Break up to make up

No, I do not think that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to forgo makeup for recent public appearances should be a big deal. And it doesn't matter to me that she likes scrunchies. Her job is to be Secretary of State. It's not to be a fashionista. What she does is what is important, not how she looks. There's also no question that there is a double standard. The only way anyone would comment on a male politician's appearance would be if he did wear makeup, or perhaps if he was particularly disheveled. And even then he might get a pass.

So people who are supposed to be covering actual news, please leave Ms. Clinton alone. Her decision on her personal grooming is neither my business nor yours.

That said, if I were in a public position, would I do what she has done? I doubt it. Because that's me, and my personal decision.

One of my favourite quotes is something Riccardo Tisci, creative director at Givenchy, said in an interview: "Dress like you have something to say." For me, that encompasses my entire appearance. Before I say anything with my mouth, I "say" something simply by the way I look and carry myself. It's unavoidable. One more quote, from the song "Freewill" by Rush: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." Anti-fashion is a choice, and it says something. You can't say nothing.

In any communication, the onus is on me to convey my meaning clearly. Especially recently, some think that the onus is on the listener to figure out whatever the speaker is conveying, often poorly. I think that's wrong. And I will always do my best to say what I mean and mean what I say. If someone misunderstands me, then either I didn't do a good enough job or the person is failing, through no fault of mine, to understand.

When I walk into a room, there are a few things that I want my appearance to communicate, loud and clear. Some, I know, are shallow, such as that I want people to see that I look good. I'm no beauty, but I "clean up real good," and often when I go out that's what I choose to do. I will make a certain amount of effort to look what I consider to be my best. Other reasons are more important, I think. I want to convey confidence. I want to show respect for whomever I am meeting and for the venue where we meet. I want to say both "I cared enough to look good for you" (and not just for men) and "I am a strong, confident woman," and even "I have a certain amount of power in this situation." This might all be undercut if I say something stupid, but the first impression I give is a nonverbal one, and I want that impression to be the one that I choose to give.

I don't always wear makeup, and I certainly don't often dress to the nines. If I'm going down the street to do some errands, I'll wear something decent (not bloody yoga pants!) but often wear nothing more on my face than sunscreen. Hopefully that says, "I'm just doing errands around the neighbourhood, and you're not going to pay much attention to me anyway." Sometimes, I will only put on mascara (and clothes, silly). I build things up from there depending on my mood and where I'm going. I generally match makeup with what I wear. I don't get fancy with makeup if I'm not dressing fancy.

Even so, even when I'm going down the street, I try to meet my own standards. Because I have those standards. That's either the way I am or the way I was brought up or both. I tend to dress consciously, even when I'm dressing down. My appearance might not be important to anyone else, but it's important to me.

So am I undercutting my support for Hillary Clinton to skip the makeup if she wants? I don't think so. Makeup is part of how I want to make an impression, but I don't think it's the only way. Secretary Clinton has not become slovenly. I don't think she is going to show up at a public meeting in jeans and a T-shirt. She understands decorum. But that decorum need not include face paint, nor need it include styled hair, unless such standards are also imposed on men. And it might well include glasses, since we all need to see. The standard for women should be no different than the standard for men. You're clean, reasonably well groomed, and you wear something appropriate. End of story.

You see, I'll give men less of a pass than some might. I am not in favour of the "Miami device" look. If you want to grow a beard, grow a beard (if you insist). If you don't want to grow a beard, don't grow a beard. The in-between shit just looks slovenly. And I do appreciate a sharp-dressed man. I think that shows that he cares about the impression he wants to make.

I will say that I was somewhat disturbed by Secretary Clinton making comments about not having to worry about that stuff anymore at her age. Is she saying that she no longer cares? That has nothing to do with makeup or hair but rather about general attitude and self respect. I hope she is not saying that she no longer cares at all! I guess I lean more toward French than American women on that. One model at my age, and as I get older, is someone like International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde. When I see her, I know that she is very conscious of how she looks, and I think it conveys all the right signals, including that she wields great power.

In the end, though, despite my personal preferences, there is nothing wrong with Secretary Clinton's appearance. And there is everything wrong with so-called news reporters commenting on it. It is up to her to decide what she wants to communicate and whether she is doing so effectively.

1 comment:

Coline said...

If you got $1 for every time the media made the same reports about a prominent male You would be lucky if you had enough to buy a cup of coffee!!!