Robin Givhan

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  • NOW calls Givhan's Kagan attack "sexist," WMC hits WaPost writer's "narrow-minded analysis"

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Major national advocates for women are pushing back hard against the Washington Post's Robin Givhan who attacked Elena Kagan last week for being "dowdy" while obsessing over her own observation that the Supreme Court nominee "doesn't appear to ever cross her legs."

    National Organization for Women (NOW) -- the nation's "largest organization of feminist activists" -- says Givhan's column was "sexist" and that the conversation over Kagan's nomination should "move on to the substance of her views."

    In a statement provided to Media Matters, NOW's action vice president Erin Matson said:

    There are a number of questions we should ask when, in 2010, it is considered remarkable for a woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. But does she cross her legs? Dress like a lady? Give me a break.

    It's common sense that calling Elena Kagan frumpy or dowdy is sexist. Same goes with sensationalizing the way she sits in a chair. Let's move on to the substance of her views.

    Similarly, Jehmu Greene -- president of the Women's Media Center (WMC), which strives to make "women visible and powerful in the media" -- chided Givhan for her "narrow-minded analysis" in a post on the WMC's blog.

    Even after Media Matters went to great lengths disproving the vapid musings of Givhan by offering up a variety of photos showing Kagan meeting with Senators and President Obama with her legs crossed, the Post writer stood by her false attacks.

    Related:

  • Former NYT editor: Post's Givhan attacks "women of substance…for the bad taste of not looking like, well, her"

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    We've already told you about how the Washington Post's Robin Givhan attacked Elena Kagan for being "dowdy" while obsessing over her own observation that the Supreme Court nominee "doesn't appear to ever cross her legs."

    Even after Media Matters went to great lengths disproving the vapid musings of Givhan by offering up a variety of photos showing Kagan meeting with Senators and President Obama with her legs crossed, the Post writer stood by her false attacks.

    Now Luisita Lopez Torregrosa -- an adjunct professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism and a former New York Times editor -- is weighing in. She says "the mind reels" reading the Kagan attack piece while also noting Givhan's long history of ripping the appearance of "influential women, women of substance."

    Torregrosa writes (emphasis added):

    It's not a first fashion knockout for Givhan, a 45-year-old, slim and buffed-looking, with dark, wavy, long hair, who wears sexy sleeveless little black dresses and slingback heels. She's got a knack for taking on middle-aged, influential women, women of substance, and tearing them apart for the bad taste of not looking like, well, her.

    Poor Harriet Miers, a Bush nominee to the Supreme Court in 2005. Givhan mashed her to little pieces. "While her restrained suites steered clear of any flashy references to femininity, Miers wore makeup applied in the manner of a young woman who views eyeliner as something quite grown-up, tough and just a little bit sexy." She went on, "As a result, Miers executed a clumsy merger of Washington's particular brand of stodgy power-dressing with one of the iconic markers of gender: dark-rimmed, look-at-me-eyes."

    That was chicken feed next to Givhan's dissection of Hillary Rodham Clinton's cleavage.

    "She was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape. 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."

    Givhan was describing Senator Clinton on the Senate floor one day in July 2007.

    "It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity..." she wrote. "But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!"

  • Robin Givhan misses the point

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Buried in the middle of Robin Givhan's remarkably defensive screed against Michelle Obama's "jarring" and "common" decision to wear shorts on a recent outing at the Grand Canyon is this throwaway line:

    Obama's thigh-skimming shorts speak to body confidence and athleticism rather than fashion, sex appeal or coquettishness.

    It's a shame Givhan chose not to elaborate on that. If we stipulate to Givhan's contention that what the First Lady wears matters, we might well come to the conclusion that Michelle Obama's "body confidence" is something to be applauded, particularly in a society that has long done everything possible to undermine the confidence women have in their bodies. We might well conclude that a First Lady who demonstrates to millions of American women that you don't have to be a size zero to be comfortable and confident is doing something remarkably positive and important.

    But instead of exploring that possibility, Givhan sniffs that Michelle Obama's outfit was insufficiently "polished" and "aesthetically respectful." And that's a shame. Givhan had an opportunity to say something important, if only she had seen it.