I am a bit taken aback by the snarkiness that has emerged surrounding this Ali Campoverdi story. Of course it’s just the sort of thing that would make the gossip pages — gorgeous girl, eclectic background, works for Obama, dating a famous guy. Par for the course in today’s media climate.
The (bitterly negative) reactions I’ve heard, however, have been surprising. She was hired because she’s hot. She shouldn’t be taken seriously because she posed for some provocative pictures five years ago. She’s an opportunistic social climber. She’s a “feminist paradox.” Most of these, I must say, were voiced by women.
This is 2009, are you kidding me? I thought the days of a woman having to actively attempt to downplay her femininity lest she not be taken seriously professionaly had faded quietly into the night long before I was born. If not entirely in practice, as I would venture to say most women can attest to encountering an exception here and there, then at least the acceptability of publicly articulating anything along those lines has gone by the wayside. Would I have chosen to pose in Maxim? No, thankfully for the collective eyesight of the male population, I would not. I certainly do not hold it against her though. This was five years ago, it isn’t like they’ve installed last month’s playmate into her own little cubicle in the West Wing. The woman is a Kennedy School grad, one imagines she has the intellectual heft to fit the job requirements of an assistant to an assistant (i.e. copy-making, coffee-grabbing flunkie). As for not having a world of political experience, this is certainly not unheard of. If one has ambition and talent, it’s easy to get noticed and move up fast in this business. That she might have sought out that advancement instead of expecting it to be handed to her is a quality that would be lauded in a man. Here, it just seems to make her an eyelash batting kitten trading on sex appeal (nevermind the fact that there is zero actual evidence to support this beyond the fact that she’s an attractive woman).
Truthfully, the only person who knows why she was picked for the job is the hiring manager. I, along with 99.99999% of the people who are talking about it, have never met the woman and have no clue about her professional demeanor. What bothers me is how the default response seems to be to assume the most cynical explanation and tear her down in the process. I don’t see her as a feminist paradox, I see it as the epitome of what feminism should be in my generation. One can explore different careers, different sides of one’s personality, different experiences, and ultimately be judged on what one brings to the table here and now instead of some convoluted notion about the proper behavior and place for a woman. Me? I’ll just keep rocking those stiletto heels, form-fitting suits, and ambition all the way to the top 😉