ANALYSIS: WaPo Violates Anti-Sexism Guidelines with Article on Kamala Harris 'Shoe Choice'

Mike Pence snubbed again

September 10, 2020

The Washington Post violated industry guidelines designed to prevent misogynist media coverage of female political candidates, a Washington Free Beacon analysis has found.

The offending article, published earlier this week under the headline, "Kamala D. Harris goes viral — for her shoe choice," appeared in the paper's "politics" section and was authored by a reporter "covering the 2020 campaign." Upon closer examination, however, the Post's reporting on Joe Biden's historic running mate wasn't about politics or the 2020 campaign. It was about a female politician's fashion choices.

This familiar sexist trope promotes misogyny by emphasizing Harris's looks at the expense of her actual accomplishments, including her successful courtship of one of California's most eligible bachelors—2019 Free Beacon Man of the Year Willie Brown—in the mid-1990s. Hillary Clinton was similarly scrutinized for her looks and "tone" while her accomplishments, such as earning tens of millions on the corporate speaking circuit, were overlooked.

A group of liberal anti-sexism activists led by former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett recently warned media outlets that "reporting, even as an aside, on a woman's looks ... is sexist news coverage unless the same analysis is applied to every candidate." The Free Beacon's investigation failed to turn up a single instance of mainstream media reporting on Mike Pence's shoe selection.

What's more, the sexist Post article is hardly an aside. It is a deep dive into Harris's "black, low-rise Chuck Taylor All-Stars, the classic Converse shoe that has long been associated more closely with cultural cool than carefully managed high-profile candidacies." The Post reveals that Harris also owns a pair of white and off-white Chucks, and has "even hinted at a sequined pair she has yet to break out on the trail."

Random Twitter users are quoted praising Harris for dressing "like a real boss." Converse, meanwhile, was "pleased to see that the Vice Presidential nominee has chosen the Chuck Taylor All Star as a reflection of her personal identity," according to a company statement that failed to mention any of Harris's accomplishments or policy proposals. Mike Pence makes an appearance toward the end of the article, but only in a disparaging tweet from "a Florida lawyer who has been traveling around the state in a Grim Reaper costume."

The addition of Harris to the Democratic ticket poses a challenge for professional journalists because their alleged opposition to fashion-centric sexism is bound to clash with their natural inclination to act like total fan girls for "cool" politicians—i.e., any Democrat under the age of 75.