The presidential candidate who won the 2016 popular vote gave an impassioned speech to supporters of the Children’s Defense Fund on Wednesday night, emphasizing the importance of tolerance, anti-poverty efforts, and civic engagement. “I believe the measure of any society is how we treat our children, and as we move forward into a new and in many ways uncertain future, that must be the test for America and ourselves,” Hillary Clinton said in her first public appearance since her graceful concession speech last week.
If you get your news from the Daily Mail’s Femail (get it?) section, you wouldn’t know anything about the content of Clinton’s speech. All you would know is that she looked old AF while giving it. “Mrs. Clinton appears to have dropped her ‘soft’ and polished aesthetic in favour of a sterner look,” reads a subhead on the British site’s 2,500-word article about Clinton’s appearance during the Children’s Defense Fund speech. At a speed of three words-per-second, it would take you more than 13 minutes to read every word of this Daily Mail article. For scale, Clinton’s speech lasted 20 minutes.
Highlights of the Daily Mail assessment include describing Clinton as “weary-looking,” “unkempt,” and “clearly no longer concerned about impressing the public visually.” Femail writer Martha Cliff interviews a facialist who says, “There could be a whole host of reasons that she’s starting to look a bit more down beat. Lack of sleep is usually the main instigator,” and other “experts” who claim “stress and anxiety could be to blame.” Cliff’s conclusion is that Clinton’s appearance during the speech reflects a radical change in her persona. “Mrs. Clinton’s style seems to be less of the friendly and approachable mother-figure and one of a sterner-minded woman,” Cliff asserts.
No one should be surprised when the Mail assigns a long article scrutinizing a famous woman’s appearance. The Daily Mail is like the snake in Donald Trump’s favorite poem—it is a body-shaming tabloid, and it will always be a body-shaming tabloid, and we shouldn’t expect any better of it. And yet! Isn’t there an extremely simple explanation for Clinton’s changed appearance at the Children’s Defense Fund gala, one that the Mail flits around without ever landing on? Clinton is no longer wearing tons of makeup because she no longer has to.
An enormous amount of invisible labor went into making Clinton look youthful and refreshed while she was on the campaign trail. Clinton, and everyone around her, knew that if she ever went outside without her hair perfectly coiffed and her face covered in makeup, she would get raked through the coals for looking old and ragged. Politics is a game that requires women to put approximately ten times more thought and effort into their appearance than men do, and Clinton played the game.
Now that she’s no longer campaigning, Clinton is done playing the game, which shouldn’t alarm or concern anyone. Frankly, it’s a relief to see Clinton step off the tightrope that she has balanced on for the past year and a half. Freed from the expectation of appealing to men who are threatened by women in positions of power, Clinton looks like the 69-year-old woman that she is. Why should Clinton care about “impressing the public visually”? After suffering the biggest disappointment of her life—and maybe the biggest national disappointment of the century—Clinton is focused on public service, not her hairdo. The only thing that would make Clinton’s no-makeup look more inspiring would be if she was debuting as president-elect.