Last week, I argued that it was useful to think about the clothes Kyrsten Sinema wears, because her presentation is part of her political power. I also invited readers to think along with me. Many of you wrote me to say that the very idea of talking about what a woman is wearing gives you, for lack of a better term, the heebie-jeebies. Some of you worry that this line of inquiry devalues Sinema’s credentials and office; others worry that talking about presentation is tacitly sexist because it opens the door to critiquing women for something that their male counterparts can take for granted.
Some took me to task for lowering myself — and the discourse — to something as trivial as performance, style and fashion. I addressed that criticism, which I find deeply unserious, in my last newsletter. Presentation matters to how we live. Serious people should be able to talk about that.
That’s why I talked with some serious people about Sinema’s clothes.
This week I turned to Maxine Craig, a friend of mine and a sociologist at the University of California, Davis. For decades, Maxine has written about the cultural meaning of seemingly innocuous notions like why men do not like to dance socially or how women navigate gender at the gym. One of the unifying interests of Maxine’s research is in the coded language of presentation, especially the ways we talk about contested notions about race, gender, sexual identity and class. I have also written about how racial codes are communicated through beauty and beauty rituals. Maxine and I are not alone in our interest: This is an area that draws attention from academics across many disciplines.
As I argued last week, politicians spend money and effort to construct their public image, making choices about everything from their clothing to their website photos. The audience for this performance — both the media and the voters — takes all of that in when we judge politicians’ authenticity, relatability and capability. The way that we interpret and respond to these framing decisions is sometimes surprising.
For instance, one study started with the observation that many politicians choose not to wear eyeglasses because they believe that glasses project infirmity and old age. But the researchers came to the conclusion that politicians might be making a mistake; they found that glasses seemed to actually help politicians because wearing them also connotes intelligence. And the audience mattered: Wearing glasses was a net positive for Western audiences, but it was a net negative for Indian ones. This study, though, did not address the ways that this could be affected by the gender of the politician.
Because of our shared interest, Maxine and I started with an obvious question. Would we have the heebie-jeebies talking about Sinema’s odd style choices if she were not a white, able-bodied woman?
While we talked, Maxine and I did a visual tour of the most searched images of Sinema online. If you haven’t seen some of those style choices, this article features some highlights. To me, her style is notable for its bright colors, tight fit and playfulness. Independently, these are all things that politicians generally eschew. So why does Sinema play against these expectations? The easiest answer is because she can. The harder answer is that she can because of who she is, which is to say that race absolutely matters to her style choices.
Maxine pointed out that Sinema’s physique is one that would “attract different kinds of attention” were it that of a Black woman. As a comparison, she brought up the way voters eviscerated Michelle Obama — who is a political figure despite not being an elected official — for wearing sleeveless dresses. On Obama, fitted sheaths without sleeves were a code for unruly behavior and thus disrespect for the president’s office. But unruliness is a reputation that Sinema can afford to cultivate. It was seen, especially early in her career, as positive: a mark of her independence, not a sign of her lack of respect. Sinema also gets a bonus: that sleeveless silhouette draws attention to her level of fitness. Love or hate her style, a lot of the commentary suggests, you have to respect Sinema’s fit physique.
Fitness implies health, and our culture elevates healthiness and fitness to the level of moral virtue — which means that being able to code as fit or healthy is an asset to politicians. This is why we know so much about Sinema’s fitness routine. It is also why we knew about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s push-ups and why those infamous photos of Paul Ryan working out exist.
Before Sinema became a wayward cog in the Democratic legislative machine, a lot of her press included fawning reports on her morning runs — as early as 3 a.m.! — and Spin classes and Ironman competitions. Like Ryan and other younger national elected officials, Sinema used her fitness routine to communicate strength and moral fortitude. Returning to the comparison to Obama: Sinema can be fit and morally upright, whereas Obama’s similar physique was not interpreted in the same way.
In 2019, Sinema completed a Marathon in Ventura, California. Just two weeks before that, Sinema won first place running medals for women in the ACLI Capital Challenge — a three-mile race that includes members of the government’s legislative, executive and judicial branches, as well as media staff — Along Washington DC’s Anacostia River. Sinema’s time of 20:45 not only made her the fastest congresswoman, but she also set a women’s record.
Sinema’s presentation as a young, fit politician bucks some gender conventions. Strength is often associated with men, and physically strong women are often demonized. But in another way, Maxine said, Sinema’s performance of physical fitness is conformist. Sinema is one of the few out bisexual members of Congress, and her style plays into the ideas that sexual minorities are inherently nonconformist.
Bisexuality is a marginalized identity, but the progressiveness associated with it, in other contexts, is a political asset. “This sort of presenting herself as someone who crosses and violates norms gives her kind of radical credentials while she undermines progressive aims,” Maxine told me. “The coolness that comes with being bisexual and the coolness with embracing sexuality and performing it with her clothes can create this perception that she’s down with the people. Being progressive on this one dimension of sexuality provides cover for her general political stance.”
