As if choosing a work outfit as a woman wasn’t enough of a minefield, if you choose a dress that’s too “girly,” you may be communicating that you’re your father’s property, according to Joan Walsh on MSNBC. On Sunday, the Salon editor slammed Ivanka Trump’s dress choice at a G-20 summit meeting, calling it “ornamental,” and saying it hearkened back to a time where daughters were shown off as nothing more than the property of their fathers.
“In patriarchal, authoritarian societies, daughters have great value — they are property,” she said. “And the message that she is sending about her own value, about her place in the White House, and about the place of women in this administration, I think, are really frightening.”
Walsh added that Ivanka could not possibly fight for women’s equality while wearing a pink dress with bows on the sleeves.
“That’s not a dress that’s made for work. That’s not a dress that’s made to go out in the world and make a difference. That is a dress that is designed to show off your girlyness… don’t tell us that you’re crusading for an equal place at the table, because you’re not.”
For the record, Vogue and In Style—not exactly bastions of conservative thought—disagree with Walsh’s assessment of “girly” attire, calling pink dresses and statement sleeves two of the biggest trends of the season.
More importantly, Walsh’s remarks are yet another demonstration that there is no feminist principle left-wing commentators won’t throw overboard to attack the Trump women. They’ll even reach back to the days of 1980s power dressing, when many professional women felt they had to dress like men to be taken seriously in the board room.
Problematic woman and glass ceiling destroyer Margaret Thatcher took the opposite view on feminine dressing in the workplace, telling an interviewer that she liked how bows softened her look. “You do not lose your feminine qualities just because you are a prime minister,” the Iron Lady said. Contra Walsh, the same might be said for G-20 attendees, even if they have the audacity to have the last name Trump.
The Left’s double standard for conservative or Republican women regarding sexist assessments of their wardrobes is nothing new. Left-leaning outlets critiqued Sarah Palin’s work wardrobe update and Ann Romney’s expensive blouses while fawning with listicle paeans over the ladylike touches Ruth Bader Ginsburg adds to her judge’s robe via lacy collars. Similarly, Michelle Obama’s expensive taste and outfit choices made her a “style icon” and proved that loving fashion was “no longer a feminist crime.”
Like Ivanka Trump, Michelle also chose a girly dress for a professional occasion when she gave her speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in a pink and gold Tracy Reese gown. Walsh’s assessment of the impression Michelle made? Michelle’s speech told female voters, “I love you, women,” and demonstrated empathy with their day-to-day economic struggles, Walsh said.
Somehow, Walsh managed to get that message from a woman wearing a pink dress.