Women Politicians and the F-word: Why Image Gets So Much Attention

hillary on vogue

Hillary Clinton was the first First Lady ever to appear on the cover of Vogue, but she cancelled a scheduled cover shoot with the same magazine as a presidential candidate.  Her campaign told Vogue editor Anna Wintour that Senator Clinton and her staff were concerned that if she appeared in the fashion magazine she would appear too feminine.  Wintour wrote a scathing note in the February issue of Vogue questioning why Clinton decided to “steer clear of our pages at this point in her campaign for fear of looking too feminine” noting that in 2008 one would think that women have come too far to worry that appearing too feminine would undermine their power.    While Hillary Clinton shied away from being a cover girl, then candidate Barack Obama not only appeared on the cover of Men’s Vogue, he also graced the cover of GQ, People, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Ebony and Vibe.  It was difficult to go pass a magazine stand without seeing Obama’s dazzling smile gracing the cover.   This scenario captures one of the challenges of image that women politician’s face and it is the subject of an interesting and fun book filled with photos of women politicians from around the globe, Power Dressing:  First Ladies, Women Politics & Fashion.  Though the book offers an interesting history of fashion for women leaders that dates back to c.1479, it is more of a guilty pleasure type book that is a cut above the “who wore it best” column in US Weekly than a historical account of women, image and politics . Still, if you like women, history, politics and fashion, you’ll find something in it to enjoy.  Of course a two page spread is devoted to the changing hairstyles of Hillary Clinton (no surprise there), but photos of Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev’s look-alike wardrobes brought back memories of their frosty relationship.  Written by Robb Young,  a London-based contributing fashion journalist, the book demonstrates the interest in women leader’s fashion that as a global phenomenon.  The book includes a several first ladies, governors as well as vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and a host of other women political figures.  It details the fashion choices (and sometimes foibles) of women in  more than thirty countries.  I’ll admit it:  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who loves women, fashion, politics and the obsession that we have with the combination.  After reading the book I started to get a more global perspective of women’s fashion and it made me more convinced than ever that we will likely make less out of the appearance of women candidates when we get more of them.  And as long as their views and voices are not quieted by noise about what their wearing and the style of their hair, or what Marshall McLuhan predicted:  “Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery” then I don’t see the harm in our interest in the fashion of our political women. When we move from the image and get a little imagination about the role of women in government we will likely move from wondering what works for women and simply enjoy the vive la difference of the varying looks that many different women politicians will bring.



7 Responses to “Women Politicians and the F-word: Why Image Gets So Much Attention”

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