I don't know why I'm surprised. Maybe because I just wrote a piece called Mean Girls No More—about how much nicer women are to each other by the time they reach their 50s.
Really, her hair?
And then refused to apologize.
Ugh, is this what having more women in politics is going to be like? Are we going to have hairstyle-offs before voting day?
But should it be?
That would be an emphatic no from Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post:
No no no no no! It does go with the territory that women in politics have more attention paid to their appearance than male candidates. It doesn't go with the territory that one candidate — female or male — gets a free pass for dissing an opponent's looks."
For the record, Barbara Boxer's hairdo is fine; it suits her. Is Fiorina's edgy because it's a pixie cut? Not necessarily; as I explain here, it can be the result of a lazy hairdresser's inability to help a woman grow out her gray. But it also suits her, so…
If she was running for senate hairdresser, all this would be appropriate. I ran into two friends for whom this was a live topic. Erika said this kind of sniping is the result of women not being able to duke it out in the playground. "We've had to develop more witty, more verbal ways of addressing conflict," and she cited female banter in films of the 1930s and '40s.
More verbal is good. Witty is good too, although this wasn't particularly. Marie remembered tensions between Annette Funicello and Darlene on the old Mickey Mouse Club.
This seems appropriate; let's look here for some guidance:
[Funicello] had to share third billing with her bête noire, Darlene Gillespie. The two girls were set to have their own serial, to be called Annette and Darlene, but it turned into a solo star vehicle, Annette.
Ahh, very helpful — it's true that only one of them (Carly or Barbara) will go to the big show in the end.
Honestly, do men do this? Rush Limbaugh recently called Bill O'Reilly 'Ted Baxter' (the bufoonish newscaster from the Mary Tyler Moore Show)… but is it the same?
"Men don't make comments such as Carly Fiorina's," says gender expert Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth about Women and Rivalry, "because we still live in a patriarchal culture where men have supremacy. When you are the gender with the power, you don't have to endlessly compete and be cruel toward other members of your gender. The 'dirty little secret' among women is that there is so often this underlying jealousy, or meanness toward one another … because women still lack agency.
"This prevailing sense among women that there is always something to compete for creates the climate of cattiness," Barash continues. "Why would a man remark about another man's hair, or even notice it, since men compete in a healthier way than do women, thus they don't need to find fault with one another, about large and small matters (such as hair styles)."
I don't know if it's healthier. Men also get into wars. My friend Denise says, "I think men are just as catty, only it's not called that and they 'take each other down' in a different way. Yes, not having to do with appearances. That's certainly our domain!"
Perhaps we're better off griping about trivialities like hairstyles! But does it highlight an underlying fear that women can't handle serious issues? Maybe it's so trivial that it's innocuous, and so we're in safer territory. Political conflict right up there next to the melees on America's Next Top Model.
Still, as Ms. Marcus puts it, this isn't Middle School.
These are adults here, right? Wait, I remember a piece someone did recently asking where the adults are. Actually I believe the word he used was crybabies. Oh, it was James Kwak on the financial melee — and he's a youngster!
Which raises the question: Have Baby Boomers grown up yet?
Maybe it's a bigger question — what would it be like if we all got along? Ah, I guess I haven't grown up yet.