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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Are Clothes More Important Than Intellect?

Have you heard the news? Michelle Obama wore shorts! The world is coming to an end!

Apparently Michelle Obama wore shorts (of a modest length) while on vacation at the Grand Canyon. Why am I talking about this, you ask? Well, I'm talking about it because it seems to have been deemed newsworthy.

Is it really that big of a deal that Michelle Obama was wearing shorts? Especially considering they were on the Grand 106 degree heat.

I'd like to say the reporting on this is a result of a slow news day. But even then, it's not really worth talking about. So why does the media think it is their responsibility to comment on Michelle Obama's inconsequential fashion decisions? I can kind of understand a commentary on a decision to wear shorts if it was to a political function or something, but on vacation...really?

The Huffington Post had a poll asking if Michelle Obama has "the right to bare legs" (via Jezebel). Most people in the poll said yes, but does this question even warrant a poll? And even the phrasing of the question: the right to bare legs. I'm pretty sure she has the right to wear whatever she wants.

It is pretty disrespectful to comment on Michelle Obama's fashion decisions (especially such inconsequential ones) instead of the intellectual weight that she adds to the White House and politics. By commenting on her fashion, the media is saying that she doesn't really have anything to add to the equation other than just looking pretty while standing next to her powerful husband. And do we hear anything about what Barack Obama was wearing? He was probably wearing shorts too, but apparently his legs aren't as important as his wife's.

A very similar thing happened during the 2008 presidential campaign. Many media outlets devoted a lot of attention to Hillary Clinton's pant suits and cleavage. Did these media outlets analyze the fashion decisions of Obama, McCain, or any of the other male candidates? Not really. So why is it so important to consider what Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama wears? It's just a way to draw attention away from the actual issues at hand and discredit the intellectual assets of the person at hand.

By focusing on the wardrobe of Michelle Obama (and this is not the first time that her outfits have been the subject of news), the media is saying that she has very little else to offer besides her looks and great fashion choices. Aren't we pass the point where First Ladies (and wives/girlfriends/partners in general) are only there to look pretty? First Ladies have always contributed to the politics of their presidential husbands and they have evolved into a political entity in and of themselves. It's about time that we stop look at how attractive they are, what they wear, etc. and spend more time focusing on the intellectual and politics of that person.

The focus on clothing instead of intellect is just another silencing technique used against women, particularly smart, powerful women. Like I said, focusing on clothing places the value of a person on their looks instead of their intellectual possibilities. The media is scared that women might actually have something worthy to say that they instead focus on inconsequential things about their appearance to take the attention away from what they might say.

Further Reading:
First lady's shorts draing long, hard, looks [Today Show]


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