With the news of Anthony Weiner's post-resignation sexting breaking this week, there has been a great deal of speculation about Huma Abedin, Weiner's wife and aide to Hillary Clinton. Nearly every news outlet has commented on Abedin, analyzing her statements at Tuesday's hasty press conference, the personal essay she penned for the September issue of Harper's Bazaar, and, perhaps most curiously, her choice in lipstick.
Red lips have been a trademark for Abedin long before her name was associated with a political sex scandal. There are photos of Abedin on the election trail with Hillary Clinton in 2008 wearing red lipstick, she wore a crimson color at a ceremonial swearing in of the 112th Congress in 2011 and to hear President Obama speak in 2012. Only this week, though, has her signature look come under scrutiny. In an article about Tuesday's press conference, The Cut writes, "Even her trademark red lipstick couldn't hide the toll her position was taking," pointing out that Abedin looked "thin, frumpy, wan." The Huffington Post published an article with the headline "Human Abedin's Red Lipstick Takes Her Through Tough Times," arguing that "sometimes style is all of the armor you need' and pointing out that "[red lipstick] takes a lot of devotion — do you know how annoying it is to keep reapplying that stuff?"
Red lipstick is indeed to difficult to apply. It smudges easily, it comes off on everything, and, when applied incorrectly, it leaves the person wearing it looking like a small toddler who found her way into mom's makeup drawer. Mastering red lipstick is one of the trickier beauty feats, but that certainly doesn't make it a beacon of light, capable of being the sole factor to carry someone through difficult times. The Huffington Post writes, "It may just be a little tube of red lipstick, but it seems to be the most loyal ally Abedin's got." To reduce this incredibly accomplished woman's life to a tube of red lipstick is superficial and simplistic.
I do not know Abedin, so I cannot speak to who makes up her support circle, but I do know for certain that she has one ally far more important than makeup: Her voice. Abedin's Harper's Bazaar essay shows how a fiercely private woman ("I don’t like calling attention to myself") prevailed when a life that she worked so hard to keep under wraps suddenly became very, very public. She spoke Tuesday about her choice to stay with Weiner, saying, "It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. That was a decision I made for me, for our son, and for our family." These words would have resonated even if they didn't come out of red lips.
All of this is not to say there's nothing worth noting about Abedin's red lipstick. The color red is often associated with power and confidence. A poll conducted by the British Heart Foundation found that 26 percent of women said red lipstick boosted their confidence. Red lipstick helps present Abedin to the public as the powerful, confident, and self-assured woman that she is, but it is certainly not the only factor doing that. Should she wake up one day and not apply red lipstick, she would still have her armor on.