Is it misogynistic or sexist to address how Kyrsten Simena dressesBy Hal BrownA man diving into the perilous waters of critiquing how a woman choses to dress.
Update: When a man writes something critical about a woman he risks being attacked just for being a man writing about a woman. I had a long phone conversation with a woman friend last night about this and she brought up that this applies to other topics where someone writes about something they haven't personality experienced. I noted that Freud was criticized with justification for his conclusions about what he considered psychopathology in women.
Did anybody screaming "sexism" because Steve Bannon dressed like a bum and was mocked for it? Did anyone scream sexism for mocking Trump's baggy ridiculous suits or his long red tie? Posted 6:00 AM Pacific time, updated at noon.
My morning blog yesterday about was about Kyrsten Sinema and her narcissism. It wasn't until eight hours later that I did some web searching since she was making the news all day long and found articles about her fashion choices. Until I updated the article in the evening I didn't even address this. I added updates to the article about this, received negative feedback on Mastodon, so I removed the update, republished what I wrote here and added to it.
I was taken to task by at least three members of Mastodon who consider it wrong to write about how a woman dressed. If you go to Mastodon and look me up - try clicking here at, you should be able to read these criticisms of you search for them.
These criticisms led me to remove those updates and put them here. I think this is worth addressing separately.
This is from The NY Times article above:
Not just because of her political theater. Ever since she was sworn in to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2005, Ms. Sinema has always stood out in a crowd. And as Ms. Sinema’s legislative demands take center stage (along with those of Senator Joe Manchin, the other Biden Bill holdout) her history of idiosyncratic outfits has taken on a new cast.
As Tammy Haddad, former MSNBC political director and co-founder of the White House Correspondents Weekend Insider, said of the senator, “If the other members of Congress had paid any attention to her clothing at all they would have known she wasn’t going to just follow the party line.”
These are some of the photos from the Times article:
This photo has been mocked on social media:This included an inappropriately worded "toot" on Mastodon (below) which has as far as I can tell since has been deleted. I posted it here but out of respect for the person who made it I removed it.
I was criticized, and still am being criticized on Mastodon by members saying in various ways that it isn't cool to criticize a woman, or anyone for their appearance. One person noted how AOC has received similar criticism. This is the response I posted there originally along with the photos below.
With women fashion choice can be unfairly emphasized, misogynistic, and sexist, but in a psychological analysis, which my essay was, how someone decides to dress is one of the factors to consider. Fashion choice is a part of behavior and personality. Melania was widely attacked for the "don't care" jacket' #Sinema presided over the Senate this year while wearing a hot pink sweater with the words “Dangerous Creature” on the front which NY Time's said broke the Internet.
The fact that sociologists, psychologists, and others consider it reasonable to analyze what a woman's fashion choices says about her personality doesn't mean it is the proper thing to do. Doing so certainly opens one to criticism. I think this has to be put in perspective and considered along with a wide variety of other factors. Just because doing so may be controversial I do not think it is fair to insist that the subject not be addressed.
I tried in my previous article to put Sinema's fashion in the context of her narcissism. This doesn't mean that a woman shouldn't express her personality through fashion, but I want to emphasize that context and motivation matters.
Sinema’s presentation of herself as a political figure in public life raises several interesting questions that have been at the center of my research and writing. I have written about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as another female politician whose style is part of her message. For both A.O.C. and Sinema, the media has struggled to put the meaning of style in a context that is not frivolous or demeaning. This has contributed to our inability to talk about their presentation as politics. That inability makes that presentation only more powerful because it can go uncritiqued.
There are a few schools of thought that tell us that we shouldn’t talk about what Sinema wears. One school tells us that her presentation and the way she dresses do not matter because her politics are just so bad. We need to focus on what really matters, the thinking goes, and clothing isn’t in that category. This is a common argument among people who view themselves as very serious thinkers. In fact, commenting on things like fashion and dress and style is considered anti-intellectual in most of my professional circles.
It is also very common in a masculinist strain of intellectualism to consider discussing anything associated with girls and women to be an inferior form of discourse. When we talk about a woman — even in the routine interrogation of how she is able to do her job as a powerful public servant — we are talking about femininity. And femininity does not rate as a substantive form of discussion. This is an easy argument to dismiss because it fails at its own standard: it is unserious.
Another line of argument is what I see as the third-wave feminist response to our culture’s obsession with women’s bodies as their only worth, which is: We should never acknowledge what a woman looks like. I have heard people proclaim emphatically, for instance, “Never comment on a person’s body.” To the extent that Sinema’s clothes are worn on her body, the logic goes, we should never comment on her clothing.
