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July 21, 2007

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Presidential candidates normally take care with their underwear. Get it right and the pride of a candidate's manhood will remain neatly centered, visible, if at all, as a discreet, masculine bulge; get it wrong and his manly appointments will fall into one of his pants legs, giving him a peculiar, lopsided appearance.

LOL.

Watch for this question in the next Presidential debate: "On which side do you dress?".

Go there and fight, your war…yourself.

That would weed out the really essential, existential conflicts from the bullshit ones in a hurry, wouldn't it?

"Real men nowhere, but in Sparta, real boys" -- Diogenes

Thanks -

I certainly won't defend the story, but I will note that Robin Givhan has gotten this reaction from political bloggers at least a dozen times now, for a fashion report, over the past several years. I mean, this sort of thing is what a fashion reporter does. Apparently. It's not as if it was a political piece. Attacking fashion reporters for discussing clothes seems rather futile and pointless.

"I'm curious, though: when are we going to see this kind of stories about men?"

Um, we had fashion reports from Robin Givhan on John Edwards' hair. This was not an improvement. But there's been no lack of attack on Al Gore's clothing, either.

I'm not fond of this stuff, but this is clearly the intersection of the fashion industry and political commentary. Questioning various aspects of this is entirely sensible and legitimate, but addressing it as if Givens isn't a fashion reporter, and without addressing the entire concept of the fashion industry, and its role in our society doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Maybe that's just me.

But it does seem fairly complicated in how it affects aspects of our society, and I suspect a considerably more sophisticated and knowledgeable analysis than this would be helpful. Generally speaking, calling people "morons" for engaging in their industry isn't educational.

If I might be allowed an observation, I think there's a problem at times with lack of observation of context of media in the blogosphere. Treating a report by a fashion reporter in the style section of a newspaper as if it was a political story by a political reporter in a newspaper makes no sense whatever, but it happens in the blogosphere a lot, because people tend to lose or be oblivious of that context.

Or so it seems to me.

I don't mind attacks on the fashion industry, and/or the political aspects of it, or vice versa, or where these meet, or how they are inappropriately met here, or whatever, but for such a discussion to work, they have to address the premises of the fashion industry. Attacking a fashion reporter for a fashion piece for not being fair political reporting, and saying nothing more, is just incoherent and insufficient, so far as I can see.

I'd love to see a good analysis and discussion of how the intersection of fashion and politics works, but this doesn't even acknowledge that that's the topic; I find this frustrating.

She's a fashion reporter, yes. But when she won a Pulitzer, here's what they said:

"Awarded to Robin Givhan of The Washington Post for her witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism."

She obviously takes herself seriously. Why shouldn't one take the cultural/political aspects of her articles seriously?

"I think there's a problem at times with lack of observation of context of media in the blogosphere"

The reporter won a media award specifically for conflating two contexts. How is the blogosphere wrong for taking them at face value?

"Why shouldn't one take the cultural/political aspects of her articles seriously?"

I never suggested Robin Givhans shouldn't be taken seriously, as it happens, and I don't mean to now. I wrote, like, stuff specifically suggesting it would be good to take this stuff seriously, and discuss it, rather than dismissing it with an epithet or so.

I may have been unclear, somehow, when I wrote that "I'd love to see a good analysis and discussion of how the intersection of fashion and politics works."

I'm reasonably sure that that indicates that I believe that "I'd love to see a good analysis and discussion of how the intersection of fashion and politics works," but perhaps I misunderstand myself.

Sorry for misrepresenting your position. Here's a retry:

"She obviously sees herself as a political reporter. Why shouldn't we treat her story as political reporting?"

Hilzoy's point seemed (to me) to be that this is bad journalism. The fashion context isn't relevant to that, as I see it.

But I do agree that a post about the intersection of politics and fashion would be good.

I've got bad news for you, hilz--

that obsession with male genitalia you were looking for?

It's already there. Don't you remember wanting to retch when Chris Matthews was going on about Bush's codpiece in the "Mission Accomplished" costume?

And then there was all of the right-wing drooling about Cheney's "package".

No, there's no lack of reportage about male genitalia.

It's just that, unlike the reportage about female breasts which is directed towards Democrats and is intended to shame women off the public stage, this reportage was about Republicans, so it was worshipful and adulatory.

So let's just remember the official press rules here:

1) Democratic personal attributes? Shameful, feminizing, unserious.

2) Republican personal attributes?
Heroic, manly, serious.

And, Gary? I think you're wrong about this:

"I think there's a problem at times with lack of observation of context of media in the blogosphere"

The rules I've just described: that *is* the context. That's the context in which an alleged "fashion" reporter is writing these calculated sneers about the appearance of the Democratic front-runner.

That context not only makes it legitimate to treat "a report by a fashion reporter in the style section of a newspaper as if it was a political story by a political reporter," it makes it obtuse and blinkered to treat it in any other way.

