Related: Living, Social Issues, Women, Women's Leadership

Couture Wars

 
 

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Of all the mean, nasty, downright vicious personal attacks on Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor last week, the most insidious came not from one of those uptight guys parsing the meaning of a “wise Latina woman,” but rather, from another woman who is elected to absolutely nothing except the court of her own snarky opinions about what other people are wearing.   Robin Givhan’s column in the Washington Post on Judge Sotomayor’s clothing during the hearings is a new low for Givhan’s notorious skewer.

Sotomayor deftly handled the men — there was Senator Jeff Sessions pounding the desk as if to try to frighten the wise Latina judge back to the Bronx, and Senator Lindsay Graham brandishing anonymous letters from lawyers suggesting she has a “temperament problem;” he all but winked at the other boys as if to say, we all know what THAT really means.

But ignoring the taunts from boys is what successful women learn to do early in life.  It’s actually a fairly easy skill once you understand that the male taunts actually are an expression of fear of powerful females.

Those of us who specialize in women’s education know that, contrary to the popular wisdom that “you have to go to school with boys to learn to compete with men,” the real competition is not from the opposite sex at all.   Some of the most damaging growth-stunting head games are girl v. girl, with words as the weapons of choice.   Girls don’t taunt, they simply pass devastating judgment…. passing it all through the playground and school corridors and Facebook like a virus.

Damning Sotomayor’s choice of black skirts and jewel-tone jackets, Givhan whispered in a loud voice to the other girls on the playground, “She looked like a high school principal.”

OK!  Not only slamming the judge but women educators as well, Givhan manages to put a whole lot of us in the impossible position of either burning our entire wardrobe and going naked (hmmmm)…. or running out to — Saks?  Nordstrom?  certainly not Macy’s or J.C. Penney — and spending beaucoup bucks to satisfy her critical eye.    As someone whose morning choice is which pair of black slacks goes best with my infinite array of black shirts, knowing full well that any and all will be just right with my, yes, jewel-toned jackets, I find myself wondering how many dowdy girls Robin sliced and diced in her high school cafeteria.   (They made a movie about this called “Mean Girls” starring that icon of upright girlhood Lindsay Lohan.)  Hmm.  I wonder what Robin would think of the way I pair my Keens with those black slacks in the summer??

The worst thing that Givhan had to say about Sonia Sotomayor, who looked and acted perfectly respectable and professional all through the hearings, is that her choice of clothing was not feminine, that it was a throwback to the “dress for success” booklets of the 1980s.

Give it a rest, Robin!   Judge Sotomayor is a candidate for the United States Supreme Court, not a Vogue model.   Judge her on the seriousness of her mind, not the perfectly acceptable sedateness of her clothing.

Read Frank Rich’s excellent column on the Sotomayor hearings

Kathleen Parker on gender communications and the Sotomayor hearings

Maureen Dowd’s “Pharisees on the Potomac” on Senatorial hypocrisy

Jill Abramson “Women on the Verge of the Law”

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: president@trinitydc.edu