Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Operations Alyssa Mastromonaco was surprised by her own friends' reactions.
After she announced that she'd be leaving her Obama administration post of three years for a contributing editor role with Marie Claire magazine, Mastromonaco said she confronted confusion and criticism from friends and colleagues.
The question everyone felt entitled to ask and opine on: Why would this already-accomplished female leave a government job for an opportunity to work for a women's magazine — especially one that discusses issues pertaining to seemingly "superficial" topics, like fashion?
Such dated arguments assume that women are incapable of being both informed and fashionable, that to be a woman of substance and gravitas, to be taken seriously by her peers, she must subordinate her appearance and interests outside the office. Is it so inconceivable that a smart, accomplished woman would have both the latest issue of the Economist and the second season of 'The Mindy Project' downloaded on her iPad?
Mastromonaco bravely rejected the outdated premise that women who like to dress well and are interested in certain stories pertaining to women's issues and classically female topics don't also pursue interests that more obviously align with the establishment's idea of important, "hard news."
Just as women should say "sorry" less, this is yet another thing women don't need to apologize for.
As Mastromonaco wrote, our generation of young, ambitious women with a diversity of interests knows that there's no contradiction in reading Glamour Magazine alongside The New York Times.
The more troubling fact is that there's still a distinct inequity that's embedded in these conversations; men are taken seriously if they have interests outside current events and their professional occupations.
Women ,on the other hand, are seen as shallow and vapid if they enjoy reading about makeup, fitness, fashion and a slew of other topics even if they're also intelligent and up-to-date on current events.
Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also attempted to highlight this unfair double standard through her article in Elle magazine entitled "Why Can't a Smart Woman Love Fashion?"
In the piece, Adichie recalled her own personal evolution after leaving Nigeria and entering an American academic scene.
Adichie found that others shaped her perception and judgment of fellow women, and tried to teach her that, "yes, one could not take this author of three novels seriously, because she wore a pretty dress and two shades of eye shadow."
"Being taken seriously" is a real concern that working women must consider in a society that seems to scrutinize them just as heavily on looks as on the contents of their résumés.
So perhaps women's interest in fashion and beauty is a defense mechanism, a mandatory investment that women must make if they want to appear "professional" (as opposed to simply acting professionally).
But it's more likely that, considering we women can choose our own passions, some have found themselves equally captivated by sartorial trends and current events around the world.
Women don't see the need to be pigeonholed into one category: either "superficial" or "serious."
Instead, it's important to acknowledge that women's following of New York Fashion Week in no way undermines her commitment to being an adept individual.
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