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When I moved to Washington, D.C., as a young woman of 23, one of the first things I did was visit the National Museum of American History because I was interested in the display on the first ladies. I expected to gain rare and valuable insight into their goals, initiatives, accomplishments and lives. Imagine my dismay when I found that all that was on display was their event gowns and fine china. I could care less about what pattern they chose to entertain with at the White House.
Fast forward to 2018, when Maine elected its first female governor, Janet Mills. While I didn’t vote for Mills, I was anxious to see how coverage of her administration would vary from previous administrations. Almost immediately, the media keyed in on her jewelry, with multiple stories about Mills’ favorite necklace. I was floored. Mills was making history, yet the press chose to write about her necklace? Give me a break.
Now, the national press is fixated on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s fashion choices. I would like to thank Maine’s senior senator, Susan Collins, for standing up and calling this what it is. This sort of coverage is sexist, and it takes focus away from matters of actual importance. As Sinema recently said about the unwelcomed coverage, “It’s not a news story, and it’s no one’s business.”
I urge the press to heed Collins’ advice. Stop demeaning women in politics by publishing “news” stories about their fashion and clothing choices while reporting on policy priorities of their male counterparts. This is 2021, it is no longer relevant or appropriate.