Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

‘You’ve Got Hate!’ What Not to Wear Edition

The consensus appears to be that playing fashion critic is not my strong suit.

(Courtesy Jamison Foser)

(Courtesy Jamison Foser)

A recent 93-word intrusion into Federal Reserve nominee Janet L. Yellen’s wardrobe has spawned pages and pages of unbridled outrage, prompting feminists, economists and all-around pragmatists to flood comment boards and social-media feeds with burning questions about this publication’s sudden interest in sartorial decision-making.

Where is the blistering assault on President Barack Obama’s strict rotation of blue or gray suits, some wondered. Why no exposés about current Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s penchant for Jos. A. Bank wear, prodded others. Hell, when have you ever taken note of a man’s appearance? (Oh, let’s see, just in the recent past there were musings about South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford’s shorts, North Carolina Republican Rep. Howard Coble’s blazer and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s sleeveless gear.)

Then, of course, there were the personal attacks.

Outraged peers and readers alike urged me to “suck a fat one” for polluting the politisphere with “Breitbart-level juvenile” “garbage” I presumably vomited onto my keyboard because I am “obviously a sexist douchebag.”

“Are you Claudia from the Babysitters Club, determined to never wear the same outfit? Do you burn your clothes the minute you take them off?” demanded one email interrogator. (No clue. Never read that series.)

“How would you like comments on your heritage or weight being relevant to your worth?” asked another. (Fair point.)

One of the most common questions was whether I have a power outfit of my own — a go-to ensemble reserved for job interviews and other high-profile outings.

The short answer is “no.” I have suits that I am loath to wear and a tux that provides cover during formal affairs. The rest of the time, I roam around in the randomly acquired T-shirts (concert swag, blood donations) and shorts I’ve owned since time immemorial.

But what I wrap myself in on a daily basis is immaterial here.

Just like whatever the Yale-educated economist whom POTUS wants to run our skittish banking system chooses to sport (faux rappers dug her bling) should be.


“For the record, @WARojas, we don’t care what women leaders WEAR. We care what they DO. Just like with the guys. Get it?” Sarah Littman rightly pointed out on Twitter. (I agree.)

Message received, America.

Perhaps I should leave all the fashion policing to the Joan Rivers and Tim Gunns of the world. (In a case of incredibly opportune timing, Gunn’s new “Project Beltway” column debuted in Politico Magazine this week.) Or, at the very least, to decorum-obsessed House Republicans.

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  • Katrina

    You didn’t actually apologize or say you shouldn’t have written the article. The piece was highly inappropriate, and an apology is warranted, not a summary of listener comments and a explanation of your own wardrobe.

    • Fran Stewart

      While discussion of anyone’s wardrobe doesn’t really get anyone anywhere, I think HOH’s history with these things shows it for what it is: a light-hearted attempt to find a little humor in proceedings they otherwise take very seriously.

      HOH is, after all, Rollcall’s “gossip blog.” They’ve teased men about their appearances too, and Rollcall’s coverage of Yellen’s confirmation hearing doesn’t mention her clothes at all, but frankly discusses her qualifications and conduct.

      I understand the history these sorts of commentaries have, but at the same time, I do feel this is different from the sort of dismissive, minimizing reporting done in actual news articles on women in power. Is the reaction to this article actually proportionate?

    • Joe

      Katrina, you need to loosen the nipple clips a smidge.

      • Fran Stewart

        Dude, way to tank the tone of the discussion. Srsly, does that help ANYONE? Blah blah joke comparing size to frequency of angry comments blah?

        Pot, meet kettle.

      • Tim Roinboin Robinson

        this reply is bad and you should feel bad

  • Fran Stewart

    Dude, as long as you’re an equal-opportunity fashion commentator, I apologize on behalf of other feminists for the lumps you took. this is a raw nerve for most feminists because the news media HAS tended to go first to a woman’s appearance rather than her performance. If you want to spread the love, I’m personally in favor! I’d love to see more articles start out “Rand Paul, looking composed and striking despite his 50 years, came to the podium in a leggy power suit-and-tie ensemble that complemented his salt-and-pepper hair.”

    The point I think we should make is to remember these cliches as we plan our writing and reporting. Maybe it’s the right thing to say that someone’s rumpled look belies a razor-sharp intellect and on-the-job chops (Columbo, anyone?), and maybe it’s not (Hillary’s much more than a pant-suit!). Just reflecting on these cliches helps us defeat them, and also leads to better writing.

    Personally, I prefer your more substantive articles, but given your demonstrated history of taking potshots regardless of gender, I say maybe you were judged too harshly. All of us can jump to conclusions; good for you for pointing that out politely and offering counterexamples instead of resorting to name-calling. No “emotional,” no “flighty,” but reasoned counterpoints.

    And for the record, it does make her look quite professorial. ;)

    • dragon847

      Er please don’t apologize “on behalf of other feminists”… You’re certainly not speaking for this one. Thanks.

    • brista

      This wasn’t a journalistic cliche or describing an outfit in an article otherwise unrelated to a politician’s appearance. It was ONLY about how she dressed. It was NOT about her politics, it did not use her clothes as a description. The article was only written to discuss her appearance.

  • Mark

    A simple “I was off-base; I’m sorry” response would have been fine.

  • babedeslivres

    The defensive downplaying of your poor judgment suggests you have not actually gotten the message. The past sartorial posts you reference are not remotely equivalent because their context is of significantly lesser import. With Yellen, you decided to focus on what she was wearing on the most important day of her career–a day entirely devoted to assessing her qualifications for the Fed. The problem was not that you’re a poor fashion critic; the problem is you seem to lack awareness of the sexism inherent in highlighting a woman’s physical appearance in the way you did. I agree with everyone here saying an explicit apology and heartfelt mea culpa would’ve been appropriate.

  • Tim Roinboin Robinson

    so is this effectively “i’m sorry you got upset at what i said”?

  • John Hancock

    You should apologize. The original article was irrelevant, inappropriate and sexist. Regardless of gender, devoting any attention to the dress of public officials in a negative light is completely unjustified. I expect such commentary to be peddled by gossip magazines and tabloids. Reputable media outlets would not engage in such rhetoric.

  • Daniel Jimenez

    You know what you forgot to say, dumbass? “I’m sorry.”

    • Stentor7

      I don’t know why but my previous comment was completely removed, & I essentially said the same thing. Here’s the fix for Rojas:
      “Message received, America. I’m very sorry.”
      There I fixed it again for him. Maybe this one will stick around.

  • askDominick

    SO Ms. Yellen doesn’t frantically run out and blow money on television-friendly outfits when she’s nominated to helm the Federal Reserve, demonstrating frugality over flash- a trait some head-up-his-*ss guardian of the corpse-fjord would never dream of noting or admiring, fearing his own irrelevance? Hire her.

  • Shannon P. Duffy

    Was that an apology? It didn’t read like one to me. Instead it read like a rejection of and mockery of many of your critics with a few parenthetical concessions mixed in – (fair point) (I agree) – and then a lame, catchall conclusion: Message received. The tone seems to suggest that you think your critics are making a mountain out of a molehill. I would urge you to go back to the comment section and select a few dozen of the most politely worded criticisms and then do some true soul searching on the issue of why your piece elicited some opinion. If you don’t seize this as a teaching moment – in which you are the student – you will not grow from this.

  • angie

    This is a terrible apology. (Is that better? You deleted my last comment.)

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