Robin Givhan mounts a defense of paying disproportionate attention to the outfits of political women:
It is not sexist to have noticed that Sen. Hillary Clinton delivered her convention speech dressed in head-to-toe mango. Only an obstinately unaware person would have ignored this question: Senator, why are you dressed like a tropical fruit? One assumes it was to ensure an eye-catching photo for the history books and to underscore her “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits” legacy.
There’s some real truth to that and, obviously, if John Kerry had shown up on stage in an orange suit his fashion choices would hardly have been ignored. But to observe that is to overlook the point that, of course, Kerry wouldn’t show up on stage in an orange suit or a red one or a green one or anything other than the standard conservative (in a fashion sense) male “I’m a serious and important person” uniform. A woman in politics could choose to dress consistently in the same kind of drab colors that her male colleagues choose, but that would be noteworthy in its own right. And if she chooses not to do so, then her bold colors become noteworthy. What’s sexist here isn’t noticing a bright orange suit, but the set of differing conventions and expectations about what male and female politicians should do — conventions that all-but-ensure a higher overall level of scrutiny will be given to women’s wardrobes.