“I feel so relieved to be at the stage I’m at in my life right now. Because you know if I want to wear my glasses I’m wearing my glasses. If I want to wear my hair back I’m pulling my hair back. You know at some point it’s just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention. And if others want to worry about it, I let them do the worrying for a change” – Secretary Hillary Clinton in an interview with CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty
CLINTON’S STYLE QUAKE has shifted the American universe and provided yet another Hillary Effect moment, one that rattled the confines of post-feminism and the concept of raw power among girls. There is no woman on planet earth who could cheerfully, defiantly and unflinchingly remove the stigma of a working woman’s persona from being tied to glam duty more thoroughly.
Here’s the hub of it. Women being able to choose their look, without expectations of false eyelashes and mandatory movie-esque makeup, when sometimes less of all of it is who she is. Rachel Maddow wouldn’t wear Gayle King’s high heels and bright hues, but the style Maddow opts for works for her, same for King.
Drudge began the latest conversation with the “Hillary Au Naturale” headline (seen below), which Fox News and others picked up (see above), launching another salvo in the war on women, this one targeting our looks and age as vulnerabilities. Expectations that because a female doesn’t appear dolled up it’s worthy of headline news instead of a deliberate decision because it suits her.
Teens and twenty-somethings get away with a scrubbed face, but aging shouldn’t relegate us all to chasing the vanity mirror unless we want to.
It follows what Drudge did when Clinton was a presidential candidate, which is covered in my book, with both he and Rush Limbaugh getting the scrutiny they deserve. Flashing back on the event when candidate Clinton was eviscerated on Drudge for a picture showing her natural wrinkles, which comes with age regardless of gender. Progressive new media blogs were also guilty of posting unflattering pictures of Clinton on purpose, but none came close to the Drudge-Rush treatment. As the Kathleen Hall Jamieson of Annenberg Public Policy Center relayed to Bill Moyers in 2007, negative images are purposefully used in politics to make the onlooker feel bad about a politician. However, when it’s done to a woman through highlighting her age it hits our juvenile nation in its solar plexus, though the air it knocks out is that of the woman being targeted, while telling other femmes to stay in the beauty box.
When Rush picked up on the Drudge wrinkle photo back during the ’08 race, he used his signature shrill sexism for the occasion.
“Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she’s getting older, because it will impact poll numbers. It will impact perceptions.” – Rush Limbaugh (December 2007, source: The Hillary Effect)
“America loses interest in you,” Rush opined.
Today, where Hillary is concerned, nothing could be further from the truth.
Virginia Clinton Kelly, William Jefferson Clinton’s late mother, had moments of pause upon meeting Hillary Rodham, because Mrs. Kelly was a full makeup kind of girl. Hillary wasn’t. She now isn’t again, at least at times.
Just be careful when trying this if you’re plodding up the professional ladder, because we all know how long it took Hillary to ascend and be accepted, what it cost, and people still have expectations. But the Hillary Effect just might make it easier to decide to be different.
That Drudge got creamed this time ’round from all quarters was a thing of beauty to watch. That Clinton gave him the middle finger with a casual smile in an interview while she was on yet another grueling globetrotting tour as America’s chief diplomat was a fitting and long overdue f-you.
We’ve come a long way from ABC’s headline in 2007 asking “Is It Sexist to Discuss Hillary’s Wrinkles?” to articles in the Washington Post defending her, to Jezebel’s Hillary “GIVES ZERO FUCKS” graphic.
But that won’t stop outlets like the UK Daily Mail from doing the misogynistic deep dive on “Make-up free Clinton shows the strain of her busy travel schedule,” complete with pictorial walk-through over the last months and years meant to prove she’s worse for wear.
There’s not one woman who doesn’t know what the “tired” trap means. It means she can’t take the heat, because she looks like she’s melted without makeup. The girl’s not up to it. It’s the ultimate sexist slap driven into our confidence that we can’t matter once we’re beyond youth and motherhood, because of our mind alone. That the way we think isn’t actually a huge part of our beauty, with the confidence to live originally making us hotter with age, because the fact is it does.
The people I’ve talked with who know Secretary Clinton have said she is exhausted and looks forward to a long holiday and rest, which has been reported in every outlet you can name; some supporters puzzled over her relaxed hair and makeup. It’s not for everyone and it shouldn’t have to be. You fly 700,000 miles doing a pressure cooker job and see how you feel about every two to three weeks keeping a short haircut maintained and daily sculpted, highlights regularly, the mask of cosmetics every morning, even when you’ve had little sleep, it’s hot as hell where you are and you couldn’t name where that is without an aide. I’m not saying Clinton can’t name it, but I’ve had jet lag on puny little holiday trips, so I can’t imagine reality with her itinerary.
America is an airbrush nation.
When the first HD TV blasted across the country we all got a look at the infotainment pundits and talking heads who shouldn’t be blamed if they started looking for plastic surgeons, dermatologists, or doctors who practice laser therapy, women in particular.
Look at the films and the few female actresses who continue to work over 40.
It’s a testament to the women in film and television who have stood up and shown what they look like before they get their glamour on. KLG and Hoda did it, Natalie Morales and Meredith Vieira, too. Trendy magazines have done pictorials of actresses without makeup, with People the latest, which included Jessica Paré, who plays Don Draper’s wife on “Mad Men.” Her freckles are fabulous. In the Golden Age of Hollywood that fact would have been hidden on pain of the publicist’s life. A way to an Oscar is also seen through beauties going beastly who are considered brave. Remember Charlize Theron in “Monster”?
But not everyone is a Hollywood actress, let alone the brilliant Hillary Rodham Clinton, who’s seen more pressure come her way on looks than most and finally rejected the reviews outright.
Could yet another part of the glass ceiling have cracked when Hillary “au naturale” hit the headlines this time? Traditional and new media, as well as most of television, minus misogynist central on the traditional right, didn’t just shrug, but said you look good to us, Hillary.
Taking the cue from Secretary Clinton, we backed her up and because of it some of us over 40 or 50 and beyond, took note. A space had been made to breathe. A moment crafted where the most admired American female leader said, whether I have makeup on or not in the middle of a work day “it’s just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention.” Let others worry about the trivial, I’m helping run the world, or my family while juggling a job, or running a small business.
As a girl who chose the pageant system to help pay for college, did the national commercial and Broadway babe thing where talent and looks combined made a difference, then on from there to eventually write about things that matter, all the while trading on talent and face to help get in doors or in a talking head chair to help pitch my points, I’m now at an age where it takes a lot more work for a lot less bang for my MAC buck. Sometimes I enjoy the paint and sometimes not, but I never go public in my work without it.
Let’s hope Hillary cracking the makeup ceiling shatters convention.
I’m never going to forget it and am grateful for it.