Who Really Cares What Candy Carson Is Wearing?
While briefly perusing social media this past weekend, I ran across a meme with a side-by-side image of President Obama and Michelle at the China State Dinner at the White House on Friday. Next to them, there was a picture of Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson and his wife, Candy. The caption for the meme? A parody of the hilarious “Don’t be like ___ me” DirecTV commercials:
“Hi, I’m President Barack Obama, and I have DirecTV.”
And in contrast:
“Hi, I’m presidential candidate Ben Carson, and I have cable.”
To me, I thought the images were put together to show off how awesome (and fly) our president and the First Lady are in comparison to the controversial and swag-deprived Carson and his wife. But as I would find out this morning, the meme was created to poke fun at the looks of Carson’s wife. While Michelle looked radiant in one photo with her sickening side-swept hair and curve-hugging gown, Candy looked very tame, like she on the way to parent-teacher conferences. She waved to supporters in a photo from Ben’s presidential run announcement rally, hair pulled back, rocking a fluted polka-dot skirt with a large red belt, glasses, and a blazer. Despite the latter image being old (it’s from May), people on social media still had a field day over it this past weekend, cracking jokes about Candy’s style and overall appearance. Despite her husband’s decision to be in the spotlight and make controversial comments that have garnered the accomplished doctor many detractors, it was Candy who was receiving all the criticism this time around. Not cool, guys. Not cool.
In a piece for The Root, Demetria Lucas D’Oyley defended Candy from her critics, stating that Ben chose to be in the spotlight, not her. Therefore, the attacks on her appearance are uncalled for. However, Lucas D’Oyley also criticized Candy’s fashion sense in the same breath. She even stated that Candy’s Seventh-Day Adventist faith isn’t a good excuse for her style missteps. According to the author, “religion and modesty are not synonymous with ill-fitting and unflattering and out-of-date” clothing.
Are there sexist and, in this case, racist underpinnings that make appearance matter more in certain circumstances? Absolutely. But until those “isms” are dismantled, women absolutely need to look as if they at least tried, especially when they’re up for a role they really want.
I won’t drag Candy Carson. I’m sure she is a lovely woman, and she has endured her husband’s politics for 40-plus years. But I will say that I can’t help noticing that as a presidential candidate, Ben Carson always shows up looking like the position he wants to have. I want the Mrs. to look the same.
And I can somewhat get where Lucas D’Oyley is coming from. Appearance matters in most realms of life. When you interview for a job, you can’t walk into an office looking like a Love and Hip Hop hopeful. And when you’re going to be in front of the camera every day, you don’t want to have a look that distracts people. But when these type of issues arise in the news (or via social media), I’m often left thinking to myself, My goodness…we focus on the wrong things.
We’re focused more on Candy’s looks than we are her husband’s politics. Just like we were way too focused on Gabby Douglas’s hair when she was flipping for gold at the 2012 Olympics in London. Just like people continue to focus too much on Serena Williams’s muscles, and when they’re not, they’re wondering when she’s going to move on to another hairstyle. And just like the time social media put Pam Oliver’s looks on front street. Leaving some to wonder if the controversy over her wigs was one of the reasons she was demoted from her position at Fox Sports and replaced with Erin Andrews. Despite the more important reasons why we were seeing these women on our TV screens, and their great accomplishments that we could have been celebrating, we were talking about surface beauty standards and what we “want,” as Lucas D’Oyley said, these ladies to look like.
I get it. We’ve all looked at someone’s ensemble or hair choice when they’re on the main stage and thought, yikes! But there’s a difference between thinking something and deciding to make a mockery of someone on social media. This is especially troubling considering that the same criticisms are never lobbed at the husbands of famous women. They’re not expected to look like more than any other guy in a simple suit. And yet, Candy, who is well into her 60s and hasn’t been in the spotlight very often, is expected to step out looking like a million bucks. What exactly was she supposed to put on in this stage of her life that would have pleased folks? Was it the ponytail that turned you off? The skirt? The glasses? Does her ensemble make you trust Ben any less?
Yeah. Get over yourself.
And, honestly, as amazing as Michelle Obama looks in this meme, that’s not how she appeared when President Obama announced his initial run for president. I’m from Chicago’s Southland, and I remember old-school Michelle. The days when President Obama was just running for Senate, and Michelle didn’t look nearly as polished as she does now. But with time, the right stylists, and some fabulous hair and makeup artists at her beck and call in the White House, Michelle has become a fashion icon. But like Candy, she didn’t start that way. It took a while for her to ditch the flip curl, sharp eyebrows, and bell-sleeve ensembles. But once she did, va-va voom!
Look, I’m not trying to say that people don’t need to look like they love themselves when they step out of the house, but I think we’re way too hard on way too many women, Black women especially, when it comes to how they choose to present themselves to the world, as the women they really are (not as if they’re stepping out on the red carpet). And considering that in the meme, Ben is holding Candy’s hand, looking happier than a kid in a candy store next to his wife of 40 years, does anything else really matter?