I read an interesting article in the NYT the other day – aptly titled “purse politics.” In it is an exploration of female politicians and their bag choice. Though it pains me that the author of the piece called the use of a “purse boy” by women in politics a power/status symbol (why can’t aids just be called aides? And why don’t people call male legislators’ aides “purse boys”?), I still enjoyed the article, however predictable the content was.
While politics has come a long way from being a good ol’ boys’ club (the 113th congress boasts 20 female senators and 81 congresswomen), the women profiled emphasized that their purses serve a functional purpose, not an aesthetic one. “Appropriately modest” is the rule by which they shop.
Too flashy, and the question of the day can shift from a bill she hopes to push through to her style choices; the focus blurred. I am sure many of us recall an incident from 2ish years ago when Hillary Clinton retorted “would you ever ask a man that question?” when a reporter asked about her designer preference. The obvious answer is no, but that her response garnered laughter and not stern introspection is cause for concern (but kudos to Hillary for disarming a potentially hostile situation).
It’s far too easy for constituents and the media to cast politicians in traditional gender roles even though policymakers, by virtue of their interest in power play, are more alike than not. But for many, it’s more natural to think of gender norms as a duality: men must like sports and women must enjoy fashion (I realize I perpetuate this stereotype but then again I consider myself an embarrassing archetype: Short Asian Girl with an Affinity for Large Designer Bags). It’s as if we never evolved past the hunter-gatherer stage.
I don’t fault the NYT for writing a piece on female legislators, I don’t feel they are given enough media attention to begin with. I do wish, and I am sure female politicians feel this way, that the media, especially hard news outlets like the NYT, can report seriously on their agenda, and not on their appearance or accessories. They are, after all, not fashion trendsetters, but lawmakers.
And I should end this rant and go back to what I do better, which is to enable all of you to shop more (within our means, anyway).
Did I mention there’s a sale at the Limited (select dresses, jackets, and shoes are 30% off + use code TAKE10 for $10 off every $50 spent)?
The weekly shopping update will be posted tomorrow…the thing is Brobdingnagian (I love this word…any other Gulliver’s Travels fans out there?) this week so I had to trim it down substantially.