Why Do You Still Care About What She’s Wearing?: It’s Time To Stop Critiquing Women’s Fashion, and Start Respecting Their Power.

This past January, the world watched as Kamala Harris walked out onto the Inauguration stage. It was the first time a woman had walked onto that stage, not as the wife of the candidate but as the candidate herself.  At that moment, she represented all the women who fought for suffrage, all the women fighting the gender pay gap, and all of the women of color who are still being discriminated against through sexism and racism. While reporters mostly commented on the significance of Harris' presence on the stage, there were still remarks about her clothing. Harris chose to wear a purple dress, and purple overcoat, both created by African American fashion designer, Christopher John Rogers. The Vice President also wore her signature pearls, which have become a staple piece throughout her political career. 

The main topic of conversion should have been about the progress the U.S. has made now that we have a woman in the second-highest political office. There was  however an unfortunate amount of attention paid to her choice of clothing. This is nothing new for women in positions of power, they are constantly being subjected to scrutiny about their clothes. Whether their clothes are too sexy, frilly, or plain, it seems that what they wear is determining their worth and their power. More often, it’s the men in the room who are making these remarks, because men still seem to have more power in the year 2021. So let's unpack why women can’t dress the way they want to and the sexism behind the “professional” dress code.

The reason why women have limited power in the workforce is because women do not receive the same amount of respect as men, just based on their gender. Yes, women have been working outside the home for decades, but women having high ranking positions of power in large organizations is still rare. Men still hold more power in our society because our society expects men to be strong, competitive, and driven. Those emotions are not seen as positives for a woman. If a woman is competitive, then she’s bossy, if she has emotions she's over dramatic, and if she’s passionate, then she's an angry woman. In order to combat these stereotypes, women have had to hide certain parts of their personalities, and this translates to their clothing. Women in high positions of power often wear suits to be seen as respectable , just like the men wearing suits. This is why I believe it was important that Vice President Harris wore a dress to the inauguration. She chose an outfit that she liked and felt comfortable in. She also chose to showcase the work of an African American fashion designer. Finally, the color purple was “a nod to Shirley Chisholm [the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress].”Harris showed that being a woman in politics does not define her, but her ideas and policies do.

Vice President Harris is just one example of how women are judged based on their clothing. During her time as First Lady, Michelle Obama’s clothing choices were also picked apart.  In her documentary, she talks about how she had to tailor back her style and wear outfits that maybe she didn’t really like, but set the tone for being the First Lady.  In the Documentary she says that now that she's out of the white house she has more freedom with her fashion and chooses to wear pieces that fit her taste. Her decision however, to wear what she wants, does not diminish her intellect and her ability to inspire people around the world; it enhances it. What women wear many times can also subject them to unsolicited comments and judgements. Women being cat called on the street, or being told to cover up to avoid attention are just some examples. During the 2015 Grammys a reporter commented on Taylor Swift's dress telling her that, “I just wanted to show the legs, because as I was telling you ahead of time, I think you’re going to walk home with more than just a trophy tonight. I think lots of men.” Swift quickly shut down the comment saying, "I'm not going to walk home with any men tonight.” This idea that if women are dressing in a way that people perceive as sexy, then they’re asking more male attention is ridiculous and dangerous. The only time a man should comment on a woman's appearance is, never.

The world should embrace women having  positions of power in society for the value they bring to the position.Women deserve just as much respect as the men in their field because they worked just as hard to get there,  and the worth and intelligence of a woman should not be determined by the clothing they wear.