, he had an ambassador credentialing ceremony and then a campaign visit to New York City. What’s he wearing? Where did he buy it? How much did it cost?
How does he look in it? Does it emphasize his figure faults?
People have no compunction against expressing their opinion about the first lady’s appearance in her outfits.
I used to moderate comments for Politics Daily, and I dreaded the days we ran stories about Mrs. Obama. How many of the comments I deleted were generated by racism? And how many by the fact that everyone believes it’s fair game to be just as catty as possible when talking about a woman, even if she’s in a position of power? Especially if she’s in a position of power.
Ann Romney got raked over the coals this spring when she sported a $990 t-shirt during an appearance on a morning talk show. But look at the photos: Mitt’s wearing a suit, white shirt and tie. No one bothered to question the cost of his ensemble.
Even a woman running for national office comes under scrutiny. Remember the outrage when the news came out that the Republican National Committee had dropped $150,000 on a wardrobe of suits for vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (who used to buy her clothes from an Anchorage consignment shop)? Again, no one asked what Sen. John McCain had spent on his closets (he couldn’t remember how many houses he owned) full of suits.
We have a long history of criticizing (and critiquing) the wardrobes of first ladies, going back to Jackie Kennedy. When the media reported she was spending $30,000 year on clothes during her husband’s 1960 presidential campaign, she said, “I couldn’t spend that much even if I wore sable underwear.” (Although the infamous pink suit she wore that day in Dallas was reputed to have cost $800 to $1,000 in 1963 dollars.)
The positive result of the scrutiny over Jackie’s wardrobe expenses? She focused on American designers, a trend that continues to this day.
Let’s quit worrying about clothes and focus on issues instead.
Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.