Annie Lennox look-alike takes over Planned Parenthood

The New York Times reports that the group's new platinum president will fight for abortion rights with pluck.

Published March 10, 2006 7:17PM (EST)

Broadsheet reader John Hummel wrote in today to take issue with a New York Times must-read profile of Cecile Richards, the new president of Planned Parenthood. (As we mentioned yesterday, Richards is the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer.)

According to the Times, Cecile takes after her maternal grandmother, who was a "tall, whip-thin woman who, nine-months pregnant and bedridden, took a timeout from home-birthing a future governor of Texas -- Ms. Richards's mother, Ann -- to wring the neck of the chicken her family was having for dinner. Plucky."

Hummel objected to the descriptions of Richards in the Times piece, which at one point claims that she "sputters." "Really? Did spittle actually fly out of her mouth when she gave the interview?" Hummel wonders. He also found the following passage rather gratuitous: "... rearranging the artfully mussed and gelled cap of platinum blond hair that, combined with her statuesque carriage, inspires stares from strangers mistaking her for the pop chanteuse Annie Lennox. She takes that as a compliment, too."

Hummel writes: "Oh, wait, that's right -- she's a woman, so we need to focus on her looks first." The story doesn't go so far as to imply that Richards uses her looks to get ahead -- à la "with those gams, what legislative aide wouldn't listen to her!" -- but it does note that "she is 5-foot-10 (not counting high heels)" and the "antithesis of a shrinking violet. She's got magnetism and works it. It's all in the drawl."

Is it really sexist to say that Richards looks like Annie Lennox, if she does in fact look like her? I'm curious to hear what other Broadsheet readers think. Personally, I was very impressed by Richards from the profile, and, no, I'm not talking about her stature. In these grim times, I'm just glad to know that a new generation of Richards moxie is stepping up to defend women's rights.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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