An Inclusive Litany


Robin Givhan in the Washington Post, November 18, 2000:
University of Massachusetts history professor Kathy Peiss once noted that when women first gained easy access to makeup, it was used as a powerful tool to define and create a public face. Indeed, there is a genre of women who would never consider leaving their homes without putting on their face. (A sub-genre of them even wear makeup to the gym.) It was only after World War II that cosmetics were seen as suspect, as the enemy. Now, "cosmetics are like lightning rods for people's animus," Peiss said. The American public doesn't like falsehoods, and [Florida Secretary of State Katherine] Harris is clearly presenting herself in a fake manner.

One of the reasons Harris is so easy to mock is because she, to be honest, seems to have applied her makeup with a trowel. At this moment that so desperately needs diplomacy, understatement and calm, one wonders how this Republican woman, who can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan one-upmanship.

Besides, she looks bad—not by the hand of God but by her own. She took fashion—which speaks in riddles, hyperbole and half-truths—at its word, imbibing all of those references to the '70s and '80s, taking styling cues from Versace ads in which models are made up as if by a mortician's assistant, believing the magazines when they said that blue eye shadow was back. She failed to think for herself. Why should anyone trust her?

...and Margery Eagan in the Boston Herald, November 16, 2000:

Most likely, however, [Harris] will be remembered for looking just ghastly Tuesday night. At least by Wednesday her appearance seemed almost—if not quite—transformed.

Like Dr. Richard Sharpe, the transvestite and alleged wife killer. Or Marilyn Manson. Or Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie. Or Cruella DeVil. Or Leona Helmsley on Halloween.

Those were just a few of the comparisons made early yesterday to Harris, who appeared to have piled on 10 tons of mascara, four pounds of lipstick and day-glo blue eye shadow (and what was the deal with the neck?) for her grand moment before every TV camera in the free world.

Much as one would like to blame such nasty lookism on The Evil Patriarchy, I must admit it occurred to me instantly how old and hard she appeared. (Is she really just 43?)

It occurred even to those of us who hope such things are beside the point....

[Ed.: In many of her columns, Ms. Eagan complains that women are unfairly judged by their appearance.]

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