What to wear during the year of the woman
LAST WEEK, on a holiday morning, I was walking to work through the Capitol parking garage and met up with Gov. Linda Lingle, also walking to work. She was wearing jeans, jogging shoes and a polo shirt and looked happier than I have seen her in months.
Of course, the fact that she had just drop-kicked her Democratic opponent, Randy Iwase, off the Hawaii political map, might partly explain the smile.
But I think she was grinning because she could wear what she wanted and be comfortable and not second-guessed. For women in politics, that is no small condition.
This is not a fashion column, but an acknowledgment that if I were to feel some compassion for politicians, which I don't, it would be for the extra set of hurdles put before women in politics.
This election year might turn out to be the year of the woman. Look at the numbers. Lingle is governor, Colleen Hanabusa will be Senate president, Donna Kim will be Senate vice president, Roz Baker will be Ways and Means Committee chairwoman, Lynn Finnegan is GOP House leader and the last male bastion left for the Y chromosome is the Senate GOP caucus.
The problem for women in politics is in what to wear, according to the Washington Post's Robin Givhan, who early this month scrutinized the wardrobe of the next speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
"The California Democrat was dressed in a blue-gray pantsuit with a blouse in a similar but slightly deeper hue. She wore a necklace that was a complementary mix of colors. Nowhere on her person did there appear to be a flag, an eagle or any other booming statement of patriotism that can so quickly transform a workday ensemble into a Fourth of July costume," Givhan wrote.
Pelosi and other female leaders, Givhan said, must ponder the question "what does a woman of great power look like? Does she choose her own version of camouflage and, as Hillary Rodham Clinton famously did during her first campaign for the Senate, wear a black pantsuit as a personal uniform? Does she wear stiffly tailored suits and a lapel festooned with patriotic brooches in the manner of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright? Or, like current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, does she mix professorial reserve with a hint of confident sex appeal?"
Givhan, and apparently others, were relieved to find that Pelosi has settled on a Giorgio Armani "muted power suit," which, unfortunately for island politicians, does not come in aloha attire.
But what of the times ahead and the great worries? Not about the drop in the dollar and balance of payments with China, or of getting real about global warming or making Hawaii schools second to something besides New Orleans, but what people will say about what Lingle wears to her inauguration.
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org