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Gender + Sexuality

Who Called the Political Fashion Police?

Shocked by pols sans shirts or thigh-high boots? Get over it!

By Dorothy Woodend 6 Feb 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Dorothy Woodend is The Tyee’s culture editor. Reach her here.

There’s a new threat to contemporary society. It’s not global warming, mass extinction, or nuclear annihilation.

It’s thigh-high boots.

When U.S. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema recently wore a pair of boots to work, one would’ve thought Armageddon was nigh. American conservatives lost their tiny minds and went apoplectic, demanding that Sinema be branded with a scarlet S, locked in the stocks and paddled in the village square.

The reaction was so cartoonish in its schoolmarm prurience that it prompted an equally vociferous response from some on the left side of the House, who erupted that Sinema should not be slut-shamed by men in suits that were fashionable when Eisenhower was in power.

It didn’t matter. Women could do no right, whether they wore a plain black jacket or a flowered dress. Too slutty, too frumpy, too much, too female. The attention being paid to hemlines, hoop earrings and lipstick is sometimes funny, sometimes infuriating, but also nothing new.

Sinema and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are not the first female politicians to be dragged over the sartorial coals. Hillary Clinton got it for wearing pantsuits, Michelle Obama for her bare arms, and even the former president himself for wearing a tan suit. Until as recently as 1993, women were not allowed to wear pants on the U.S. Senate floor.

So it was a sight to see a pack of Democratic congresswomen marching en masse into the State of the Union address Tuesday night, wearing all-white pantsuits, dresses and blazers like a bunch of avenging angels.

The decision to wear white was meant as a nod to the suffragettes of old, but the symbolism cut deeper than that. It looked like dark versus light, old versus new — the divisions rendered in graphic fashion.

Clear as semaphore and loud as a starter’s pistol, women were pissed off and united. It was a great display of feminine style against masculine control, despite what any political fashion police might say.

Of course, men are not always off the hook with their sartorial choices. In Canada, male politicians have been subjected to ridicule if they display any tendencies towards peacocking.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, touted as the nation’s most fashionable politician, has been celebrated for his sense of style. But the man’s tastes have also made him something of a target.

As The Tyee reported Tuesday, a fake ad intended to convince folks that Singh’s interest in luxury went beyond slick suits and flashy ties and into the realm of multimillion-dollar mansions popped up on several credible news websites.

And when Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stripped down to his proverbial gaunch, he had his ass handed to him to by critics. I say let the man be judged on the content of his policy, not his tendencies to run around in shortie-shorts.

No politician is truly immune to this form of dressing down. For example, what’s a betrothed Elizabeth May to do? The Green leader’s wedding dress had better be stitched by green fairies from eco-friendly, biodegradable plastic bags, or by golly there’s gonna be hell to pay!

But as fashion bloggers continue to offer opinions about the state of undress, redress, and address, one thing becomes clear. There is something new afoot.

Young women are finally entering the halls of power, bringing with them all the things that women like, including killer boots, red lipstick and complicated skin-care routines. It’s little wonder the old guard is twitching in its bespoke brogues. It’s a changing of the guard, and these new power dressers are damn sexy.

The uniforms of power have been, well, quite uniform for a very long time. Largely male in largely suits. But the new disruptors of whatever gender, polka-dotted and gingham-ed, with checkered pasts and colourful histories, are finally taking hold. Hats off to them.  [Tyee]

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