Feedback

Sun celebrates powerful women for their bios – and body-hugging ball gowns?

Posed in bridal-wear and evening dresses, Mayor and others send mixed message about what makes them "women worth watching."

Cover and spread shoot for Sun Magazine with focus on “50 women to watch.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in a designer dress and $730 necklace for the Sun Magazine’s “50 Women to Watch” feature.

Photo by: Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun

Did we doze off in this heat and wake up in the 1950s? Or did the Baltimore Sun switch urls with The Onion when we weren’t looking?

Is that really Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake posing in a strapless black $638 Janique gown, $730 necklace and come-hither look in the newswebsite-of record?

Have she and the other women in positions of power – posing in ball-gowns and bridal garb in the Sun Magazine’s50 Women to Watch in Baltimore” – really, umm, thought this through?

There’s Tisha Edwards (acting CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools and hoping to get the job permanently) posing in a floor-length, ruffled $2,400 Victor Rossi.

Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman practically disappears into the white margins of her photo spread, since she’s blonde, fair-skinned and wearing a very white $1,400 Watters gown from a bridal store.

And look at Catherine “Katie” Curran O’Malley, a District Court judge and the wife of the governor, in a black $2,600 Victor Rossi, with Kate Spade heels from Sassanova that price out at $255.

You can also see Baltimore deputy chief Kaliope Parthemos clad in a black $1,200 sequined, spaghetti-strapped sheath, also by Victor Rossi.

Princess Power

So what’s the message for young women aspiring to be “worth watching”?

Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman. (From Baltimore Sun's "50 Women to Watch" feature)

Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman. (Baltimore Sun’s “50 Women to Watch” feature)

Build up a great resume, but also a great figure?

You’ll be judged for your accomplishments, but also how well you fill out a skin-tight sheath?

Do good in the world, but also do well because you’re going to have to buy $2,600 ball gowns?

Parents trying to protect their girls from society’s “princess” phenomenon will sigh about this spread.

Bread Man in Lycra?

Perhaps, to demonstrate equity, The Sun Magazine could come out with a “50 Men to Watch in Baltimore” (not to be confused with Police Commissioner Batts’ “Most Wanted Public Enemies List.”)

For a male version to be comparable, it would have to show, say, Greater Baltimore Committee’s Donald Fry in a tuxedo, hand on hip, with a smouldering pout.

Actually, the tux wouldn’t do it. There’s an inherent imbalance here, since men’s formal-wear is pretty forgiving. So the truly comparable shot would be H&S baker/developer John Paterakis in form-fitting Lycra.

Where’s the Minders?

It’s tricky to deconstruct all this in a world of Kardashians, Real Housewives, and inaugural ball gown fetishizing. Still, you’d think women coming up against persistent societal sexism would take care not to undermine themselves.

Sheila Dixon says she'd love to be the ambassador xxx

Sheila Dixon wears a slinky gray $478 Halston Heritage off-the-shoulder dress. (Baltimore Sun)

We’re not sure who’s getting the craziest advice here. The editors on Calvert Street who ordered up the photo shoot (was it mandated from Chicago?) – or the public officials who agreed to be styled and gussied up for this A-list “Glimpsed.” (Ryan, did you sign off on this?)

Ex-Mayor’s Favorite Song

In its accompanying text, The Sun includes bios and Q&As of these “most intriguing, powerful and memorable personalities,” gliding past the downer details, especially regarding pols and ex-pols.

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon is described as “she of the, ahem, indictment. . .  forced from office in 2010 for a misdemeanor.”

Then it’s on to the ex-mayor’s dream job (“ambassador to an African country”), favorite song of the moment (Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie”) and favorite relaxation snack (“popcorn and a glass of wine.”)

It must not have seemed like the right venue (a newspaper, that is) to describe the fur coat from her developer boyfriend after he got a big tax break, or the specifics about those gift cards intended for the poor.

