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Sunday, 23 November 2008

So What if She Wore the Same Jacket Twice?

When I first read reports on the blogosphere about the NZ Herald commenting on Bronagh Key's wearing the same jacket twice, I thought that the article everyone was linking to must have been related to John Key's swearing in, where she wore the offending jacket the second time and the fashion comments had to be an ill-thought throwaway line.

I just clicked on the offending article; if the title doesn't give you a hint, Fashion tips to avoid First Lady blunders, I can tell you it has virtually nothing to do with anything John Key has done in his thus far short stint as Prime Minister, in fact he only gets a mention to frame the context the fashion tips fall in! The whole piece essentially reduces Bronagh to a barbie doll and is reminiscent of an era where the wife was just an accessory.

One also wonders at the term "First Lady" liberally sprinkled throughout the piece too. Is the Obama-McCain virus sweeping the media turning epidemic? New Zealand doesn't have a first lady, the only time I can recall that term being used in NZ politics was the last time the virus hit, when Clinton visited and PM Shipley's family was suddenly "our first family."

The article is way out of line. Especially in the financial crisis we are facing, wearing one's "purple Adrienne Winkelmann jacket" only once is the faux-pas, not the reverse. While the rest of the country faces the prospect of having to tighten our fashion budgets to Rachel Hunter's haute couture line from the Warehouse, the Herald's suggestion that Bronagh sports "diamond belts" and a specially commissioned "silver fern diamond brooch" because her husband "is loaded after all" is more than a little Marie Antoinette.

Of course the worst thing about this piece is the massive offense it must have caused Mrs Key. Its one thing to have one of your girlfriends quietly tell you they think your outfit is not your best look but when one of the biggest papers in the country takes it on themselves to have a raft of style-critics taking your look apart piece by piece and patronizingly telling you how you could look sexier complete with instructions of how to copy Katie Holmes, see last sentence below, it is outrageous,

"She's an attractive woman with a good figure, she could definitely be more adventurous with her clothes.

"We would accentuate her legs and waist, changing her tomboy look into a slightly more feminine and sexy version," she said.

Whitcher also plumped for slightly darker hair, cut in a bob, topped with a plum lipstick for a confident look.

In the two pages of fluff the Herald tried to pass off as journalism, I note there was no mention of PM John Key's repeat offending with the blue tie that has featured in almost every media appearance he has been in the past few weeks. Was this an oversight? Of course not. He’s male.

Matt and I have been involved in things political for a good 13 years, to a far lesser degree than the Keys of course. In that time while Matt has had to endure the odd comment about his "snappy dress sense" it was me that bore the headlines "Madeleine Richards on Murder, Feminism and Her Sexy Legs" on the front cover of the student mag at Waikato University, with weeks of letters to the editor commenting on the length of my skirts and how hot my legs are. It was me that has had editors writing comments on my figure - "ooh she gained weight" "has she lost weight?" - speculating what I eat, super-imposing my face on strippers jumping out of cakes and discussing my breasts. It was me that had to endure being woken at 6am by a call from a national radio program asking me live on air my thoughts on MP Pete Hodgson's comments on my weight. It is me that currently is the subject of a poll on my "hottness" where people have speculate as to 'how good a ride' I am.

Until we stop paying lip service to the lie that we don't judge people based on how they look and that men and women are treated equally in the political arena Bronagh Key can unfortunately look forward to more of the same.


  1. The media machine strikes again! The amount of discussion generated justifies the report.

    They're there to sell papers afterall, not enahnce our lives with accurate and relevant news.

  2. If Bronagh wore a new jacket every time she went out the media would criticise her wealth: they'll criticise her whatever she does.

    It's all to do with left-wing media bias: it was very rare to hear criticism of Helen Clark's dress sense. It was also very rare to hear her wealth mentioned, but Key's is mentioned ad nauseam and ad infinitum.

  3. Exactly. She can't win. It is a standard tactic aimed at right wing women.

    Helen did get some criticism - the pants debacle when the Queen visited springs to mind - but nothing like this.

  4. The "pants debacle when the Queen visited" was a rather rude gesture by Clark.
    The Prime Minister issued invitations specifying the dress code for this formal ocassion. Clark contravened the dress code, as did Peter Davis who wore a red tie contrary to the explicit black tie requirement.
    Not the only time Clark's signature was on something she didn't do herself.

  5. Tagged

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Helen Clark got "some criticism"? There may not have been criticism of her dress sense but her appearance generally was frequently critiqued, by many among the right-wing NZ public if not by the media. In no way do I condone this kind of immature behaviour, but I fail to see how this "standard tactic" is aimed at right wing women more than left wing ones.


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