A Matter of National Importance: Cleavage

Hillary is a controversial figure. Has been for a very, very long time. She has her fair share of people who “can’t stand her,” and I’ve always been curious to hear why. Is it her persona? Is it her past? Is she too strong? Is she too weak? Should she be held accountable for Bill’s infidelity, or at least for standing by him? Should she be held accountable for how heavily he campaigns for her?

It’s hard for people to put into words. Even some in her own party see her as a negative presence. Clinton and Obama are neck and neck in the majority of key issues, yet he’s the golden boy who will bring about change (don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a serious politi-crush on Barrack), and she’s a shrew.

What gives?

Stanley Fisk seemed to have the same idea when he wrote his piece “All You Need is Hate” in the New York Times this morning.

Respected political commentators devote precious network time to deep analyses of her laugh. Everyone blames her for what her husband does or for what he doesn’t do. (This is what the compound “Billary” is all about.) If she answers questions aggressively, she is shrill. If she moderates her tone, she’s just play-acting. If she cries, she’s faking. If she doesn’t, she’s too masculine. If she dresses conservatively, she’s dowdy. If she doesn’t, she’s inappropriately provocative.

That last point brought up a memory of reading the Washington Post in July, when Pulitzer-winner Robin Givhan wrote a piece about this shocking little number, and why it was inappropriate.


Not so long ago, Jacqui Smith, the new British home secretary, spoke before the House of Commons showing far more cleavage than Clinton. If Clinton’s was a teasing display, then Smith’s was a full-fledged come-on. But somehow it wasn’t as unnerving. Perhaps that’s because Smith’s cleavage seemed to be presented so forthrightly. Smith’s fitted jacket and her dramatic necklace combined to draw the eye directly to her bosom. There they were . . . all part of a bold, confident style package.

With Clinton, there was the sense that you were catching a surreptitious glimpse at something private. You were intruding — being a voyeur. Showing cleavage is a request to be engaged in a particular way. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a woman is asking to be objectified, but it does suggest a certain confidence and physical ease. It means that a woman is content being perceived as a sexual person in addition to being seen as someone who is intelligent, authoritative, witty and whatever else might define her personality. It also means that she feels that all those other characteristics are so apparent and undeniable, that they will not be overshadowed.

To display cleavage in a setting that does not involve cocktails and hors d’oeuvres is a provocation. It requires that a woman be utterly at ease in her skin, coolly confident about her appearance, unflinching about her sense of style. Any hint of ambivalence makes everyone uncomfortable. And in matters of style, Clinton is as noncommittal as ever.

My first reaction to the above was, “Are you serious?” Would she report the same way on a man’s chest hair or the bulge in his pants? Seems a bit unbalanced. Maybe if Hillary had shown up that day in something unquestionably provocative, she would deserve such attention. But Givhan isn’t saying it’s inappropriate for a woman to show similar cleavage on the Senate floor. She’s saying it is inappropriate for Clinton to do so.

As insulting as this idea may be (and it was PLENTY insulting to Clinton’s people), one has to wonder how much attention would be paid to such matters were the first female president of the US to be elected this November. She’s already analyzed and dissected in every action she takes. If you listened to Maureen Dowd long enough, Hillary’s reaction to Barrack Obama touching her arm in public would be enough of a plot to carry a daytime soap opera.

I already feel for her. And though I know you could sooner hold back the tide than keep people from commenting on inane, arbitrary points in a public figure’s life, I have to say it.

Lay off the woman, already.

(Photo taken from The Washington Post)



Filed under Sight

2 responses to “A Matter of National Importance: Cleavage

  1. Matt

    I say make it hell on her. It’s a mere taste of what her future job requires.

  2. Matt

    I say lay off Hillary!

    My competing sides must weigh in.

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