In the October issue of Vogue, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, appears in two designer outfits— form fitting looks from of-the-moment designers Jason Wu and Roland Mouret. They’re a departure from her usual style, which typically involves more plain, non-descript suits and simple dresses. Her hair, also, is coiffed and straightened, an admitted contrast from her usual loose, frizzy curls.
Some have criticized Vogue for “glamming” up Wasserman Schultz, since as Democratic strategist David Axelrod even says in the profile, “a lot of working mothers in America identify with her and she with them.” The piece also calls her “neither elite nor rich.”
“The pic of Debbie Wasserman Schultz in this month’s Vogue is so disheartening. What did they do to her?!” wrote a Twitter user named Em Hall. And Raquel E Saraswati, a self-described Muslim American writer focused on women’s rights wrote, also on Twitter that, “This looks nothing like her.” She added: “We want to recognize those we support no?”
A writer for Washington’s Hill newspaper called her “almost unrecognizable in the photos.”
Jonathan Beeton, Wasserman Schultz’s Director of Communications defended the profile — designer duds included.
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz really is many working Moms throughout the country. They are at their kids’ softball practice in a tshirt and shorts. They’re at work in asuit,” he said. “In the times that they’re able to go out for a special occassion, they can put on a nice dress.”
The Hill also wrote it was “Vogue being Vogue” in mentioning that Wasserman Schultz’s weight gain and loss is discussed in the piece. And even though the gain was related to breast cancer treatments, there seems to be a suggestion that talking about body image is a topic too women’s magazine-y to be taken seriously.
Vogue does say that Wasserman Schultz is “constantly fussing over the well-being of her staff, trying to get better food in the congressional cafeterias, fretting about their romantic lives, and always remembering their birthdays with cake,” but the majority of the four page profile (not available online) to Wasserman Schultz’s political achievements and the clout she holds in Washington. It may be easy to write off the piece as prissy, but it would be mostly inaccurate.
Also, though Wasserman Schultz may not be a fashion maven, the DNC and Vogue have close ties at the moment. Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor, has raised over $2.7 million for the Obama campaign.
Wasserman Schultz has complained of sexist attacks — she noted in a fundraising email last month that she was recently called “not a lady.” But Beeton rejected the notion that the profile could be seen in any way as an overtly feminine response or reaction to those comments, also noting that the profile was Vogue’s idea. Vogue said they had no comment on the story.
It would be wrong, Beeton said, “to read more into it or to suggest that simply because a woman puts on makeup, a nice dress, and gets her hair done that it’s somehow a response to a sexist comment.”