Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a new Instagram account.
The first post is a photo of several pantsuits in red, white, and blue.
Have you heard that Clinton likes pantsuits? The 2016 presidential candidate has made the trope into her own campaign meme. It’s not only her first Instagram post: It is in her Twitter bio, she sells pantsuit merchandise, and it comes up frequently in her public statements.
She makes the joke so often that some political reporters think it needs to be retired. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote on Wednesday that “the pantsuit joke is in serious danger of becoming a crutch for Clinton. We think she can do much better. There has to be another way for her to self-deprecate.”
I’m a fan of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit jokes. She should continue making them as long as she wants.
The media has been scrutinizing Clinton’s look for decades. Back in 1992, the Los Angeles Times wrote a particularly cringe-worthy story about Clinton’s penchant for headbands: “Sure, it keeps her hair off her face and hides the dark roots of her otherwise blond hairdo. But is it worth it if it makes the 44-year-old lawyer look like the world’s oldest debutante?”
The pantsuit jokes in particular seem to date back to 2007. New York magazine’s Dan Amira wrote a roundup of her pantsuit jokes back in 2013, which point to 2007 as the beginning of her frequent public reference to her favourite outfit, with the exception of one somewhat vague reference back in 2000. What happened in 2007?
In 2007, then-presidential candidate Clinton was the butt of 186 jokes on late-night television — nearly as many as the entirety of the field of male candidates combined. According the LA Times, reporting on a study from the Center for Media and Public Affairs, “most of the jokes about Clinton centered on her gender and portrayed her as cold and unattractive, including 29 swipes about her taste in clothes and 21 cracks about her marital difficulties.”
For example, this joke from David Letterman: “Hillary is dressing sexier and sexier. Yesterday she was seen shopping at Victoria’s Pantsuit.”
(This is not a funny joke about a presidential candidate, by the way.)
Clinton’s reaction to this was to go on Letterman and make her own pantsuit jokes. And thus started the pantsuit meme. The jokes aren’t going away because it’s the only way for Clinton to be in control of the attention to her clothes. It’s her way of saying that making her choice of dress the butt of a late night joke isn’t going to work anymore.
And it’s working! We’ve moved from criticising her pantsuits to criticising her strategic decision to constantly talk about her pantsuits on the campaign trail.
Hillary Clinton put in decades of listening to people criticise her fashion choices. She should have at least a few years of goodwill left with this joke about it.
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