Sen. Kyrsten Sinema wore a denim vest to preside over the Senate. Here's why that matters
We see you, Senator. We really do.
But that’s no surprise, is it? After all, it’s what you seem to want.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona’s walking, talking headline — well, not talking to the media much, actually — presided over the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
Wearing a denim vest.
The internet, being the internet, exploded, mostly with derision.
“Does she think this is a (expletive) rodeo?” one person asked on Twitter. More politically, another person tweeted, “How is it possible that the dress code for my $18.00/hr job is SIGNIFICANTLY MORE FORMAL than it is for a person presiding over the U.S. Senate?”
As Sinema stories go, this one is relatively tame. And yet ...
This Sinema story has nothing to do with governing. But it is a story nonetheless, at a time when everything she says and does is being scrutinized.
Sinema has refused to back President Joe Biden’s "Build Back Better" infrastructure bill. It’s been high drama and low comedy along the way, with “Saturday Night Live” taking shots at her in two of its first three episodes of the new season. The spotlight is squarely on her.
Sinema is savvy. She knows people are watching.
We get it, senator. You’re a rebel. The "(expletive) off" ring you wore was a pretty solid clue.
As someone who has basically worn a T-shirt and jeans to work for years, I have no standing to critique anyone else’s fashion sense. And why should I, or anyone else? What someone wears to work is ultimately unimportant, unless you’re a firefighter rushing into a burning building without a coat, boots and helmet. What you do is more important than how you look.
And to be clear: What a woman wears to work is also not typically newsworthy, or even interesting-worthy, unless you’re talking about a model during Fashion Week. For far too long, leering men commenting on how women dress has been tolerated. It shouldn’t be, obviously. It’s gross.
But this isn’t that.
This is the most visible member of the Senate who is currently involved in highest-stakes negotiations on legislation that could shape the future of the country showing up dressed for some kind of Scottsdale version of a biker rally.
Do her clothes matter? Not a bit.
Does whatever message she's sending matter? Yeah, it does.
It’s possible, though not likely, that Sinema woke up late and grabbed the first piece of clothing she could find on her way to, um, something that would put her squarely in the public eye.
Yeah. Definitely unlikely.
Sinema has used fashion to make political statements before
Sinema often uses fashion to make political statements. From the start of her stint in the Senate, in fact, where her outfit made headlines. I described it at the time as “a pink coat worn over a sleeveless white blouse with matching bracelet and flower-print skirt; she also wore a fur-looking thingamajig over her shoulders for the actual swearing-in.”
Again, no fashion expert here. But Sinema was clearly announcing that she would be her own person, not beholden to stodgy tradition.
And how. She’s shown that, time and again.
This is not to say that Sinema should disappear from view. She shouldn’t. Indeed, she should talk to the media more about what she’s up to with her negotiations. She should address her constituents. And at this point, her constituents are everyone, because of the clout she’s wielding.
It would be better for everyone if people were talking about, and media were covering, what Sinema is really up to, not what she's wearing. But here we are, sleeveless and speculating.
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