Here's an follow-up article from her in The New York Times (November 5, 2021)
Last week, I argued that it was useful to think about the clothes Kyrsten Sinema wears, because her presentation is part of her political power. I also invited readers to think along with me. Many of you wrote me to say that the very idea of talking about what a woman is wearing gives you, for lack of a better term, the heebie-jeebies. Some of you worry that this line of inquiry devalues Sinema’s credentials and office; others worry that talking about presentation is tacitly sexist because it opens the door to critiquing women for something that their male counterparts can take for granted.
Some took me to task for lowering myself — and the discourse — to something as trivial as performance, style and fashion. I addressed that criticism, which I find deeply unserious, in my last newsletter. Presentation matters to how we live. Serious people should be able to talk about that.
From her conversation with UC Davis sociologist Maxine Craig
Maxine pointed out that Sinema’s physique is one that would “attract different kinds of attention” were it that of a Black woman. As a comparison, she brought up the way voters eviscerated Michelle Obama — who is a political figure despite not being an elected official — for wearing sleeveless dresses. On Obama, fitted sheaths without sleeves were a code for unruly behavior and thus disrespect for the president’s office. But unruliness is a reputation that Sinema can afford to cultivate. It was seen, especially early in her career, as positive: a mark of her independence, not a sign of her lack of respect. Sinema also gets a bonus: that sleeveless silhouette draws attention to her level of fitness. Love or hate her style, a lot of the commentary suggests, you have to respect Sinema’s fit physique.
In July 2017, Democratic women in Congress organized a protest against the enforcement of an “appropriate attire” dress code that was being used to keep reporters in sleeveless outfits out of certain parts of the Capitol building. Two dozen representatives wore shirts and dresses that showed their arms one sunny Friday, beseeching then-Speaker Paul Ryan to modernize the rules.
Kyrsten Sinema, at the time an Arizona congresswoman, didn’t pose for the cutesy photo op the Dems staged on the Capitol steps. Nor did she tweet about her “right to bare arms,” as many of her colleagues did. But few legislators stood to benefit from the loosened rules as much as she did. In her three terms in the House, Sinema became known for a signature style: bold colors, graphic patterns, glittery hoop earrings, and lots of flouncy sleeveless dresses befitting the climate of her home state. With a few notable exceptions (see: eccentric “hipster” Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut), women in Congress usually favor more conservative ensembles: solid neutrals, structured sheath dresses, and shapeless trousers. The evident joy Sinema took in dressing outside the Washington norm was a welcome departure from the dutiful businesswear that currently populates the Capitol. It was also appropriate for the image of a post-partisan, aisle-crossing “social butterfly” she strove to present.
The senator got a flurry of attention for her new look in early January, when she was sworn in by Mike Pence in her most flamboyant getup yet: bejeweled white stilettos, a thin-strapped tank top with gigantic pearls around the neckline, a form-fitting skirt printed with a photorealistic pink rose the size of a throw pillow, and a smattering of gems and jeweled brooches. The outfit, and the swagger she displayed while wearing it, landed her a full-page photo on the front cover of the New York Times’ feature on the women of the 116th Congress. When the general public got wind of Sinema’s over-the-top accessories—a gray fur stolefor indoors, a glittery polka-dotted tote and retro pink jacket with a fur collar for outdoors—she became the subject of breathless praise, an icon of femininity in a Congress with more female legislators than ever before.
I noticed this photo on RawStory and wondered if it was a photoshop.
It wasn't. She posted it herself on InstaGram. Not show is a ring that says Fuck Off.
This is yet another example of the way this United States senator has succeeded in getting media attention. Whether it is indicative aspect of her being high enough on the scale of narcissism to be considered pathological can't be determined, she'd need an intensive psychological assessment for that. Regardless, it seems clear that such behavior has been successful in garnering headlines.
In conclusion, whether one is a man or woman, fashion choices are relevant if one wants to understand the personality of an individual. I wore happy socks for years and admit that this was a way of getting attention. I also take pride in being fashionable in the way I dress knowing that in the senior community where I live I am one of only a few men who make sure they are color coordinated. I won't object to anyone suggesting that I have an element of narcissism in my personality.
I am a new HOKA shoe aficionado and have pairs in black, blue, and gray. I resisted buying the ones like those on the left which really would have screamed "look at me."
I was a psychotherapist for 40 years. Those who have followed my blog and previously my posts on Daily Kos know that my understanding of psychodynamics informs my understanding of why those in the public eye from politicians like Trump to celebrities like Herschel Walker and Ye behave the way they do.
I have been criticized before because what I wrote offended some people. In fact I was suspended for a week from posting on Daily Kos for writing about homosociality. Whoever there made this decision considered my post homophobic even though it was based an article by
If you look at the comments section to the article which wasn't taken offline you'll see that I replied to the commenters who criticized me. I think debate over controversial subjects is healthy. .