Why Do All the Women on Fox News Look and Dress Alike? Republicans Prefer Blondes
Why do so many rightwing American women have bottle-blond hair, often worn girlishly long? I’m thinking of Kellyanne Conway, Ann Coulter and almost any woman on Fox News.
Jonathan, London N16
Excellent question, Jonathan! I was pondering something similar myself recently while looking through Ivanka Trump’s fashion collection on ivankatrump.com, which seems to be one of the only places it is stocked these days. The grimly bland suede pumps, the simpering floral shifts, the just-flirtatious-enough body-skimming little black dresses – welcome, people, to death by mainstream feminine. You know how your mother (or mother-in-law) goes on about how you wear too much black/denim/weird stuff, and you can’t figure out what the hell it is she expects you to wear? Well, allow me to introduce you to Ivanka Trump. What a shame it seems to be sold almost nowhere these days, as these are the clothes your mother (in-law) dreams of. Oh well, looks like she’ll have to put up with you in your awesome Bella Freud jumper and Topshop wide-legged culottes combo for another weekend!
This got me thinking about the look of American rightwing women in general. There is a cliche about how leftwing women look – popular, as it happens, on the right wing – and it can pretty much be summed up as “ugly, jack-booted, feminazi psycho lesbian”. Think any negative stereotype about feminists in the 1970s, or any endorsed by Rod Liddle today, and you have the vision. Even arguing with this cliche feels like a means of giving it credence but, seriously, you only need to look at, say, MSNBC, the American leftwing cable news channel, to see how absurd it is. There’s Andrea Mitchell, who Gawker once described as looking “like all the Golden Girls at once”, which is literally the highest compliment I’ve ever heard; the fabulous Joy-Ann Reid, one of the most prominent female African-American correspondents in the country, who can rock a block-coloured shift dress like nobody’s business; and probably most famously, Rachel Maddow, the no-nonsense evening host who gives Republicans a shrift as short as her hair. (OK, that analogy might need some punching up.) The point is, the diversity is great when it comes to the styles of leftwing media women, and we haven’t even discussed American leftwing political women. I mean, I’ve heard them described as “shrill” (which I think is Republican speak for “female I haven’t paid for”) but no one’s ever going to confuse Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren.
But then we turn to rightwing women. Kellyanne Conway, Scottie Nell Hughes,Tomi Lahren, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Ivanka Trump, and pretty much every single woman on Fox News: a uniform vision of girlishly long bottle-blond hair. When I see them all lined up as talking heads on the news, I get a rare insight into what it must be like to gaze upon the bar area of one of those private American tennis clubs that don’t allow anyone whose name is “too urban” or ends in -stein or -berg. Welcome, people, to death by Wasp.
Nor is there any of the variety in fashion that you see on the left. Some leftwing women wear pantsuits (remember those?), some wear edgy designers like Proenza Schouler or Balenciaga, some wear no-messing skirt suits and some wear trusty jeans and sweats. But American rightwing women all dress exactly the same, which is to say, mainstream feminine – dresses, not trousers; heels, not flats; no interesting cuts, just body-skimming, cleavage-hinting, not-scaring-the-horses tedium. These are the kind of women who take pride in saying things like “I’m not into fashion – I like style”, and by “style” they mean “clothes that men like me to wear”. They think anyone who criticises Disney’s fetishisation of princesses is just jealous.
The uniformity of this style suggests a political statement which, indeed, it is. Theirs is a look that defiantly embraces the most conservative notions of femininity and firmly rejects any idea of modernity, let alone feminism. The idea of dressing for themselves – to have fun, to experiment with different styles – is as anathema to them as questioning the political, social and moral beliefs they have absorbed since they were 14 years old.
How hard it must be having to operate within such a narrow aesthetic palette. I mean, this is a demographic that considers being brunette a physical deformity (which may be another reason why Melania and Donald Trump never look entirely comfortable around one another: his preference has always been for blondes and, boy, does she know it.) And that’s a reflection of how hard it is to be an American conservative full stop, to reject the existence of modernity when it is all around you: to maintain your insistence that gay people are immoral when you have a gay nephew whom you always adored; to insist that immigrants are dangerous when your grandparents immigrated to the US; to argue that abortions are evil when your daughter has had at least one. And yet, they grip hard on to these beliefs, just as they hold hard on to their curling tongs which they twirl through their long blond locks every morning.
Well, ladies, the tenacity of your dogma is impressive, even if the dogma itself isn’t. I honestly have no idea how you have the patience to blow out your long hair every day and get your roots done every month, but, in the scheme of things, that’s the least of my questions about your daily life. And Ivanka Trump, where you probably bought some of your clothes, is harder to get than ever. Truly, as many of these women tell us on a near daily basis, life is tough when you’re a privileged, blond, white lady.