Vogue to Media: Wendy Davis Wears Another Kind of Shoes!

Texas Senator Wendy Davis has been getting a great deal of media attention lately and once again, her wardrobe is taking center stage. The September issue of Vogue features a four-page profile of Davis, including a photo of her near the Rotunda of the Texas State Capitol.  The article discusses her journey from single motherhood to Harvard Law school, her 13 years in public office, the 12-hour filibuster which caught the attention of the nation, and her plans for the future. Of course being a fashion magazine, Vogue discusses her appearance. The author comments on her different outfits, the brands she likes to wear, and hair troubles she’s had in the past. While this might be expected for a fashion magazine, what is problematic is the kind of further coverage such stories spur.

Here are a series of headlines regarding Vogue’s profile on Davis:

Wendy Davis’ Shoes Get An Upgrade Courtesy Of Vogue

Wendy Davis Wore High Heels in Vogue

Wendy Davis in heels and in Vogue

Texas lawmaker Wendy Davis goes glam in Vogue pose

No matter how substantive the Vogue article is, the takeaway message to the media was: let’s talk about Wendy Davis’s shoes and appearance.  This goes to show that when one media outlet comments on a female politician’s appearance, it can snowball into becoming a focal point for a lot more stories.

In addition to the headlines on her wardrobe, another take away from the Vogue profile was painting Wendy Davis as a “cool mom.” Washington Post wrote an article with the headline: Wendy Davis airs ‘cool mom’ status in Vogue profile.

The first line of the article reads:

While Texas Sen. Wendy Davis (D) considers a gubernatorial run to paint the Lone Star State purple, she’s working on perfecting her ‘cool mom’ status.

In addition to having a misleading headline in that nowhere does the article expand on Davis’s “cool mom” status, the lead diverts attention from the fact that she is considering running for Governor to some opaque image of a mom trying to act hip with her kids. BuzzFeed went further with the idea in writing: “6 Times Wendy Davis Was A Cool Mom In Her Vogue Profile”

Here is the list:

  1. She hosts Super Bowl parties and loves the New England Patriots, which her BFF’s family owns.
  2. Her boyfriend is the “scruffy but handsome” former mayor of cool town Austin.
  3. Family conversations hit on Girls” and the appropriateness of yoga pants.
  4. She knows cool brands.
  5. She likes high-end sweatpants and wine.
  6. Her Fourth of July Outfit.

What do any of these have to do with Davis being a mom? Is being a “cool mom” even a compliment? The memes Buzzfeed use of Amy Poehler in the movie “Mean Girls” certainly indicate the contrary. Note how many examples they give that have to do with her clothing. Does being a “cool mom” simply mean you dress well? Again, this is where the reversibility test comes in. If a similar high-profile male politician conducted a filibuster that got him national attention, would we start commenting on the shoes he wears, the outfits he puts together, and discuss his status as a “cool dad?” Wendy Davis has overcome significant personal obstacles, is highly accomplished, and is a popular democrat in a very conservative state, with so many reasons to write about her, why is the media fixated on her wardrobe?

 

Published by Emily Birnbaum on 09/10/2013

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