The XX Factor

Was Elizabeth Gates’ Eyeliner Comment Out of Line?

Skip Gates’ daughter, Elizabeth Gates, wrote for the Daily Beast about attending the so-called Beer Summit at the White House. Rather than furthering a discussion about race relations, the only responses have been about gender relations: specifically, calling Elizabeth catty for remarking on Sgt. Crowley’s daughter’s green eyeliner. Elizabeth wrote:

our family rounded the corner to the White House library and I first caught sight of Sgt. Crowley’s lovely daughter; she was wearing an appropriately heavy and charmingly untrained amount of green eyeliner on her lower lashes, and I saw my former self in her.

Ann Althouse says of Elizabeth’s remarks, “Let’s begin a great national conversation about how women judge and maybe even hate other women. In the fourth chair-the Biden seat-Hillary! Instead of beer, various girlie drinks-maybe Focus Vitamin Water or something. Cosmos for the older ladies.” I agree with Althouse that Elizabeth’s tone was unnecessarily condescending. However, I didn’t really get “maybe even hate” from Elizabeth’s extraneous makeup commentary.

But furthermore, it makes me wonder: Is it ever okay to write about the sartorial choices of women outside the fashion industry? Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan was recently criticized across the internet for discussing Sotomayor’s  confirmation hearing wardrobe. While Givhan’s commentary was negative, it is possible to remark on what someone is wearing without judgment. Wouldn’t we be losing a great deal of color from descriptive writing if we no longer even mentioned the attire of the people involved in any event worth talking about?

Photograph by Getty Images.