NYT Piece on Candidate’s Shoes Is Irrelevant, Trivial and Sexist–According to Its Author

The New York Times‘ Susan Dominus, writing an article (8/24/10) entirely about a congressional candidate’s footwear, makes an attempt at self-inoculation:

I know. We, the news media, are not supposed to ask female candidates about their hairstyle or their choice of pantsuits over skirts or their shoes. It is irrelevant. It is trivializing. It is sexist. “You would never write about Chuck Schumer’s shoes,” Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand said in a New York magazine article in response to a question about her flats.

So why write this article that is irrelevant, trivializing and sexist? Because, as it turns out, the shoes worn by Reshma Saujani, who is challenging Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney to represent New York’s 14th District, are not very unusual:

But the Kate Spade wedge heels are not just one candidate’s shoes. They seem to be the shoes of a circle of younger women aspiring to power or already in it, women directly and indirectly passing on to one another ways of navigating the particular challenges of being a woman in the public eye.

This might be the first time that a reporter has attempted to justify covering a non-newsworthy topic on the grounds that it is not particularly newsworthy.

Aside from the fact that Saujani is wearing a style of shoe that is typically worn by female politicians, Dominus makes a case for paying attention to Saujani’s footwear by pointing out that such attention could hurt her candidacy: “Those hip heels run the risk of undercutting Ms. Saujani’s credibility with the people she needs to convince of her gravitas.” You could wear clown shoes and not do more to undermine your credibility than the Times did by publishing this pointless, admittedly sexist piece.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.