Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan meets with Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (AP)

Elena Kagan, cross your legs!

Robin Givhan goes after the Supreme Court nominee's "unusual" posture (and perhaps her sexuality)

Tracy Clark-Flory
May 24, 2010 11:10PM (UTC)

This weekend, the Washington Post raised a new concern about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and her posture. No, not her political stance, but how she carries her body. Naturally, this commentary comes from the Post's fashion writer Robin Givhan, who is disturbed by how "she sat hunched over" and "with her legs ajar" while courting senators on Capitol Hill.

Givhan writes, "In the photographs ... she doesn't appear to ever cross her legs." (Oddly enough, the first image I came across of these meetings shows Kagan crossing her legs -- but, hyperbole aside, let's move on.) Givhan continues:


People tend to mimic each other's body language during a conversation, especially if they're trying to connect with one another. But even when Kagan sits across from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has her legs crossed at the knees, Kagan keeps both feet planted firmly on the ground. Her body language will not be bullied into conformity.

She does not cross her legs at the ankles either, the way so many older women do. Instead, Kagan sits, in her sensible skirts, with her legs slightly apart, hands draped in her lap.

Certainly this sort of critique can't be taken too seriously, given the context. Givhan is on the fashion beat, after all, and she indiscriminately targets political figures, male and female alike. But what silliness, subjecting a 50-year-old woman to that classic grandmotherly scolding of "cross your legs, young lady!" The truth is, Kagan still sits rather demurely, despite her legs being uncrossed. 

Beyond that basic ridiculousness, I find Givhan's emphasis on Kagan's otherness, her refusal to conform and be normal, somewhat discomfiting. It feels like Kagan is, however indirectly, being indicted over her sexuality -- once again. An accompanying photo caption reads: "UNUSUAL: Most women, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, cross their legs when sitting, but not Kagan." Maybe because she's an "unusual" lesbian.

Givhan also lays into Kagan for her "frumpiness," noting that "Kagan's version of middle-age seems stuck in a time warp, back when 50-something did not mean Kim Cattrall or Sharon Stone, 'Cougar Town' or 'Sex and the City.'" I'm going to give Givhan -- and my own sanity -- the benefit of the doubt and assume she doesn't actually mean that the gold standard of sartorial appropriateness for a 50-year-old Supreme Court nominee is "Cougar Town." 

Tracy Clark-Flory

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