Last Sunday I blogged about an article in the Washington Post which analyzed the supposed fashion faux pas of Hillary Clinton showing her cleavage in a v-neck top on CSPAN-2. I also mentioned that another writer has referred to the wives of Republican candidates showing their cleavage. Today's Newsday has an op-ed, which earlier ran in the Washington Post, that critiques the Post article on Hillary's cleavage; the CNN web site also has a piece on how the Hillary Clinton campaign is using this same piece to drum up support.
The writer of the Newsday piece, Ruth Marcus, writes: "Might I suggest that sometimes a V-neck top is only a V-neck top? As a person of cleavage, I'd guess that Clinton's low-cut shirt simply reflected a few centimeters of sartorial miscalculation, not a deliberate fashion statement." But she thinks there is an "upside" to the attention Hillary gets for being a woman, namely, the extra attention. Clinton's self-created video at the YouTube debate ended with these words: ""Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman." Marcus calls this, namely Clinton's gender, a "selling point;" she writes, "even if she has to put up with more than her share of fashion advice along the way."
But is talking about cleavage really akin to "fashion advice" or something different?
The CNN piece ends with a similar positive tone, suggesting that the physical appearance of the male candidates is also analyzed by the media so focusing on Hillary's cleavage is nothing unique, and not so detrimental to her. The article ends: "But Clinton isn’t the only presidential candidate whose appearance has undergone scrutiny. Edwards’s pricey haircuts, Obama’s frequently ‘open collar’, Arizona Sen. John McCain’s V-neck sweaters, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s expensive make-up jobs have all been the subject of past media attention."
But really, there is a difference between writing about Clinton's cleavage, and writing about the fashion choices of the other candidates; one is focused on the physical body, and sexuality, the other on clothing. Hillary's detractors often negatively mention parts of Hillary's body, her thighs, or legs, for example; to my knowledge, no one has ever critiqued the bodies of the male candidates.
This isn't actually new. Does anyone remember the February 1993 cover of Spy magazine, from the time of the Bill Clinton inaugural, which featured a photoshopped image of a smiling Hillary's face on a "dominatrix's" body, a woman wearing a shiny black bra, a studded wrist collar and fishnet stockings, with a full view of her major cleavage? I doubt we'd ever see the equivalent images of any of the male candidates, photoshopped or not.
Come to think of it, even the Obama Girl videos, two to date, feature more of the naked bodies of the "Girl" than of the candidate she supposedly lusts after (there is that one shot of Obama's naked chest as he frolics in the surf). And, of course, that Hott4Hill video makes Hillary the lesbian target of the singer's affections.
To bring up Marie Antoinette again (see my post last week, and my article coming out in this Sunday's Chicago Tribune), the French Queen's critics did the same thing to her in their pamphlets: sexualize her body and at the same time, accuse her of being a lesbian. Anything to tamp down on her power.