The Strangest Thing I Have Read in a While (The Way Kagan Sits Edition)

Now, anyone familiar with WaPo writer Robin Ghivan knows she can be biting in her commentary on fashion.  As James noted a while back, “This is, after all, the woman who gave us Dick Cheney’s Auschwitz parka, Condi Rice’s commanding boots, John Roberts’ Stepford Children, John Bolton’s Senate-defying haircut, and other follies.”

Now, in a piece criticizing Elena Kagan’s fashion sense (“Whether Kagan leans left or right in her judicial demeanor is for court observers to debate. But in matters of style, she is unabashedly conservative.”), she makes the following observation:

In the photographs of Kagan sitting and chatting in various Capitol Hill offices, she doesn’t appear to ever cross her legs. Her posture stands out because for so many women, when they sit, they cross. 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. The woman and her attire seem utterly at odds. She is intent on being comfortable. No matter what the clothes demand. No matter the camera angle.

This strikes me as a rather odd set of observations, especially the critique of the lack of leg/ankle crossing.  It was made worse by the photo with the following caption:


Ghivan interprets all of this as Kagan not caring that the cameras are present.  I must confess, my first thought upon seeing the photo and caption (before reading the column) was that this was another attempt at a wink-wink/nudge-nudge on the sexual orientation question.   And while the piece does not make the direct connection between the leg-crossing (or lack thereof) and the sexual orientation question, it does note that “For Kagan, that means folks are using fashion as a limited tool for making sense of her sexual orientation”.

Still, that has to be one of the strangest captions in a mainstream newspaper I have read in some time.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder if Kagan chuckles at all the empty hot air that is being written and said about her, especially since none of it will do anything to stop her from being the newest Associate Justice to sit on the Supreme Court…

  2. tom p says:

    The woman and her attire seem utterly at odds. She is intent on being comfortable.

    OH MY GOD!!! A woman who would rather be comfortable than feminine….