One of the things we learned last year is that the Washington Post's winners of Pulitzer Prizes tend to have a very limited newsroom presence -- mainly in that they have moved on to other papers (like Anthony Shadid), or have taken buyouts (like Gene Weingarten), or have been forced into taking buyouts (like David Hoffman), or have been otherwise sidelined from writing the very sort of piece that earns recognition because they make Publisher Katharine Weymouth sad (Gene Weingarten again). But bucking that trend all this while has been Pulitzer-winner Robin Givhan, who carved out a niche for herself at the Post by documenting the fashion choices of the least fashionable people in the world.
Now, however, Givhan is also moving on, to work on Tina Brown's Newsbeastlyweek tumblr blog, another hit to the Post's Pulitzer-winner community. In this case, though, I'm going to call it a case of addition by subtraction, mostly for reasons that have been wonderfully chronicled by TBD.com's Amanda Hess:
In 2006, Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan snagged a Pulitzer Prize in criticism for her tortured deconstructions of the sartorial choices of the Washington elite. In conferring the award, the prize committee praised Givhan for her "witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism."
That approach--conjuring sweeping cultural conclusions from a politician's flowery pantsuit selection--netted Givhan journalism's top prize. It also inspired her to relentlessly dissect her predominantly female subjects' bodies, then claim grand insight into each woman's cognitive functioning, fitness for public service, and sexual orientation.
Hess goes on to document the "10 nastiest things Robin Givhan has ever written." And there are some doozies! But by far the most celebrated instance of Givhan combining sophomoric body snarking with pure witlessness was that time the existence of Hillary Clinton's decolletage sent her riding off the rails:
On then-United States Senator Hillary Clinton, upon the revelation of a hint of cleavage on the Senate floor: "It's tempting to say that the cleavage stirs the same kind of discomfort that might be churned up after spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far. No one wants to see that. But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away! . . . To display cleavage in a setting that does not involve cocktails and hors d'oeuvres is a provocation. It requires that a woman be utterly at ease in her skin, coolly confident about her appearance, unflinching about her sense of style. Any hint of ambivalence makes everyone uncomfortable." BONUS DEEPLY UNFLATTERING COMMENTARY ON HILLARY CLINTON'S CLEAVAGE: "unnerving."
Because it was merely stupid -- and not, strictly speaking, "nasty" -- Hess leaves out my favorite Givhan moment of the past year, from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's confirmation process: that time she reported, "In the photographs of Kagan sitting and chatting in various Capitol Hill offices, she doesn't appear to ever cross her legs. Her posture stands out because for so many women, when they sit, they cross." Naturally, there were actually all sorts of of Kagan just sitting around, proving her wrong.
Anyway, here's hoping that Givhan meshes well with The Daily Beast's Meghan McCain, that publication's resident critic of body snarking. For Post readers, this is good news. At least until you find out how the paper intends to keep up its recent homophobia jag.
READ THE WHOLE THING:
The 10 nastiest things Robin Givhan has ever written [Amanda Hess]
PREVIOUSLY, on the HUFFINGTON POST:
Elena Kagan's Fashion Choices Matter To The Washington Post For Some Reason