By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Today all the talk’s about California GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s unscripted comments about incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer’s hairdo, while she was waiting to go on the air for a TV appearance. (I was on NPR’s Tell Me More today talking about the future of women in politics, and along with the many victories for GOP women in recent primaries, this subject came up.)
According to Politics Daily:
As her makeup was being applied, Fiorina was caught making fun Boxer's hairdo. Speaking to a person who remained off camera, Fiorina said, "Laura saw Barbara Boxer briefly on television today, and said what everyone says, God what is that hair." Fiorina then laughed and added, "Sooo yesterday."
Later, on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox Show, Fiorina refused to back down and made fun of her own short hair (she had lost it all after just coming through chemo):
FIORINA: Oh, you know, I was--I was quoting a friend of mine. My goodness, my hair's been talked about by a million people, you know? It sort of goes with the territory.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, OK...
FIORINA: Especially when you don't have any. As you remember, I started out with none.
It’s time to put this behind her. This is turning into way too much of a story. Columnist Ruth Marcus and Republican strategist Nicole Wallace have both called for Fiorina to apologize to Boxer, and I agree. This is an opportunity to be graceful, and she should take it. It’s fine to diffuse this with humor, as she’s done, but she needs to apologize too. Otherwise it turns a one-day blip into a two- or three-day story about women being catty. That’s unfair to the terrific women candidates out there who are not catty.
There’s a bigger problem here. It’s that there is a huge double standard when it comes to women and fashion. Very few men get comments on their hair, or the cut of their suit. But with women, as Fiorina herself said, it goes with the territory. For example, Time’s Jay Newton-Small wrote an opinion piece, “Another Winner on Tuesday: The Palin Endorsement,” which examines Sarah Palin’s endorsements in the recent string of primaries. But the story has a link embedded right in the middle of the political commentary, in bright red, so you can click on it: “See pictures of the fashion looks of Sarah Palin.”
Good grief. Can you imagine a political piece on health care reform that interrupts with a slide show labeled, “See pictures of the fashion looks of Harry Reid”?
Clearly women have to deal with this double standard as part of their decision to enter politics, which this year, more and more of them are choosing to do--despite side shows like this. Female candidates should rise above the double standard--not play into it and perpetuate the story, as Carly Fiorina is doing.