- Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona hit back at media commentary on her clothes.
- “It’s very inappropriate. I wear what I want because I like it,” Sinema told Politico.
- Sinema’s colorful outfits make her stand out in the Senate and draw attention from local and national media.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema takes public criticism from members of her own party and even public confrontation from constituents in stride, but thinks her fashion choices in the Senate should be off-limits from public commentary.
“It’s very inappropriate. I wear what I want because I like it. It’s not a news story, and it’s no one’s business,” the Arizona Democrat told Politico in a rare sit-down interview. “It’s not helpful to have [coverage] be positive or negative. It also implies that somehow women are dressing for someone else.”
Since joining the US Senate in 2019, Sinema’s colorful, bold-patterned outfits, denim vests and sweatshirts, and bright-colored wigs have made a splash amid the sea of black, gray, and navy blue suits in the halls of the Senate and drawn attention from the national media. She presided over the Senate in February in a pink shirt with red letters that said, “dangerous creature.”
Sinema is already a minority as one of the only 24 women senators, and is only the second openly LGBTQ female senator, potentially subjecting her personal appearance and style to even more scrutiny.
And especially given how rarely Sinema speaks to the press or publicly discloses her positions on key matters, some commentators have taken to reading into her clothes.
Recent headlines about Sinema and her fashion have included “Why We Should Talk About What Kyrsten Sinema Is Wearing,” and “How Kyrsten Sinema Uses Clothing to Signal Her Social Class” from The New York Times, “Sen. Kyrsten Sinema wore a denim vest to preside over the Senate. Here’s why that matters,” from the Arizona Republic, “Take note, AOC — Kyrsten Sinema’s bad style actually makes a statement,” from the New York Post, and “Kyrsten Sinema in All Her Bad Outfits Is the New Ivanka Trump,” from the Daily Beast.
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sociology professor Tressie McMillan-Cottom has argued extensively in The Times that Sinema’s style is, in fact, fair game for public commentary and examination in the media, and recently posited that Sinema’s unique, non-designer outfits are “a way of broadcasting her bona fides as a middle-class politician and thus someone in step with middle-class values.”
McMillan-Cottom says that while the initial feminist response may be to reject all commentary of a woman’s clothes as sexist, we should take Sinema’s presentation seriously as a way that she signals her politics and her role in the political arena.
“Just because a politician is a woman doesn’t mean we should leave parts of her politics unexamined. We did that kind of interrogation of women poorly in the past and do it abhorrently in the present,” she recently wrote. “But that does not mean that it cannot be done well and to better ends…if the point of some people’s feminism is to produce more powerful women, then the public is going to have to learn how to talk about powerful women.”