No. No. No. No. After reading it, it's has taken me a couple days to respond to the piece about the horrors of yoga pants that the NYT had the err in judgment of publishing. I didn't know what to say or how I wanted to say it. I just knew I was upset. Really, really upset.
Then I realized that what I had to say was really quite simple. No, Ms. Jones. Absolutely not. Wearing sweatpants is not the answer. And yoga pants are not the problem. You, my friend, are the problem.
You say it yourself, “It's not good manners for women to tell other women how to dress." And yet, here you are. The thing is. I know why you are saying it. And that, perhaps, is what has kept me from being able to write. You don't feel like you look hot in yoga pants. Don't bother to protest. I get it. You're right, lots of women look really hot in yoga pants and it's a tough act to follow.
But you know what? That's ok. You don't have to wear them. Ever. Seriously. But that doesn't mean for a second that I should give them up. I happen to look pretty damn good in yoga pants. I look pretty damn good in sweatpants for that matter. Or at least I think I look good. And that's the point - that is all that matters. Great looking exercise gear that makes me feel like I look, well, great and that makes me feel confident about my body and it makes me want to take care of it by exercising.
Honestly, I feel sad if looking grubby in your “towels with waistbands" as you refer to them is what you actually, authentically, truly want for yourself. But if that's how you feel and that is how you WANT to feel, well, then have at it. Far be it from me to keep you from what you feel is your appointed attire.
Here's the thing, my dad told me many, many years ago that if someone takes issue about something about me that in no way affects them, then they aren't really taking issue with me. The issue they have is with themselves. When I was 12 he would say, “They're just jealous." When I was an adult he would say, “They don't feel good about themselves. They don't feel like they can wear or do what you're wearing or doing. So they see belittling you as their only option."
If you were really talking about sweatpants, Ms. Jones, you wouldn't have spent so very many precious words on putting me and my fellow yoga pants wearing women down. You would not have wasted so many words on how silly and expensive they are. The lady doth protest too much for sure.
If you can't afford Lululemon, I'm not judging you. Don't buy it. If you don't look hot or feel confident in yoga pants, I'm not judging you. Don't wear them. But keep your opinions off my yoga pants and your judgments off of my body.
And let me be very clear here - No one has the right to lay a hand on me or to catcall me or to look at me in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable or threatened. But do I want to feel that I am attractive? Uh, yeah. And so do you Ms. Jones.
What you are really asking for here is for other women not to be so damn hot. “It's not fair," I imagine you saying as you stomp your foot and pound your fist on the air. You know what? It's not fair. There are all kinds of hot women out there being hot. And it doesn't matter if you don't feel like you are as hot as they are. If you feel like you can't compete. You, Ms. Jones, are hot shaming them and age shaming me. I am 47 years old and I have earned the right to wear whatever the heck I want.
Even the drawing that was run with your piece ultimately makes fun of you, I'm afraid. All of the women in class are focused on their downward dog. Except for you. You're too worried about your lumpy sweatpants. The thing is, yoga pants make me worry less about how I look when I work out. I don't have to worry that a drawstring will come undone or an elastic waist will drop or that there might be a clear view to heaven up through the wide legs of my sweats.
Sweatpants are for hanging around the house. Sweatpants are for cozy nights on the couch with my kid. Sweatpants are for wearing over my yoga shorts on the way to yoga when it's cold outside. Sweatpants are not for public consumption as far as I'm concerned. But I would never considering wasting public space, especially that hosted by the beloved and usually insightful and intelligent New York Times to tell other women not to wear them.
Let me give you a little piece of advice, Ms. Jones. Do not EVER tell other women what to wear. Ever. Whenever you speak or write, it is imperative that you are aware of what you are saying about yourself and about women at large when you make such sweeping demands. You have revealed your insecurities and you have infantilized women. We're not babies. We don't need you telling us what to wear. We get enough of that already from all around. From every angle. Every day. From every magazine and man. Et tu, Ms. Jones?
Yoga pants make me feel good. They lift me and tuck me in all the right places. They make me feel great when I look in the mirror at barre class. Of course I care how I look. So do you. Believe me, more than I do, in fact. Wearing yoga pants means I don't have to waste a lot of energy worrying about how I look because I know I look good.
You, instead, are wasting a lot of time begging other women to not make you have to look good. Thing is, we don't care. We truly do not care. You go girl. You wear your sweatpants loud and proud. But do it for yourself. By yourself. And don't act like it's some political statement. The only statement your making with this piece is that you want the bar lowered so you don't have to reach so high. I am here to tell you, the bar is arbitrary and ever-changing, so let it go. And keep your hands off my Lululemon.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.