SEXISM: SADLY, ALWAYS IN STYLE. Apparently it's time once again to over-analyze the fashion choices made by female members of Congress. At least this story appears, appropriately, in the Style section. (It's particularly maddening when the Times chooses to put basic coverage of women politicians in this section, as if they were still the "Women's Pages." Or when the paper chooses to cover women's fashion in the politics section.) But this is exasperating. We're STILL talking about what female politicians wear just as often as we talk about what they accomplish in the political arena?

Women in politics are still operating in a male world and don�t want to appear as lacking gravitas.

That's true. Men will get called out if they wear something totally inappropriate (see: Cheney's parka at the Holocaust remembrance ceremony), not really for simple fashion choices. It's easy for them (if they want) to avoid calling attention to their clothing. Women, on the other hand, are "marked" no matter what they choose to wear:

[Deborah] Tannen points that women are marked in other ways, too. Most notably by our appearance. We're marked if we wear a short skirt (floozy!), or if we wear a power suit (ballbuster!), if we wear our hair cropped short (dyke!) or if we get a giant perm (stupid secretary!). She notes that men can be marked by their clothing choices or titles, too. The difference is they have the option of going unmarked. That's a choice women never have.

So Nancy Pelosi wears a fashionable nipped-waist jacket, and she's marked as an effective political leader. Condoleezza Rice wears boots; she's marked as a dominatrix. Harriet Miers wears eyeliner; she's marked as begging for Bush's attention. And on and on. Men simply have to choose between a black, navy or gray suits and pick out a tie. And the color of their cravat rarely marks them as anything.

I realize that politicians are public figures, and so people are going to talk about every little choice they make. Including their clothes. But these stories are never about male politicians' physical appearance. So I give Pelosi and her staff props for refusing to talk to the Times for this sexist article.

--Ann Friedman

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