Maxine said that Sinema’s style choices can be read as a type of pinkwashing: leveraging positive associations with gay culture and identity to distract from one’s negative actions. Sinema’s performance highlights that she is a minority in Congress. That minority status, in turn, gives her some progressive street cred that she then does not have to earn through actual progressive policymaking.
Playing with this conforming nonconformist look served Sinema very well when she played nicely with her fellow Democrats; that nonconformity was coded by media as moral fitness. As her politics have become more at odds with national Democratic priorities, her style choices have gotten a more mixed reception from Democrats. For her part, Sinema seems to know it. After all, she courts the most powerful capital a politician can have, other than corporate donations: attention.
Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, the author of “Thick: And Other Essays” and a 2020 MacArthur fellow.
What lies ahead for Sask. politics after fall sitting begins in controversy, ends with $500 cheques in mail – CBC.ca
The fall sitting of the Saskatchewan Legislature started with controversy and ended quietly on Wednesday with confirmation $500 affordability cheques have been mailed.
The past seven weeks have seen the typical disagreements on what the government’s priorities ought to be, but it began with an incident that made international headlines and led to an apology by the premier.
On Oct. 26, Lt.-Gov. Russell Mirasty delivered the government’s throne speech. Seated in the crowd was convicted killer and former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Colin Thatcher.
Thatcher, 84, was found guilty in 1984 of the first-degree murder of his ex-wife, JoAnn Wilson, who was found beaten and shot to death in the garage of her home the previous year.
He was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years and granted full parole in November 2006.
Thatcher was invited by Thunder Creek MLA Lyle Stewart, who initially defended the decision, before calling it an “error in judgment.”
The Saskatchewan Party government relieved Stewart of his legislative secretary duties. Five days after the throne speech, Premier Scott Moe apologized.
On Wednesday, deputy premier Donna Harpauer met with reporters, as Moe was in Washington, D.C.
“It was a mistake, one that the premier addressed on behalf of all of us, but we are very focused on the government agenda and got back to our agenda very quickly,” she said.
NDP Leader Carla Beck said the invitation was a “slap in the face” to survivors of domestic violence, those that work in the field, and the assembly.
“We’re looking at a government that is out of touch,” the Opposition leader said.
“The fact that they did not see a problem with inviting a convicted wife killer to the legislature on throne speech day and then took five days and international embarrassment to even table the weakest of apologies,” said Beck.
“It sent a terrible message in a province that has twice the rate of domestic violence in the country.
Saskatchewan First Act
A day after Moe’s apology, Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre introduced the Saskatchewan First Act, which the government said will confirm the province’s autonomy and jurisdiction over its natural resources.
“This isn’t about fed-bashing for kicks,” Eyre said on Nov. 1.
“This is about quantifying, assessing, and defining economic harm. It’s about our place in this federation and our responsibility to the people of Saskatchewan to foster economic growth.”
The Saskatchewan First Act has been overshadowed by new Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act which was introduced on Nov. 28 and is already going to be tweaked by government.
On Wednesday, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations called for the proposed Alberta Sovereignty and the Saskatchewan First acts to be withdrawn.
Moe and Eyre have said the Saskatchewan act is inclusive.
“It doesn’t change the intentions the government has to include all Saskatchewan people, Indigenous or otherwise, in the economy,” Moe said last week.
“What the act is focused on is to make sure we have the focus on Saskatchewan so we can collectively benefit.”
Last week, Beck and members of her caucus received some criticism for voting to move the bill to committee.
Beck said it is not clear what the bill accomplishes.
“My observation is that this was an act that was designed to have a political motivation behind it, but really materially wouldn’t have had that much of an impact on the people of this province. It reasserts rights that already exist.”
Beck said she has concerns about a lack of consultation with Indigenous and Métis communities.
$500 cheques not enough, says Opposition
Beck and the Opposition spent much of the sitting calling on the government to spend more to help people facing increased cost-of-living.
The government said it had responded with its decision to spend $450 million to send $500 cheques to more than 900,000 adults.
After an initial delay in getting the cheques mailed, they have been sent to people who filed their income tax by Aug. 31.
Harpauer said Wednesday the government is addressing needs by spending in areas of need like health care and education.
“We have committed additional dollars in a plan for health care for recruitment, retention, training and incentivizing more workers, recognizing that there is stress in the health-care system,” she said.
“We also addressed stresses within education by providing additional dollars for inflation for our school divisions as well as an increase in student enrolment.”
Beck said the government’s priorities do not match the Opposition’s, mentioning the government’s decision to create a Crown corporation, the Saskatchewan Revenue Agency.
The bill to create the agency was introduced this week. The government said its aim is to “pursue greater autonomy in tax collection.”
“We think this is a priority,” Harpauer said.
“The piece of legislation I introduced this week is a very high-level piece of legislation that won’t come to fruition for a few years. But at some point, we do want to explore it, and this lets the public know what our agenda is.”
Beck said the public was not looking for a new tax collection and administration agency.
