Turning cleavage complaint around

Clinton trying to turn attack into cash

The New York TimesJuly 28, 2007 

In an e-mail message titled "Cleavage," Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has an eye-catching pitch for campaign contributions.

The subject line of the message refers to a July 20 article in The Washington Post about the neckline on an outfit Clinton wore during a speech she gave two days earlier. It "sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape," said the article, by Robin Givhan, a style writer who had watched the speech on C-Span2. "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."

Givhan's article described the cleavage as "an exceptional kind of flourish" even for a woman who, in her campaign for president, has given up on her onetime "desexualized uniform" -- a black pantsuit -- in favor of "a wide array of suits and jackets" that have allowed her to play "the fashion field."

Benefiting from attack

Clinton's campaign, not at all happy about the article, is hoping its response to the article will prove to be a lucrative tool. "Frankly, focusing on women's bodies instead of their ideas is insulting," says the fundraising e-mail message, written by senior Clinton adviser Ann Lewis and distributed Friday.

Lewis also lamented a moment during Monday's Democratic presidential debate when John Edwards, asked to critique Clinton, jokingly expressed reservations about her coral jacket, which Sen. Barack Obama defended.

What matters?

In big letters, the note reads: "Clothes? Makeup? Cleavage? What's really important in this race? Help Hillary fight for what matters."

Asked about the criticism, Givhan said her type of reporting has a role in election coverage.

"I do think that when people are delivering a message, the message is essentially consumed in different ways, and that depends on how it is delivered," she said. "The tone of voice, the appearance, the context, these things all come into play."

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