Revisiting Decorum: The CPAC Controversy

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Photo: Snooki at the Grammys. This is not business attire–unless your business is street walking or being provocative on the Grammy’s red carpet.

It didn’t strike me as particularly controversial to say that a business-political gathering calls for business attire generally or to say, specifically, don’t dress like a tramp. Here’s the link to the offending post.

Why is this controversial?

Well, some objected to me using the words “whore” or “slutty” to describe the dress. The language was provocative but no more provocative than the dress, itself, which was the point. Do young women want to be seen first as a sex object? If the answer is yes, then dress that way.

To be clear, the vast majority of women dressed beautifully at CPAC. Look at how awesome conservative women looked here. Enough poorly dressed women got my attention, and a guy brought it up to me (and then a girl did) at the convention, and then I read Erick’s post about young men, and all this was on the heels of an event I took my daughter to recently, that I decided to write about the phenomenon. Altogether, I came to the conclusion that firstly, we are doing a poor job teaching proper decorum to the next generation and secondly, these young women won’t have the benefit of being long forgotten fashion fails. Social media will capture it for all posterity.

Young people need to be more careful these days to maintain their reputations than those of my generation.

I should have divided my post, had I to do it again, because I was really talking about two things: social behavior and sartorial behavior. They are correlated, but not causative. That is, dressing sleazy does not necessarily mean one is a sleaze. That impression can be taken though, and can be detrimental to a woman’s professional and personal opportunities.

It may surprise people to know that I don’t particularly care about fashion in the abstract. I don’t pay attention to it. Women who pull off pulled-together consistently have my full respect. It’s not easy. I’ve referred to myself as fashion-unconscious.

Decorum, though, does matter, and when not one or two outliers, but groups of women seem to be so clueless that even I notice, it might be a problem. So I wrote about it.

This was not a prescriptive post. That is, I wasn’t telling people to wear such and such. It was proscriptive. That is, don’t do this.

Some men lamented that I recommend the coverage of cleavage. Some men were relieved. It shouldn’t be controversial to say that women should be aware of their effect on men and to be respectful. And even I noted that women will show a little bit and can be tasteful, but too much is too much. Who is to say what’s too much? Well, that takes judgment, discernment, and that’s what seems to be lacking.

Some folks worried that even mentioning decorum would discourage young people from getting involved. The mohawk-wielding, Fingers Malloy said that he thought the GOP was too uptight as it is, fashion-wise. Probably. But I never said to be uptight or nunnish but to dress to suite the situation. To be respectful.

And since I’m here, I may as well go all the way. Some of the young men and women I’m writing about didn’t look edgy fashion-wise–they looked unkempt. They looked like they needed showers.

Personal hygiene, being schooled in basic etiquette, knowing where to wear what, are all foundational to being respectful of those around you. I’ve caught a couple episode of What Not To Wear, and repeatedly, the hosts are stressing being respectful by dressing and grooming in a manner appropriate to the situation. They don’t ask people to give up their essential selves. They ask that the people be their best selves.

And really, that was my whole point: Young ladies, those few who this was written to, being their best, pulled-together selves is simply respectful to themselves and to their friends, their co-workers, and the environment. What you wear, how you wear it, and in what situation you wear it does provoke a reaction from people either good, bad or neutral. To pretend that people don’t judge is just silly. They do.

On Twitter, I gave examples of women who are beautiful and even edgy and sexy but not overtly sexual or sleazy. There’s a line. We all seem to know the difference. Well, Michelle Malkin, Dana Loesch, Pamela Gellar, Abby Alger and Tina Korbe are all unique and uniquely beautiful, tasteful, and sartorially pleasing, as just a few examples.

As to the latter, Robert Stacy McCain, decided to link-whore (there’s that word again) on my previous post and took the opportunity to be vile to Tina Korbe. There is no excuse for what he wrote. Please read Katie Pavlich’s thorough evisceration. He was wrong and came across as a sexist pig. Tina is an example of what TO do. That she sat down, and her skirt hiked up, and that someone captured it and pointed it out is classless. All women in a skirt (even ones that go to your knees), can empathize with her situation. The people publishing the photo should be embarrassed. [It just makes me angry that I’m playing into what Stacy really wants, which is for someone, anyone, to link to and read his blog.]

Hopefully, this clarifies things. There’s a line between stylish and even sexy, and sleazy and kinda dirty. Women who dress the latter at a business or politics conference shouldn’t be surprised when people judge them. Some ladies do this knowing the effect and being happy for it. More women though, are unaware of the impression they’re leaving and would like to be seen differently. For those women, a knowledgable Department Store worker can be a huge help. I know I have one. She calls me when she thinks something would be good, since I’ve told her my job. Being fashion stupid doesn’t mean one has to violate decorum. It just means one has to work harder.

Here’s a link to good advice. There’s more at the link.

Oh, and since I’ve irritated everyone, I’ll address the social behavior in another post.