Let Them Wear Valentino

Group News Blog, October 23, 2008
Sarah Palin looking understated in her now-famous $2500 Valentino silk jacket.
Photo NY Post, via Huffington Post.

The flap over Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe may seem like a petty thing to be paying attention to in the twilight hours of a 20-month campaign. Fashion, according to one view, is frippery — a parade of passing fancies without much in the way of meaning. Most of us can’t remember what we wore last Friday; and for most of us, it doesn’t really matter.

But, according to another view, clothes are a language as evocative and expressive and rich with symbolism as anything that comes out of our mouths. The choices we make about color, cut, and fabric speak volumes about who we are, what we value, where our heads are at, and what we aspire to. It’s natural that in a culture that has traditionally silenced women’s voices, the art of getting dressed would become the dominant way we tell our stories about who we are.

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Mother of the Year

Group News Blog, October 16, 2008

piperpalin22016: This photo was later discredited by Snopes. But the argument below still stands.

The provenance of the above photograph is unknown. It arrived in my mailbox this morning, shorn of context. (For all I know, Piper Palin’s face — and it is her face, I checked — was Photoshopped in there. Or maybe the extended finger was. Who knows?)

But this glaring little girl with her middle finger defiantly held aloft does hit a sore point with me — one I’ve been meaning to write about since the Palin nomination was first announced, but held off on because in backchannel discussions with several other bloggers (mostly women), my take on this just poured gasoline on some of the most vicious flame wars I’ve ever been embroiled in.

The argument was over whether or not it’s fair to consider Sarah Palin’s family in assessing her fitness for office. I think it is. And before you accuse me of rank sexism or focusing on things that don’t really matter to her performance on the job, please take a deep breath, step back, and let me explain where I’m coming from on this.

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Michelle Obama, Superstar

Group News Blog, August 26, 2008

photos by Evan Robinson


Monday night was the first time I’ve ever been on a convention floor. In some ways, it was very much what I expected — an explosion of light and noise and color as I came out of the tunnel onto the main floor; the constant low roar of conventioneers chatting, even as the speeches unwound on the dias in front of them; the dazzling stage set (and it is dazzling); and the speeches, which for the most part were vast wilted bouquets of the same florid rhetoric that’s been recycled (near as I can tell) for every convention since Andy Jackson was president.

Even Claire McCaskill spoke in cliches. Even Ted Kennedy, whose surprise visit found him looking astonishingly hale and hearty, couldn’t get away from the hoary old applause lines. Tom Harkin charmed the crowd briefly when he came out and spoke his first sentence in sign language: “I see so many people with disabilities here — we are so proud to have your support for Barack Obama for President.” (I probably would have been more impressed if I hadn’t been parked right at the feet of the full-time sign language translator at the time.) As speakers came and went, the energy level in the room stayed flat, the applause stayed sparse, and the din continued as if what was going on on the dias was a mere distraction from the real work.

The evening’s theme was “American Voices, American Values.” It was, as first convention nights usually are, the biographical moment where we meet the candidate — where he came from, the people who influenced him, the events that shaped him — and connect with all the ways in which his story is our story. This time, the program carried some extra freight, because the details of Obama’s story are the best antidote there is to the McCain campaign’s charges of “elitism.”

But even so, the going was slow and boggy….until there was Michelle.

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