A month after the 2016 election, Teen Vogue contributing writer, Lauren Duca wrote a powerful piece titled: “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.” Gaslighting is defined as manipulating people into doubting their own lucidness and memory by playing games with actual facts. The blistering piece received wide acclaim online.
A few weeks later, Ms. Duca appeared on Fox Television with Tucker Carlson to discuss her piece. In the TV segment, which has since gone viral, Mr. Carlson questions Ms. Duca’s credibility as a writer and the legitimacy of Teen Vogue as a news platform, and attempts to devalue her as a political pundit. He condescendingly asks her how she could write about celebrities like Ariana Grande and popular fashion items such as thigh-high boots in the same breath as a political essay on Mr. Trump. Ms. Duca counters with, “A woman can love Ariana Grande and her thigh-high boots and still discuss politics, and those two things are not mutually exclusive.”
After repeatedly interrupting her and talking over her, Mr. Carlson abruptly ends the interview with: “You should stick to the thigh-high boots. You’re better at that.”
My blood pressure went through the roof.
What he’s insinuating throughout the entire interview is that Ms. Duca has little to no credibility – not only as a contributing writer to Teen Vogue, but as a woman with numerous interests, including fashion and pop culture. And he completely discounts her formidable and widely well-received political news piece.
And therein lies the glaringly ugly double standard.
In our society, men can have a myriad of interests, like fishing, hunting, golfing, football, cars, cigars and poker, as well as business and politics, and still be considered intelligent and legitimate. In other words, men are seen as multi-faceted and nobody thinks any less of them for having certain interests that are often categorized as “men’s activities.”
But women are held to a completely different standard. If a woman shows interest (or works) in areas that are traditionally considered “female-centric,” such as fashion, beauty, design or celebrity pop culture, then people often assume she’s frivolous or “less” intelligent. She won’t be taken seriously if she also shows a keen interest in a male-dominated field such as politics.
So fashion and politics don’t mix, but football and politics or poker and policy do?
This TV moment is a perfect example of how women are held to a completely different standard than men – and how even when a woman is perfectly capable of speaking on a certain topic, her other so-called “frivolous” interests can completely negate her stellar work and obvious intelligence. It’s 2017, not 1917. The fact that a woman like Lauren Duca still has to defend herself against this misogynistic bias is deplorable.
This double standard is real, it’s harmful and we need to talk about it – not ignore it.
It’s more important than ever for women to embrace their multi-faceted selves. It’s ok to love both fashion and politics. It’s perfectly acceptable to start a knitting club (especially if you are creating pink pussy hats) and play on the all-star soccer team. And it’s more than ok to wear thigh-high boots and run for office.
Your love for Louboutins or chick flicks isn’t a signal for a low IQ or lack of common sense. Your immense capacity for caring and empathy doesn’t mean you can’t also be tough as nails when it’s required. And the fact that you think Beyoncé would make a much better Commander-in-Chief than the current President doesn’t mean you’re unfit for politics. In fact, it makes you perceptive – and cool. (I am totally down with Queen Bey for President in 2020. Just imagine the inauguration concert!)
The next time you see or hear someone making an unfair comment like, “Don’t take her seriously, she’s just a fashion writer,” or “She’s only a makeup artist, she doesn’t know anything about politics,” don’t let it slide. Call them out.
And Lauren Duca, when you’re ready to design a line of thigh-high boots for ass-kicking feminists, you know where to find me.