“There’s a very big distinction between the priorities that we brought forward because these are concerns that people in the province have,” she said.
“The government seems very pleased with in this building I don’t think translates very well to the people out there who are struggling to just get by right now.”
Harpauer disagreed, saying the proposed revenue agency is a response to what the government has heard.
“We are listening to stakeholders around the province, to different groups as well as our own constituents. This isn’t just coming from nowhere. This is something that people are raising concerns about.”
The Many Ad Bans of Disney+: No Booze, No Politics, No Netflix – BNN Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) — Walt Disney Co. debuts the ad-supported version of its Disney+ streaming service Thursday with strict rules: No alcohol commercials, no political spots and no ads from competitors.
The new service, which is priced at $8 a month, has signed up 100 sponsors across a wide swath of business, including finance, retail and automotive, Rita Ferro, Disney Media’s president of advertising, said in an interview. The company intentionally left some slots open to accommodate marketer interest after the product’s debut, she said.
Although Disney’s position on some of the restrictions may change over time, the Burbank, California-based company will shut out rivals including Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video to prioritize its own shows and films, Ferro said.
“Our content is going to be the only thing you see on our platforms,” she said.
The ad-supported version of Disney’s flagship streaming platform will have 4 minutes of commercials per hour or less, or about half the ad load of Hulu, its sister streaming service. It’s becoming available at a tough time for the media industry at large amid a pullback in ad spending and fears of an imminent recession.
On Tuesday, shares of CBS owner Paramount Global fell 7% after Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish said the company’s advertising sales this quarter will be “a bit below” the third quarter in a “challenging” market.
The comments echoed those of Jeff Shell, chief executive officer of Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal division, who said the advertising market is “definitely getting worse.” Last week, AMC Networks Inc. announced plans to fire 20% of its US staff, Warner Bros Discovery Inc.’s CNN division laid off employees, and NPR said it would “severely restrict” hiring after a sharp drop in sponsorship revenue.
So far, Disney has been less affected than peers by the wider downturn in ad spending and has benefited from a “flight to quality,” Ferro said.
“There’s no question that the marketplace is challenged, and there’s no question there are more challenging times to come,” Ferro said. “But we have not necessarily seen the slowdown that we have seen in the marketplace.”
With the debut of the ad-backed Disney+, the price of the commercial-free version is increasing by $3 to $11 a month. Achieving profitability in Disney’s direct-to-consumer division, which lost $1.5 billion last quarter mainly due to expenses at Disney+, is a priority for the company.
Disney shares fell by 13% on Nov. 9, the worst daily drop since 2001, after the company reported the loss. They were down 41% this year through the close Wednesday.
In response, Disney on Nov. 20 ousted Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek and brought back longtime CEO Bob Iger. Iger told employees at the first town hall held after his return that the company will prioritize breaking even on its streaming initiatives over subscriber growth.
As of last quarter, Disney had about 236 million subscribers across all of its online TV businesses, including Hulu and ESPN+. Chapek said at the time that losses had peaked in the direct-to-consumer division, which Disney expects to reach profitability in 2024.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
B.C. Premier David Eby unveils his new cabinet
Agriculture and Food — Pam Alexis (new to cabinet)
Attorney General — Niki Sharma (new to cabinet)
Children and Family Development — Mitzi Dean (unchanged)
Citizens’ Services — Lisa Beare
Education and Child Care — Rachna Singh (new to cabinet)
Minister of state for child care — Grace Lore (new to cabinet)
Emergency Management and Climate Readiness — Bowinn Ma
Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation — Josie Osborne
Environment and Climate Change Strategy — George Heyman (unchanged)
Finance (includes Columbia River Treaty) — Katrine Conroy
Forests and minister responsible for consular corps. — Bruce Ralston
Health and minister responsible for Francophone affairs — Adrian Dix (unchanged)
Housing and government house leader — Ravi Kahlon
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — Murray Rankin
Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation — Brenda Bailey (new to cabinet)
Minister of state for trade — Jagrup Brar (new to cabinet)
Labour — Harry Bains (unchanged)
Mental Health and Addictions — Jennifer Whiteside
Municipal Affairs — Anne Kang
Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills (includes immigration/foreign credentials) — Selina Robinson
Minister of state for workforce development — Andrew Mercier (new to cabinet)
Public Safety and Solicitor General (ICBC) — Mike Farnworth (unchanged)
Social Development and Poverty Reduction — Sheila Malcolmson
Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport — Lana Popham
Transportation and Infrastructure (BC Transit and Translink) — Rob Fleming (unchanged)
Minister of state for infrastructure and transit — Dan Coulter (new to cabinet)
Water, Land and Resource Stewardship — Nathan Cullen
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022
What lies ahead for Sask. politics after fall sitting begins in controversy, ends with $500 cheques in mail – CBC.ca
The Many Ad Bans of Disney+: No Booze, No Politics, No Netflix – BNN Bloomberg
How does increasing interest rates actually help curb inflation? – CBC.ca
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