Dress-down of media merited regarding Hillary Clinton coverage

Austin American-Statesman, June 25, 2014

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So, here's a tip for reporters: no double standard. I don't want to hear about what Hillary wears unless she's making a speech barefoot or wearing her underwear outside her clothes. But since the Republicans are circling their wagons and shooting inward, do please tell me what she wears to her inauguration.

The line into BookPeople on June 20 snaked from West Sixth Street and Lamar Boulevard (in full sun) north to West Ninth Street, east to Henderson Street, then south back to West Sixth Street. I live a few hundred feet away and was on an errand when I saw it. I pulled my scooter over to ask what the line was about.

“We’re here for the Hillary Clinton book signing,” one of them said. “How cool,” I replied, making a mental note that folks were dressed in Austin casual — shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops — to visit with a former first lady, U.S. senator from New York, secretary of state and likely candidate for our next president. I love this town.

Next day, I was happily reading the predictably excellent narrative by Statesman political writer Jonathan Tilove, when the ax fell. “Clinton spent the first half-hour at the Long Center alone on the stage, dressed in black pants, a white shirt and pastel jacket…” Ouch.

What is it that compels journalists to report on what Hillary wears? It’s simply not news. Like fingernails on a blackboard, the national press has had a field day writing ad nauseam about her hair and what she wears (the pastel pantsuits) throughout her storied and impressive political career. Ink is not spilled on the attire of male politicians.

The day Hillary came to Austin, President Obama announced he was dispatching 300 military advisers to Iraq to try to shore up the embattled central government of the war-torn country. The print story did not start out, “Wearing his familiar dark suit, white shirt and blue tie, President Barack Obama announced today that …”

This reminds me of a story Libby Doggett told me in 1995 right after she and Lloyd (my former classmate) went to Washington when he was elected to succeed Jake Pickle to represent the then 10th Congressional District.

The spouse orientation had a session on how to dress in Washington, which included the 14-point rule. Washington women must not exceed 14 points when dressing. Black shoes? One point. Black patent leather shoes? Two points. Black patent leather shoes with buckle? Three points. Makeup? One point. Each piece of jewelry? One point. A hair accessory? One point. Belt? One point. Stockings? One point. Stockings with a pattern? Two points. And so on. If, god forbid, you exceeded 14 points, you must tone it down.

Had I been there I would’ve disgraced the 10th district by asking if earrings counted for one or two points. Or how they could give makeup only one point when there were so many degrees of it? And no point system for hairstyles?

Libby, who is now the deputy assistant secretary of Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education, left the session early. “People thought I was leaving in protest, but I wasn’t; Lloyd and I had an appointment with a realtor to look at a place to live.” she said. “I was a little disgusted, as I’m sure the one or two male spouses were, but more than anything I was amazed and amused.”

So, here’s a tip for reporters: no double standard. I don’t want to hear about what Hillary wears unless she’s making a speech barefoot or wearing her underwear outside her clothes. But since the Republicans are circling their wagons and shooting inward, do please tell me what she wears to her inauguration.

Toni Inglis, MSN, RN, CNS, FAAN, is a lifelong Austin resident and retired editor and neonatal intensive care nurse. She writes a monthly opinion column for the Austin American-Statesman editorial page.