A Profile of a Powerful Woman that Doesn’t Suck!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled frustration over people getting it really wrong to send some long-awaited props. The Washington Post did a profile on U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chronicling her five terms in office and the respect her colleagues have for her. Best part? They did it pretty well.

The article is featured in the Washington Post’s Style section, which could have signaled a retrospective of fashionable Congresswomen, or, like another news source, their purses. But instead, the majority of the three-page story ignores Feinstein’s looks. Seriously. No comments about her skin, or her makeup, or whether she likes pantsuits as much as some other female politicians. Instead, Feinstein gets a write-up worthy of her work. It’s like the Washington Post gave us the metaphorical pony we’ve wanted for years.

Feinstein is the oldest member of Senate, clocking in 80 well-spent years of age, but the profile actually suggests that —wait for it — age could benefit female politicians. For women in politics, having seniority is like getting the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Respect Factory. Now that she’s been in politics as long as she has, Feinstein’s colleagues describe her as a lot of things: hard worker, tough boss, role model, even “the ideal of what a senator should be.” Maybe you noticed that none of those attributes included the color of the shoes she wears to work.

The thing is, as nice as it is to see an article that focuses on who a woman is instead of how she looks, it’s more than a little annoying to realize that this is exciting, even novel. Are we really that starved for fair representation that we’ll throw a party for anyone who tells us a woman’s job title before her hair color? It is important to note, as the article does, that things have come a long way in recent years. A younger Feinstein had to deal with Time magazine painting her as “a casting director’s idea of a Bryn Mawr president who must be bodily restrained from adding gloves — or perhaps even a pillbox hat — to her already ultra-conservative banker-blue suits and fitted red blazers and pearls.” Fewer people are talking like this nowadays, especially about power ladies like Feinstein, but that’s not enough.

We all know media coverage can be pretty brutal — like Jay Leno’s hilarious joke about how funny it is that Nancy Pelosi is old. Plus, women of a certain age are more likely to get asked about that age. However, in a world where sexist media portrayals of female politicians are more common than female politicians themselves, it’s nice to see that some news outlets are starting to realize women of all ages are people, not fashion plates.


Published by Katie Hegarty on 06/28/2013

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