Lisa Harris Jones in $2,500 Victor Rossi gown. (Baltimore Sun)

Lisa Harris Jones in white Victor Rossi gown. (Baltimore Sun)

Glammed-Up Lobbyist

Readers also are given a mini-profile of lobbyist Lisa Harris Jones (she of the Las-Vegas-wedding-officiated-by-Mayor-Rawlings-Blake fame) posed in a white-sequined, $2,500 gown.

Her life is depicted as a raised-by-a-single mom, up-by-the-bootstraps tale – only her boots, in this spread, happen to be $245 Badgley Mischka heels.

To be fair, most of the 50 women in the feature opted for a more professional look, like Baltimore Development Corporation CEO Brenda McKenzie, photographed in work attire at her desk with the city skyline in the background.

The executive director of Light House, an Annapolis shelter and food kitchen, is shown next to cans of food for clients.

Interim city schools CEO Tisha Edwards. (From the Baltimore Sun's "50 Women to Watch" feature.)

Interim city schools CEO Tisha Edwards. (Baltimore Sun)

But in choosing to be shown in the (presumably) borrowed gowns, the politicians and the lobbyist are part of a subset of about a dozen who went for glitz. (The others were television personalities, such as TV anchorwman Mary Beth Marsden, and radio types, like 92Q on-air personality DJ Angel Baby.)

Lest anyone miss the beauty-pageant leitmotif, a real-life tiara-wearing pageant queen rounds out the parade of gown-wearers.

She’s “Maryland Mrs. America 2013″ Heather Ziehl, who will be vying for the crown at the national competition in Tucson next month.

Ziehl and all the other women featured have interesting life stories and accomplishments. They didn’t need sequins to shine.

Be sure to check our full comment policy before leaving a comment.

  • Dave Troy

    The divas of destitution.

  • Rocky_Ground

    Let’s play dress up!

  • janjamm

    Aw, come on, they have joined the rarefied world of the “who-are-you-wearing?” commercialization of expensive evening wear just like other “celebrities.” Strike a pose!

  • Lizzie 58

    What an image and role model to offer to young girls by elected female officials. Yeah, Girls. We have bought hook, line and sinker into the philosophy that a woman will be judged by her looks. Perhaps the Mayor can wear the dress on her next neighborhood walk. Based on the Sun’s other real news articles today, the Mayor may be soon walking in Mt. Vernon. The City police are fighting crime and now arson. The Mayor is doing dancing with the stars.

  • Calvin Garner

    They are wearing dresses. Compared to other publications, where the women wear much, much less, this fake outrage seems unwarranted.

  • davethesuave

    I’ll never look at a bag of hamburger buns the same way. Thanks; sorta.

  • Calvin Garner

    I’m not seeing the issue here. They are wearing clothes.

  • MC2012

    The fashion shoot very well sums up the culture at City Hall. The Mayor seems mostly interested in the celebrity lifestyle and living it up surrounded by her girlhood friends. The policy choices- developer tax breaks, grand prix, film production tax credits, even grants to high profile non-profits and causes- make more sense when you think about them as driven by lifestyle. Kudos to the women who choose not to participate in the fashion shoot! And kudos to everyone in sensible shoes out there making a difference in our City!

  • bmorepanic

    Yes, yes, yes – if only they did the same thing to men – using the same dresses.

  • Billy Wilkins

    SRB was once obese and unhealthy, she suffered a minor heart attack 30 days into being Mayor of Baltimore. I think that she’s proud of her new body to accompany her professional and personal growth as Mayor – after sharing a moment with me in Target last year, she gave me some good advice on my weight loss journey: “you have to change your eating habits AND exercise as well. You can’t just do one or the other.” – Billy Wilkins

  • Jlgartner

    Hi, I am one of the women in the feature, but am not wearing an evening gown. I actually was not provided with any guidance about how to dress or how others were dressing, and spent some fretful hours in the fitting room trying to guess what would be appropriate. In terms of the formal wear, my best guess is that they took advantage of being able to promote local female clothing retailers by outfitting some of the high power women on the list in their clothes and accessories, which is pretty common practice in almost ALL photo-based features. That being said, I agonized over what to wear for this, just like I do for almost *every* meeting and event I attend. The fact of the matter is that female professionals are endlessly judged about their attire. Hilary Clinton gets bashed for dressing too manly or being behind the trends, Michelle Obama gets heat for showing her shoulders, Sarah Palin got flack for the price of her clothes, Condoleeza Rice had an article written about her winter boots. No matter what you wear, someone is going to have something to say about it. I spend a lot of time thinking about my wardrobe in terms of how to balance my youth and femininity with professionalism in a male-dominated industry. Frankly, shedding negative light on wardrobing choices on a feature that’s supposed to highlight women’s accomplishments only adds to that level of stress.

