With any luck you were soaking up sun and eating barbecue yesterday, so you may have missed the Washington Post's latest contribution to the ongoing discussion about women and success.
The paper published a story all about White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler's shoes.
Check this out:
Ruemmler first attracted attention for her glam heels as a Justice Department prosecutor trying Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling in 2006, when she sported what The Wall Street Journal described as “stunning 4-inch bright pink stiletto spikes.”
Notice how the article's author, Juliet Eilperin, mentions Ruemmler's work on the Enron case as a passing detail -- a context clue, as they used to say in SAT prep -- included to orient us to the moment when she was first celebrated for her heels.
It's a little like the paper is channeling its 2007 self, the Washington Post that published Robin Givhan's infamous piece focusing not on then-Senator Hillary Clinton's work but on her cleavage:
She was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education... 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.
Readers were quick to call out the unfairness of the new piece. One Washington Post commenter wrote, "I can't wait for the WaPo to have a headline describing some male politicians rumpled poorly cut suit..." and another wrote, "I can't believe that in 2013 they're still writing about women in powerful positions in terms of their clothing!"
On Twitter, New York Times reporter Annie Lowrey tweeted:
I can't even. washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/…
— Annie Lowrey (@AnnieLowrey) May 27, 2013
And Irin Carmon wrote in her response piece on Salon:
The Washington Post is still one of the country’s major papers, there are still far too few women in positions of power in the city it mainly covers, and at a time when Ruemmler is in the spotlight for whether she did her job right, the shoe chatter is simply undermining and trivializing.
The Washington Post article goes on to emphasize that Ruemmler's taste in shoes is high-end, adding materialism to the list of qualities it seems to value in the former U.S. prosecutor. After quoting the blog Above the Law -- "Just because you work for the DOJ doesn’t mean you have to shop at DSW" -- the article reassures us, "Now, she wears Manolo Blahniks and Christian Louboutins into the Oval Office."
[h/t The Awl]