Female politicians in uniform. (Image courtesy of Sara Offer)
Crossroads School

Opinion: A female politician’s shield

More than half (52%) of the cabinet members appointed to the Biden Harris administration were female in 2020. While this was a considerable step for Washington and women in the United States, the increased presence of women in politics has opened up a greater conversation regarding the relationship between power and femininity. 

What do Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell have in common? A blazer.

Nancy Pelosi isn’t the only female politician to don a blazer: Vice President Kamala Harris wore one at the Presidential Debate and Hilary Clinton was infamous for her pantsuits throughout the entirety of her campaign in 2016.

In fact, if one observes any televised political event in the United States, the overwhelming majority of female politicians will be found wearing blazers.

Blazers have traditionally always been worn by men. A female politician is expected to wear more “masculine” and conservative clothing, such as a blazer, thus displaying how society views professionalism. Although there are more women in office, this does not mean that they are accepted as women, rather that they may be better at pretending to be men as best as possible. 

Of course, not all women dress in a feminine fashion. Yet, women in politics are compelled to hide their bodies with the blazer’s masculine shape. Blazers give the impression of shoulders that are wider than they actually are, as well as covering the waist and straightening the lines of the body and create a block shape, erasing all curves. 

In 2007, Hilary Clinton made the mistake of showing “cleavage” during a Senate floor speech. A 2007 Washington Post article read: “the cleavage registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced security was necessary. There wasn’t an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was.”

There were more articles discussing Clinton’s decolletage — such as a 2007 L.A. Times Op-Ed — more than articles discussing the content of her speech. The repercussions of a female politician showing her femininity and female body were made clear: a woman will not receive the same respect as her male counterparts when speaking; therefore, female politicians have opted for blazers and more “masculine” clothing.

Blazers shield women, particularly in the workplace, from the perverted and misogynistic eyes of men across the world. Women must cover themselves and attempt to dress as similarly to a man as possible without “crossing the line,” to be taken seriously.

The female representation on Capitol Hill is impressive, but it does not mean female politicians are viewed as equals to their male counterparts.