To: Huffington Post, Jamie Feldman (Associate Style Editor)
re: Stylish sexism
In the first place: Why do I care?
The Huffington Post sidebar is, of course, notorious; I can discover all manner of fascinating insights about how you think of your readers, because, you know, some of us just so want to know about Martha Stewart’s sex life, or what slits were too high for comfort. Something about cherries, and something about sex toys; yeah, that was the sort of moment I would never experience without the Huffington Post.
It is not so much a question of why I care about the notoriously obnoxious lack of decent character shown by the HuffPo sidebar; it is, after all, merely software.
But the question persists why I care what Kate Middleton wore yesterday. Nor was this merely in the sidebar; someone chose to put the article about the Duchess of Cambridge being an “outfit repeater” on the front page of the Huffington Post.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge took her new haircut out to a holiday party at the London’s Anna Freud center Monday, a charity she has visited before as part of her ongoing work for children’s mental health.
Dressed for the holidays, Kate opted for an all-red Alexander McQueen outfit that she has worn not once but twice before
Perhaps Jamie Feldman, associate style editor for HuffPo, might explain if this is one of those moments in which I am suppsoed to squee! uncontrollably.
Fall to my knees in prayer? How about just shake my head sadly?
“Outfit Repeater”? Really? Yeah, okay, I can shake my head sadly at that.
It occurs to me to wonder who the audience is on this one, because, really, the one group it can’t be is women.
Maybe you think you’re marketing to gay men? I mean, okay, sure, whatever, but I can tell you that if I care what the Duchess of Cambridge is wearing it’s because I want that outfit, and would wear it many times. The question of whether she has worn it (gasp) three times (squee!) really doesn’t touch my inner fashionista.
Catherine Pearson included among her list of “24 Times Sexism Was Very, Very Real In 2015” episodes of slut-shaming for style, photoshopping for fat-shame, Hillary Clinton’s “likeability” issue―though, apparently, complaining about pantsuits is out of vogue this season … so far―body-shaming of a professional athlete whose condition does not comport to phallic-driven standards of femininity, and a catcalling software demo from the largest corporation on the planet. These are important issues, as I understand it. This is a year in which it seems many women stood to assert their own selves, not to be shamed for being overweight, or not smiling enough, or wearing the wrong clothes.
Style shaming? Really? I mean, come on, really?
Pearson’s subsequent list, “15 Times Famous Women Shut Down Sexist Bullsh*t In 2015” notes gendertyping in Hollywood, and maybe we might offer a comparison. After all, Kate Middleton might have married into British royalty, but Jennifer Lawrence, for instance, counts as Hollywood royalty, these days, and, you know, if we’re going to cheer her retort to gendertyping expectations in Tinseltown, why should we support cookie-cutter gendertyping at Buckingham?
Because as Pearson’s latter reminds, the photoshopping issue isn’t simply limited to shamers flying banners like “Project Harpoon” in order to menace people whose body shapes the group’s supporters disdain; apparently the world’s most photogenic models also need to be digitally perfected, because, you know, if there’s one thing a girl just can’t ever be, it’s good enough.
How about the professional athlete again? Not only are her biceps not properly ladylike, she also doesn’t smile enough.
Rowan Blanchard doesn’t smile enough, either; or so I hear.
Jennifer Aniston and Julianne Moore refused to show off their fingernails and jewelry? What are we supposed to think of that sort of unfeminine behavior?
In truth, while I might just be a queer dude out in the world somewhere, I honestly don’t need Catherine Pearson or anyone else to tell me that it’s going on in general; my actual job description is, “father”, and to what degree it matters on this occasion, the subclassification is, “of a daughter”.
But it is also true that when I want to know what women think, I ask women. To wit, I might be well aware of and disgusted by the idea that women need to be adorable at all times, but, you know, I’m just this queer dude, so when Jennifer Lawrence tells me a thing or two about how this feels, yes, it is easy enough to set aside my disdain for her body of work long enough to pay attention. Serena Williams? It doesn’t matter that she can kick my ass; I shouldn’t need that kind of threat in order to pay attention.
Honestly, some things are pretty clear to me. But, again, I’m just this dude, you know? Still, it’s called The Huffington Post, and the name in the masthead is a woman’s. Jamie Feldman is a woman. At the very least, everyone was decent enough to file this under “Style” instead of on the godawfully patronizing Huffington Post Women page. Still, though, what am I missing?
Why do I care … no, wait: Why does anybody care whether or not the Duchess of Cambridge is an “outfit repeater”?
And here’s the catch: Can someone please explain this to me without relying on fashion and style as a stereotypical trait of women’s lives and concerns?
Maybe I’m wrong, but the question does occur to me. And it only does at all because for whatever reason, I have it in my head that this is the twenty-first century, and we’re supposed to be done with scandalizing women’s attire this way.
Maybe next HuffPo can enlist Gloria Steinem to pen an op-ed describing the horror and shame she felt on some occasion that she saw a picture of Grace Kelly and realized they both existed simultaneously on the same planet while wearing matching outfits.
No, really. This one seems pretty obvious to me. Then again, I’m just this dude, you know?
Feldman, Jamie. “The Duchess Of Cambridge Really Loves This Red McQueen Suit”. The Huffington Post. 15 December 2015;.
Pearson, Catherine. “15 Times Famous Women Shut Down Sexist Bullsh*t In 2015”. The Huffington Post. 14 December 2015.
—————. “24 Times Sexism Was Very, Very Real In 2015”. The Huffington Post. 9 December 2015.