Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tailor-Made Double Standards Cross Gender Lines

CNN's Campbell Brown is not pleased about what she calls "sniping" about clothes:

I don't have a problem with Campbell Brown's argument that there is a double standard whereby men are judged less for their appearance and clothing than are women. I think that the double standard is less severe in the business world outside of the visual and entertainment media than it was say in the 1980s.

However, the double standards cut both ways. At last Tuesday's Metro Council meeting, Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors had what looked like a dark jacket with bright flower patterns on it. I remember seeing the previous Vice Mayor, Howard Gentry, wear clothing with flower patterns all of one time, when he wore a Hawaiian shirt to Shakespeare in Centennial Park one summer. Women have latitude to go more garish in their business dress (also different than the 1980s when professional women's suits seemed to resemble men's suits--remember Lilith from Cheers?) than do men, assuming the latter desire to be taken seriously. Howard Gentry could have never gotten away with wearing a Hawaiian shirt during a Metro Council meeting, but Diane Neighbors is relatively free to wear bright floral patterns.

I'm not complaining about that double standard, but at the same time that Campbell Brown wants me to remember the double standard with regard to strictures of appearance (which are probably even more strict for the insulated NYC media) I think we should also keep in mind the wider latitude in general that women are given in terms of color and decoration to garb that men are not allowed.

Either way, there's no excuse for spending $150,000 for clothes for a woman who claims to be from among the rest of us. The rest of us rarely if ever go to Neiman Marcus. So, Campbell Brown's point is misdirected at those who are not focused on appearance. I don't consider Sarah Palin's appearance the point of this story. And I don't question the Republicans' right to spend their own money. I question their savvy and their consistency in hard economic times when they say they claim to identify with everywoman and in the face of news that they dropped $150,000 on Palin's clothes and $8,700 on John McCain's make-up.

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