Kamala Harris, Southeast Asia and in uniform

Any solo international travel by the United States’ first female vice president and the nation’s first female vice president of color wo...


Any solo international travel by the United States’ first female vice president and the nation’s first female vice president of color would, under normal circumstances, invite first-degree scrutiny. Not just his speeches and joint press conferences, but his solemn appearances. Focus on the last word.

After all, as a trailblazer and one of the few women to help lead a country on the world stage (at a time when one of the most famous, Angela Merkel of Germany, is about to retire) , every statement and choice she makes carries with it the symbolism of the pioneer. Her decisions impact not only on herself, but also on those who will follow her and learn from her example.

And even Kamala harris recent trip to Southeast Asia, which ended on August 26, was notable in part because of the emphasis it placed on what she said and the few superfluous comments it generated; how little reaction to the theater of the trip (the costumes! the curtain raisers!). Which is quite extraordinary, when you think of the formal choreography of such trips, which are a dance between public performance and private political negotiations.

The daily mail was so desperate for the content that he tried to instill anguish over… a smile.

It may suggest that we are so used to the idea of ​​a female leader that we have stopped focusing on her, a theory that falls into the too good to be true category. (Making instant judgments based on appearance is a fundamental part of human nature.) Or it suggests that Ms. Harris consciously and strategically designed her image to ensure that she could not distract from duty to accomplish.

Which doesn’t mean she thinks about it less.

Consider: From the evening of August 20, when she left Washington to fly to Singapore, while in Vietnam, she wore only dark pantsuits in navy blue, gray and black, with a small lapel pin. flag on the reverse, plain white or light blue seashells underneath and its single row of signature pearls.

She wore a dark pantsuit to meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore. A dark pantsuit at the orchid christening ceremony. A dark pantsuit to meet Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to pay tribute at the John McCain Memorial in Hanoi on the third anniversary of his death.

Against the backdrop of the disorderly evacuation from Afghanistan and the need to reaffirm America’s commitment to its allies, with the Delta variant and other forms of the virus casting a cloud of fear over the world’s efforts to fight the pandemic, his dark wardrobe has served to reflect the grim state of the world.

Her choices also helped her blend in: not only with her male peers, who were dressed alike (at a press conference with Prime Minister Lee, she wore a light blue shell which, coincidentally, matched his light blue shirt), but with the political tradition as it exists in the shared imagination. After all, dark suits are basically synonymous with generic world leader uniforms, which is why people panic when a president does the rare appearance in beige. (Beige! Oh my god! Oh my god!)

In the end, that was the biggest takeaway from the vice president’s directing. More than the fact that within this framework, Ms Harris also ticked the boxes of diplomatic outfits, wearing American designer clothes (Prabal Gurung, Altuzarra) and, in line with her mandate to focus on climate change, only clothes that ‘she already owned.

Given that Ms Harris clearly stepped away from the bleeding uniform in the background at times in the spotlight – when she was wearing a white suffragette costume in the evening, Joe Biden declared victory in the presidential election; a bright purple coat and dress, mixing blue and red, to his swearing-in; a cream pantsuit in the State of the Union – that was clearly a tactical choice.

And it was effective from the point of view of a number two who doesn’t want to distract his boss. Or distract from the dark issues of the day (let alone exercise discipline and an ability to stay resolute on the message). Even though, watching the journey unfold, it was hard not to wish that a woman didn’t have to don some generic male camouflage to play her part.

Clothing can be used to communicate a variety of messages – unity and hope and alliance and resolve – and it is a tool that is most available to women, for obvious reasons. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice it to be taken seriously. No one should.

Maybe it will come, legitimizing the ability for everyone to use clothing (and fashion, let’s say it) to its greatest, most multidimensional extent. For now, Harris must distinguish between representing her administration and writing history. She may not be able to serve both masters. But it would be something to see.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Kamala Harris, Southeast Asia and in uniform
Kamala Harris, Southeast Asia and in uniform
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