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Seeking a Level Playing Field: Kirsten Gillibrand and Julianna Margulies Share More Than Fame

When Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and the actress Julianna Margulies met at the Crosby Street Hotel recently, the talk turned quickly to such serious subjects as body shaming, sexual harassment in the military and rape on college campuses.

But first there were a couple of sartorial adjustments to be made. Ms. Margulies, 48, a three-time Emmy-winning actress (two for her starring role in “The Good Wife,” including one this year, and another for “ER”), leaned over to straighten the lapel of Ms. Gillibrand’s navy suit jacket.

“Hang on a second,” Ms. Gillibrand said a moment later, as the photographer began to shoot. The junior Democratic senator from New York, 47, an upstate representative to Congress before that, and the author of the recent best-selling memoir “Off the Sidelines,” tucked back a stray lock of Ms. Margulies’s hair. “I want her to look her best.”

And then, over coffee and sparkling water, the conversation began.

Philip Galanes: The first things I found, researching both of you, were these sexist comments about your bodies. Remarks by various congressmen to Kirsten, “I like my ladies chubby,” or calling you fat when you were pregnant.

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 ‘We can teach our boys that girls may be different, but those differences are good.’ - Kirsten GillibrandCreditJolie Ruben for The New York Times

Kirsten Gillibrand: And he was trying to be nice. This congressman said to me: “You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.”

PG: She was eight months pregnant.

Julianna Margulies: My God! How did you react?

KG: I just smiled and thought, “This is crazy.” But it didn’t affect me. I was a member of Congress.

JM: That is why I could never be in politics. My industry is tough enough.

PG: That’s what I thought until I Googled you the day after you won your Emmy and found an Internet frenzy about your arms being too skinny. “She must gain weight!” What’s at the root of this craziness?

JM: The most important thing is not to go on the Internet — because I didn’t know any of that until you said it.

PG: Oops. Sorry.

KG: But this issue affects all women. In politics, studies show that when women’s looks are commented on in a campaign, it undermines their credibility — even if the comment is positive. It makes us seem less qualified. When I ran my first campaign, my opponent started with: “Oh, she’s just a pretty face.”

To continue reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/fashion/kirsten-gillibrand-and-julianna-margulies-share-more-than-fame.html?smid=tw-nytstyles
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