Robin Givhan Sees Liberation In Katie Couric's Heels (And Miniskirts)S

Katie Couric's new Harper's Bazaar shoot is markedly different from her turn in Vogue last year, replacing coats and newspapers with smoky eyes and one-shoulder dresses. The Washington Post's Robin Givhan is pretty excited about it.

Givhan notes that women in television news have posed glamorously before, but that Couric's shoot represents a departure because she isn't afraid to seem sexy in it. Couric, a savvy manager of her image, seems to want to counterbalance the sophistication in the video on the shoot, below — she's still pretty aw-shucks, talking about getting "gussied up" and feeling like a "glamourpuss, even if you're not."

But back to Givhan. She is also particularly cheered that the (rather diminutive) Couric is photographed wearing Louboutin booties and Gucci platform heels:

Yet there's a particular brand of power-positioning at play when a woman walks confidently into a room in a pair of heels that make those who'd be suffering vertigo blanch: How can she walk in those? Pure grit — that's the explanation. And yes, please infer that if those four-inch stilettos don't draw tears from the woman wearing them, then neither will some ambitious colleague's backstabbing ways. Fashion, in this sense, is power.

Maybe "pure grit" is a synonym for masochism. And while I see Givhan's point that heels impress, allowing you to potentially tower over opponents, they also hint at a sort of inexorable demand on professional women to be all things at once — driven and hardworking, but also, ever so subtly, someone you'd want to fuck. Or that you think men might want to.

High heels have always been a form of fashion martyrdom to which I am unable to surrender. When I worked at a fashion publication, a co-worker railed at me daily for my refusal to wear heels unless the occasion strictly called for it, begging me to just buy some Louboutins already — even on sale. Don't get me wrong, I regularly indulge in all sorts of vanities. But deliberately slowing my pace, making myself easier to knock down, putting my back and feet at peril — if that's power, I will pass.

So how is this progress?

The images are a full-throated, even exaggerated, rebuke of the notion that a woman must dress in a prescribed manner — Suze Orman suits, full-coverage blouses, sensible heels — to protect her IQ, her résumé and her place in a male-dominated work culture.

This argument feels like one of those moments where counterintuitive logic comes full circle to just plain retrogressiveness. I support Katie Couric's right to pose as sexily as she wants to. Fashion shoots are fun and she looks great at whatever age. It's part of her job, like it or not, to be someone people want to look at or watch. But do we have to pretend that the display of the traditional beauty of someone on television, as seen in a fashion magazine, is somehow fresh and progressive? Show me Candy Crowley in Balenciaga (or, um, in sweatpants?) and maybe I'll be impressed.

In Harper's Bazaar Photos, Katie Couric Is A Power Broker In Louboutins [Washington Post]
Katie Couric's Prime Time [HB]