    • trueheart4life

      I’m really proud of you and your choice Jess!!!

    • baltimorebrew

      You hit the mark just right Jess, you look great and seem comfortable and professional in your photo. My aim in raising the issue is not to add to women’s stress about wardrobe choice but to take some away. Female professionals being judged for their attire, little girls feeling inadequate because they don’t look “cute” or “hot,” etc. – you bet, that’s a cultural thicket we’ve been stuck in for ages. Photo editors and their “high-power” subject are well-placed to help take the pressure off – I wish some of them had been as thoughtful as you were. -fs

  • Jlgartner

    Hi, I am one of the women in the feature, but am not wearing an evening gown. I actually was not provided with any guidance about how to dress or how others were dressing, and spent some fretful hours in the fitting room trying to guess what would be appropriate. In terms of the formal wear, my best guess is that they took advantage of being able to promote local female clothing retailers by outfitting some of the high power women on the list in their clothes and accessories, which is pretty common practice in almost ALL photo-based features. That being said, I agonized over what to wear for this, just like I do for almost *every* meeting and event I attend. The fact of the matter is that female professionals are endlessly judged about their attire. Hilary Clinton gets bashed for dressing too manly or being behind the trends, Michelle Obama gets heat for showing her shoulders, Sarah Palin got flack for the price of her clothes, Condoleeza Rice had an article written about her winter boots. No matter what you wear, someone is going to have something to say about it. I spend a lot of time thinking about my wardrobe in terms of how to balance my youth and femininity with professionalism in a male-dominated industry. Frankly, shedding negative light on wardrobing choices on a feature that’s supposed to highlight women’s accomplishments only adds to that level of stress.

  • Lizzie 58

    Ms. Gardner, your bio and photo are fine and reflect well on your many accomplishments, as do most of the bios and photos of the women in the SUn article. Many of us want to see women succeed as influential leaders in business and their communities, top executives, mayors, county executives, and hopefully governor one day soon. Did the expensive evening dresses, shoes, jewelry, and makeup that some women, especially elected or government officials, chose here provide inspiration for girls or promote the important issues for women leaders? These women had choices of what to do with their photos, but seemed to have been caught up in some marketing campaign about being “dolled up”.

    I found Marilyn Mosby, who is running for State’s Attorney in Baltimore City next year, most interesting. I did not know much about Ms. Mosby and had not thought much about her candidacy but want to know more. This was well done on her part.

  • eeby

    Thx Brew! Props to Jen Michalski (a friend who I congratulated earlier for not going there), Rosie Napravnik, the forever stylish Dr. Hayden, and the others who refused to make ornaments of themselves for this sad, silly pageant. I get that entertainment celebs, Erika Brannock, and other very young women not on the public-policy track would choose high styles. But the Mayor? Judge O’Malley? Are spangles really what they want to be known for? The judge was also recently the star of her own extensive fashion shoot (different hairstyle on every page) that one of the glossy monthlies did at the Governor’s Mansion. Last I checked, she had a day job on the public payroll. Would love to hear from her how she balances the scales of glamour.

More of the Daily Drip »

Below the Fold

  • December 15, 2014

    •   “Ha ha, so not a surprise.” “Shocking…not!!” We get applause but also the occasional eye-roll these days for our accountability reporting – like last week’s piece about how tax cuts promised by the mayor as a selling point for Horseshoe Baltimore probably won’t happen, thanks to the casino’s lower-than-expected revenues. We get where the [...]

Twitter

Facebook