The Political Sphere is No Place For the Fashion Police

Sarah Arment

“She walks in front of me. And believe me, I wasn't impressed.” Believe it or not, these words weren’t posted by mean girls on Twitter. These insults were uttered by a powerful politician about another powerful politician. The culprit was Donald Trump and the recipient was Hillary Clinton. Clinton is a highly accomplished woman, with many accolades and awards. She is an alum of Wellesley College and Yale Law School, she served as the first female senator of New York, and was Secretary of State under the Obama Administration. Yet, Clinton continues to be diminished and reduced to her appearance and wardrobe choices. Hillary Clinton is not the first smart, educated and powerful woman living in the limelight to be blatantly disrespected based on something as vapid as her appearance; she is just one of many accomplished, professional women who have been bashed for their looks.

President Trump, a repeat offender, also had harsh things to say about the appearance of former rival Carly Fiorina, who after being hired as Hewlett-Packard's CEO, was the first woman to take control of a Fortune 100 company. Trump quipped, "Look at that face, would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really folks, come on. Are we serious?"

In the same cruel vein, our former first lady Michelle Obama, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School and former Associate Dean of Student Services at the prestigious University of Chicago, has been called “an ape in heels,” has been ripped for wearing shorts and sleeveless tops, for being overweight and for having no class. These are only a few examples pulled from a long list of instances, where not only the public but respected political officials, have torn her apart with rude and unsubstantial comments.

Her own daughters, both polite and smart young women, have been called out on their clothing choices as well, notably by GOP staffer Elizabeth Lauten. Lauten wrote in a Facebook post telling them to “try showing a little class,” and to “dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar.” Lauten later resigned.

All of these women have so much more than their looks and the clothes they wear. By all means, criticize them on their policies and business practices. Judge them on their ideals and values or their published writing and public statements. Critique the stances and actions they take. Reducing them solely to the way they look sends a dangerous message — that a woman’s appearance is more important than her character.

Of course, this rule doesn’t apply to men. Male politicians can get away with wearing the same out of fashion, ill-fitting suit and tie they wear every day. They won’t be called sloppy or old, or be accused of not caring enough about their appearance. This double standard isn’t fair and inhibits women from receiving the same professional treatment as their male counterparts. Women are scorned for being too invested in the way they look—being called high maintenance and shallow—yet are criticized equally if they don’t live up to society's unachievable standard of attractiveness. For women, it’s impossible to win.