The “lady in red” appears often in popular culture. In The Matrix, a “lady in red” is created specifically as a distraction in a virtual world training session. Another “lady in red” materializes within Star Trek’s virtual “Holodeck” - again as a distraction, this time to Commander Riker.
A recent interview in The New York Times Magazine’s “Talk” column with Bernie Sanders has reminded me of these and other distraction scenarios.
The interview was conducted by famed political writer Ana Marie Cox, founder of the blog Wonkette. In it, Cox asks Sanders “Do you think it’s fair that Hillary’s hair gets a lot more scrutiny than yours does?” Sanders challenges the question, and when Cox tries to defend it, Sanders replies in part: “When the media worries about what Hillary’s hair looks like or what my hair looks like, that’s a real problem.”
Defenders of Cox insist she was attempting to broach the issue of dual gender standards for politicians. Defenders of Sanders argue that he was underscoring how media professionals often allow themselves to be distracted by topics both mundane and meaningless.
I agree with Sanders that the question should never have been asked. I don’t believe that we as a society should be focusing on the superfluous, but we do - and I think we need to address why.
So getting back to the ladies in red, I tried an experiment. I Googled the phrase “State of the Union, 2015” and clicked on the images tab. A sea of suits in dark greys, blues and blacks appeared, punctuated by bold hues of blue, red, pink and yellow – but those latter colors were only being worn by women, and I wondered why. The sunny optimist in me thinks they just like the way they look in those colors – but the savvy strategist insists it’s because it gets them noticed.
And all this reminds me of yet another Talk column interview – this time with Tyra Banks in a killer red dress. In response to a question about non-traditional male models, Tyra says, “I know it’s harder for guys. For girls, we have plus-size models. Guys kind of have to have six-pack abs or be thin.”
So here’s the thing. It seems to me that while men and women definitely deserve to be treated equally – always - that doesn’t necessarily translate to being treated exactly the same.
And just for the record, I think Sander’s hair gets more scrutiny than that of any of the other candidates – even the Donald.