Sunday, May 23, 2010

Black underpinnings

That's not a reference to any subjectified opinions about her future Supreme Court decisions, either.

U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill, doing the customary meet-and-greet with the senators who will decide her fate as a Supreme Court nominee. Whether Kagan leans left or right in her judicial demeanor is for court observers to debate. But in matters of style, she is unabashedly conservative.

... Kagan took the anti-style offensive several steps further. She put on rouge and lipstick for the formal White House announcement of her nomination, but mostly she embraced dowdy as a mark of brainpower. She walked with authority and stood up straight during her visits to the Hill, but once seated and settled during audiences with senators, she didn't bother maintaining an image of poised perfection. She sat hunched over. She sat with her legs ajar.

Kagan made her debut as a U.S. Supreme Court nominee dressed in a hip-length emerald-green jacket, black underpinnings, sheer black hosiery, sturdy black pumps, a strand of pearls and matching earrings. Her style was tidy and conservative but with a generous sprinkling of frumpiness of the sort that federal Washington can't resist -- at least when in front of a camera's intruding lens. 

Even for the Fashion and Style section this is a truly offensive, ridiculously sexist article. Did I just miss the media vetting of John Roberts' and Sam Alito's underwear? The scrutiny of their leg position while sitting?

Ohhhhh yeah, it's about the all important lesbian question.

Tied up in the assessment of style -- Kagan's or anyone else's -- is the awkward, fumbling attempt to suss out precisely who a person is. For Kagan, that means folks are using fashion as a limited tool for making sense of her sexual orientation (Well, she's 50, a bit plain and never married!) and then going on to the larger question of whether being gay or not matters on the high court. (Doesn't everything matter -- including whether one has a small-town background or an inner-city one -- in how one interprets the world?)

So the chatter on the Internet and in the coffee shops, turns to the lesbian archetypes: the Birkenstock-wearing, crunchy granola womyn; the short-haired, androgynous type; and the glamorous, lipstick-wearing Portia de Rossi girl. What does Kagan's short hair mean? Or the fact that she wears makeup?

I have plenty of issues with Kagan's potential views as a SCOTUS justice, but this article just should never have been written, much less published by the Washington Post. Even (especially?) in the Society section.

Update: Maybe Robin Givhan, the author of the Washington Post piece excerpted above, really is a misogynist.

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