Now it's come to this: the way Elena Kagan sits.
In a lengthy examination of the Supreme Court nominee's seating posture – "hunched with her legs ajar
" – the Washington Post fashion writer gives us a tour of Kagan's hip-length jackets, underpinnings, hosiery, shoes and jewelry, the way she "walks with authority and stands up straight," and the way she defies convention with that business with the legs.
"In photographs of Kagan sitting and chatting in various Capitol Hill offices, she doesn't appear to ever cross her legs,'' the writer says. "Her posture stands out because for so many women, when they sit, they cross . . . Kagan keeps both feet planted firmly on the ground. She does not cross her legs at the ankles either, the way so many older women do. Instead Kagan sits, in her sensible skirts, with her legs slightly apart, hands draped on her lap."
The mind reels.
In some 2,000 words (it feels like 2,000 words), the writer, Robin Givhan,
does not acknowledge that in several pictures Kagan is shown crossing her legs. Instead, Givhan unfolds theories ranging from the role of age and Hollywood to Kim Cattrall and Sharon Stone (she, mistress of the spread legs) to all sorts of stuff about society and Los Angeles and New York and our obsession with youth.
After describing Kagan's wardrobe as drab, tidy and conservative, Givhan writes, "Kagan is only 50 years old, which might be the equivalent of 100 in Hollywood years, but within the Washington establishment she would be classified as a young'un. Her style, however, makes her seem much older.''
Finally, after a long, meandearing tract, Givhan brings up the rumors that Kagan is gay. This is the sly way Givhan puts it: "Tied up in the assessment of style – Kagan's or anyone else's – is the awkward, fumbling attempt to suss out precisely who a person is."
Pause. Here it comes.
"For Kagan, that means folks are using fashion as a limited tool for making sense of her sexual orientation." Zap!
"So the chatter on the Internet and in coffee shops turns to lesbian archetypes: the Birkenstock-wearing, crunchy granola womyn; the short-haired, androgynous type; and the glamorous, lipstick-wearing Portia de Rossi girl. What does Kagan's short hair mean? Or the fact she wears makeup?" Robin Givhan is getting her kicks, doing the innuendo thing, but dressing it up in the gauzy language of fashion-as-sexual-psychology, or something.
It's not a first fashion knockout for Givhan, a 45-year-old, slim and buffed-looking, with dark, wavy, long hair, who wears sexy sleeveless little black dresses and slingback heels. She's got a knack for taking on middle-aged, influential women, women of substance, and tearing them apart for the bad taste of not looking like, well, her.
Poor Harriet Miers
, a Bush nominee to the Supreme Court in 2005. Givhan mashed her to little pieces. "While her restrained suites steered clear of any flashy references to femininity, Miers wore makeup applied in the manner of a young woman who views eyeliner as something quite grown-up, tough and just a little bit sexy." She went on, "As a result, Miers executed a clumsy merger of Washington's particular brand of stodgy power-dressing with one of the iconic markers of gender: dark-rimmed, look-at-me-eyes."
That was chicken feed next to Givhan's dissection of Hillary Rodham Clinton's cleavage
"She was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape. The cleavage registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn't an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable."
Givhan was describing Senator Clinton on the Senate floor one day in July 2007.
"It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity . . . " she wrote. "But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!"
Now, for different reasons, it's Kagan's turn.