Do Sneakers and Power Jackets Really Make A Madam Vice President?

The Vogue magazine controversy over the appropriate cover photo, showing “Madam Vice President! Kamala Harris And The New America” brings to center stage the issues for women of the meaning of authenticity, approachability, and authority.

The fashion and political press commentary concerning this brouhaha, have used terms such as “disrespectful and diminishing” to our first female, women of color Vice President.

Fashion aside! What can we as women, baby boomers, millennials, and indeed all women, learn from this Vogue magazine cover dilemma?
Women are conditioned based on their generation to view an image of a female public figure and then determine and define her authenticity and approachability. Is it really sneakers, a sometimes-giddy laugh, or the proper placement of hands and arms that really makes us decide who is competent and trustworthy? Is proper lighting, power colors the essential optics to determine who has genuine authority? Do we understand how our implicit biases and pre-conditioning makes us decide what female leadership should look like? Do we realize how complicit we are in helping to perpetuate a static image of a female leader’s authenticity, approachability, and authority?

Implicit in the question of approachability is the expectation of likeability. Women and especially men, require women on a public stage in a predominately male arena to be likable as well as strong and competent. Undermining likeability and authenticity include the descriptions “she is angry, ambitious, phony and more.”

I’m a baby boomer who confesses to my implicit biases and succumbing to the optics of color, style, hair color and cut and yes, looking the part! I am on an exciting, evolutionary journey, however, despite my generation’s conditioning, to see what will emerge as a new style and image of a successful female leader.

I love the idea of sneakers, new power colors, and no more inaugural ball gowns!