On Sunday, The New York Times released its most compelling findings from the last two decades of President Donald Trump’s tax returns. While we could have predicted there would be questionable write-offs to be found within its pages (the now-president’s shady business dealings have been no secret since the ’80s), there was one particular personal expense that raised many an eyebrow. According to the report, Trump wrote off $70,000 (£54,000) in hairstyling costs during his time hosting The Apprentice.
Following the president’s tax information going public after years of back and forth, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was quick to point out an absurd double standard. Last year, AOC was on the receiving end of harsh criticism levied against her by members of the Republican party after she reportedly spent $250 (£195) for a haircut and colour.
“Last year Republicans blasted a firehose of hatred and vitriol my way because I treated myself to a $250 (£195) cut and lowlights on my birthday,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, noting that those same Republican commentators are now silent. “Where’s the criticism of their idol spending $70k (£54,000) on hairstyling?”
Last year Republicans blasted a firehose of hatred + vitriol my way because I treated myself to a $250 cut & lowlights on my birthday.
Where’s the criticism of their idol spending $70k on hairstyling?
Oh, it’s nowhere because they’re spineless, misogynistic hypocrites? Got it. https://t.co/xCQGwW7EK5
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 28, 2020
The sheer magnitude of the cost difference between Ocasio-Cortez’s “treat yourself” hair appointment and Trump’s recurring write-off is just one element of the hypocrisy. AOC, unlike the president, did not write her salon visit off as a business expense. She paid for it out of her own pocket, and did not use it in an attempt to lower the appearance of her income with the intent of avoiding payment to the IRS.
In Trump’s case, the $70,000 (£54,000) hairstyling bill skirts the line of legality. The Times notes that the write-off is not representative of any production budget allotted for a hair and makeup team on The Apprentice, which begs the question: Were those haircuts a business or personal expense? Additionally, the report indicates that Trump wrote off a huge $95,464 (£73,000) to Ivanka Trump’s favourite hair and makeup artist, also as a “business expense.”
The stigma of beauty and personal care goes further than a set of birthday lowlights or on-screen hair and makeup: For years, women politicians have been shamed for their physical appearances and their spending habits related to beauty services. Either they’re not wearing “enough” makeup, which leads commenters to speculate that they’re tired or ill, or they invest money into services that make them look and feel like the best version of themselves for public appearances and get criticised for spending money on frivolous things. During the 2016 presidential election, for example, Hillary Clinton was condemned by some conservatives for reportedly spending $600 (£400) on a haircut — yet in the same campaign, male newscasters told her she needs to smile more.
The double standard puts women in a no-win situation when their male counterparts spend surprising amounts of money on their own appearances. Those bills just don’t usually make headlines.
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