This is politics. The politics of attacking Democrats and attacking women in power by ridiculing their personal appearance. And the fact that even the style section is an outlet for the press's parroting of Republican talking points is part of the context, too.

Count: It's already there. Don't you remember wanting to retch when Chris Matthews was going on about Bush's codpiece in the "Mission Accomplished" costume?

No, I remember giggling at the blatant homoeroticism of it.

The politics of attacking Democrats and attacking women in power by ridiculing their personal appearance.

It's the same kind of politics:

The hundreds of dollars that any Presidential candidate - except for one who's totally bald - will spend on haircuts, is being used against John Edwards to claim he's effeminate. (It isn't party line to claim that Milt Romney is effeminate, so the $300 he spent on having his face powdered before going on TV is ignored.)

But because it's party line to claim that Bush is a real man, his looking good* in a flight suit, codpiece and all, becomes part of that "real man" legend, even though the ship was so close to the shore that he could have been flown to the ship in a chopper wearing his usual suit and tie.

I saw this Olbermann transcript on Crooks and Liars, and wondered if you'd blog on it:
Go there and fight, your war…yourself.

Except he'd never pass the physical requirements. Of course, these days I gather that's just a matter of picking the right doctor - one who'll ignore the habit of falling over whenever he gets drunk excited.

*I'm assuming that Chris Matthews has good judgement. I'm not a reliable judge.

And then there was all of the right-wing drooling about Cheney's "package".

Holy cow. I missed that one, thankfully. Somehow I'm guessing a rolled up sock was involved.

Anyone remember Al Gore's Rolling Stone cover?

Thanks -

I don't think that any old story about genitalia or breasts is this kind of story. Drooling about Bush's, um, look in a flight harness isn't. This is just: oh look, we can see something, let's go on and on about it for paragraphs, and wonder what the fact that we can see it (in a more or less normal way, as those of us who (a) have breasts and (b) wear shirts can attest) says about the candidate.

hilzoy: "The only bright spots I can see are all, oddly enough, former sportswriters."

I don't think this is a coincidence. It's my impression that sportswriters often have a more sensible notion of objectivity than their political counterparts. They're more likely to aim for the truth than for some impoverished notion of neutrality.

nateb's impression of sportwriters is drastically different from my own. At least when writing about sports they tend to be the most unobjective writers I have ever seen.

They have their own little world, just like political pundits, and feel that athletes, coaches and owners owe them everything. They have the power to ruin an athlete's reputation, and if they ever feel slighted by an athlete wil not hesitate to use that power.

Hilzoy, didn't you get the memo? Men's bodies, perhaps especially their genitals, are heroic, virile, and strong. Women's bodies are shameful and dirty. And if the woman has the indecency to openly be a Democrat --- well, the media simply cannot overlook this assault on real American values.

Givhan did write a less than flattering fashion story about Cheney:

Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

Marc Ambinder isn't "normally good." He's a Republican, whose beat for the last decade has been the Republican lobby shops and wingnut think tanks.

And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

Actually, my take on that was that it was just another example of Cheney saying "screw you" in his very own charming way.

Thanks -

Romney holding "Obama Osama" sign. I'm so glad I get to choose between (at least) three very serious people. Ok, Bill was a cad and something of a clown but still serious, and the D candidates this time are all adults.

It's my impression that sportswriters often have a more sensible notion of objectivity than their political counterparts.

You obviously haven't listened to sportswriters claim that pitching is 75% of baseball when, not only can't they produce an argument to support that, they can't even tell you what they mean by that.

You want good sportswriters at mainstream outlets? There are Joe Posnanski, Tim Marchman, Rob Neyer and ... someone help me out here.

Gary,

It would be one thing if the fashion reporter wrote an article on Hillary because there was something genuinely newsworthy about her fashion choices; that was what happened when Cheyney wore his hunting attire to the concentration camp and it was appropriate.


However, if you look at the picture of Hillary in question, there is absolutely nothing newsworthy about it. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I see women dressed like that every single day. There was just no rational reason for writing a story like this, except as an excuse to reinforce the Post's view that Democrats are effeminate and bad.

As I indicated before, if Hillary insisted on wearing a bright purple wig, or six inch heels or camouflage tights, then there might be a story, but there's just no there there.

I know nothing about sports journalists, but I'd like to propose a theory: maybe sports journalists just give a damn more than regular journalists and pundits.


I have trouble imagining someone going into sports journalism unless they had a real passion for their work. In contrast, one of the problems with political journalism in the US is that a lot of the journalists don't seem to care about...anything. They don't seem capable of understanding why someone would care and assume that anyone who does is crazy.

Look at how they portrayed Dean and his supporters: he's a nutbag and anyone who would actually have a house party (!) to talk about him must obviously be psychotic. Or look at how they went off on Gore and how they continue to attack him years later. Treating politics like a junior high popularity contest only makes sense if you honestly don't think any of this stuff matters.


What struck me most about Pierce's comments was the overarching belief that things mattered, and while good people might disagree about priorities, all sane people should recognize that life and death issues are actually important.

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