The Barack Obama campaign wanted to make sure that the reporters traveling along with the presidential candidate on his foreign tour presented themselves properly. His staff distributed a memo that dictated a dress code, reminding the women in the media entourage of the need to keep from offending the natives. Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown e-mailed the memo to Ben Smith:
Reporters traveling overseas with Sen. Barack Obama were thrown a bit of curve last week when the campaign emailed a “dress code” for Israel and Jordan. Aides had passed along as a courtesy the list that they had distributed to their staff to follow. But some of the tips raised a few eyebrows, particularly among the female reporters.
“Do not wear green.” (Explained later as the color of Hamas)
“Do not wear nail polish.”
“Women should only wear a limited amount of jewelry.”
“Shoulders and arms must be fully covered (no strapless tops, no tank tops, no short sleeve shirts.)”
“Closed-toe shoes, women should also wear stockings.”
At historical and religious sites, a suit or slacks should be worn, shoulders and arms must be covered (“no strapless tops, no tanks tops no short sleeve shirts”), shoes might need to be removed, and women may be asked to cover their heads and “should be prepared with a scarf/pashmina,” the email stated.
First, wouldn’t women traveling to the Middle East already understand at least some of this, especially the journalists? This gives more than just a faint whiff of paternalism, lecturing professionals about how they should comport themselves. All appearances to the contrary, the media entourage does not work for Team Obama. One might think that the women of the press would get offended by treating them like schoolchildren or idiots.
And some of this is downright strange, especially in Israel. Israeli women don’t wear nail polish and open-toed shoes? Apparently, they don’t like jewelry, either. Do they care if women wear stockings or not, and why should the Obama campaign care?
I suppose if any of this offends the women in the press, the proper response would be, “Just get over it, sweetie.”