Does clothing really make the (wo)man?
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to go to a journalism conference in Nashville. I was told that I needed to look nice and professional.
Problem is I didn’t have a clue what that meant. For a man, the answer is easy. A suit. Even a button-up shirt and slacks. But as a woman, what would I wear?
I went on a search for anything business-like I could find. I don’t own a suit or anything that would be appropriate for taking on Perry Mason in a court of law. After much searching, I finally realized I wasn’t going to be able to find something perfect and affordable. I settled on a simple black dress and heels.
Honestly, I felt silly for worrying about it. My level of professionalism wouldn’t be judged by my wearing a blouse or a blazer.
The clothing choices of females seems to be an easy target, errr, topic for some critics. In 2007, when then-Senator Hillary Clinton appeared before Congress with just the smallest amount of cleavage, she was called out on it by a reporter and others.
I also heard derogatory comments directed toward First Lady Michelle Obama because she wore sleeveless dresses at official functions. It was simply scandalous she was showing off her arms. I thought it was ridiculous, especially when her arms look as awesome as they do.
Now Paula Broadwell, the lady in question in the sex scandal/downfall of Gen. David Petraeus, is under fire because of her clothing choices. Washington Post opinion writer Ruth Marcus has gone to print more than once chastising Broadwell for her clothing options.
From a Nov. 11 column: “We don’t know who seduced whom, but history suggests that the way to a man’s heart is through his ego. History further suggests that, well let’s call it ego, tends to trump intelligence when sex is involved. Beware the woman who goes on ‘The Daily Show’ wearing a black silk halter top and flaunting her toned triceps. Men should know better, but, it seems, they rarely do.”
Not all readers took kindly to Marcus’ words. One letter to the editor wrote, in part: “Why, exactly, should we ‘beware’ such women? Are black silk halter tops the mark of some sort of vindictive, national security-threatening evildoer? Or was Marcus resorting to stereotypes?”
The top in question Broadwell wore on the show was a halter top. One that covered her chest right up to the neck and had ruffles covering the chest. She did, though, show off shoulders and arms. So what?
Marcus defended her comments saying that Broadwell has a history of wearing such outfits, going so far as to say, “So when Broadwell shows up — repeatedly — in skimpy, form-fitting, attention-grabbing outfits, she is making a fashion statement: Look at me! Pay attention to my body!”
Wearing something form-fitting is not an invitation. The top Broadwell wore on “The Daily Show” was not skimpy. Marcus described it as “black and silky and flouncy and very, very arm-baring” and not what a mother would advise wearing on national TV.
One last comment from Marcus: “Of course Petraeus is responsible for his misconduct; my point was that he should have looked at her and known better. But she should have known better, too. ... We are responsible, however, for the way in which we present ourselves publicly. We are asking for sexist treatment when we dress like sex objects.”
That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Ladies, think of a sexy leading man. It could be Sean Connery, Cary Grant, Hugh Jackman or Channing Tatum. With the first two, I’ll bet a dollar that you pictured them in a suit, a la James Bond or well, any of Cary Grant’s roles. Fully dressed, and they’re still sexy as all get out. In that same era, you have regal female stars like Grace Kelly, who didn’t have to show any skin to be flawless and beautiful.
Yes, cleavage can be sexy as can a short skirt or even a baring of shoulders. But so can a three-piece suit or even a turtleneck. Sex appeal is based on a whole lot more than what you’re wearing. The first lady has worn shoulder-baring dresses and shirts as well. Is she trying to be a sex object, too, as Marcus implied of Broadwell?
Why is there still a double standard on clothing for the sexes? Admittedly, I went through it when I tried to find a suit so I could dress like a man at the journalism convention. I thought that would be most professional. I thought wrong.
Appearances are a scary, scary thing. A man with salt and pepper hair is considered distinguished. A woman is old. A man with a couple of extra pounds is just a healthy eater. A woman is fat. A man with a well-fit polo/shirt and slacks is well-built or toned. A woman is being slutty because she’s showing off her assets. In the 21st century women are still being judged by their appearance. When does it end?
I’m not saying Broadwell is innocent. She had an extra-marital affair, but so did Petraeus. Is he being raked over the coals for being the stereotypical guy who strayed with a much younger woman? I sure hope so. They both screwed up, and they’re both paying the price.
Amanda Greever is assistant managing editor at The Daily Times. She writes a weekly column in the Sunday Life section. She can be reached at 981-1161 or (email@example.com) Follow her on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com _editor.