Never tell a feminist politician she's "attractive" and "a good mother." To some, that's a "toxic" insult.
Thursday's Washington Post offered a story on how "Women's groups target sexism in campaigns: Advocates monitoring what they call 'toxic' media environment." Reporter Krissah Thompson never identified the groups as "liberal," or even "feminist," or noted that one of them, the Women's Media Center, (foolishly) opposed an innocuous Tim Tebow pro-life Super Bowl ad as offensive without having seen it. Thompson began:
The list includes the radio talk show host who called a female senator a "prostitute" for cutting a deal to benefit her state, the male challenger who referred to his female rival [as] "attractive" and "probably a good mother," and the TV host who noted that the candidate's wife looked like an angry woman.
Those comments and others have been collected by a group of advocates for women running for office who are monitoring what they consider a "highly toxic" media environment that makes it difficult for female candidates.
Thompson's Post article never explains that the "attractive"-wielding offender was being "toxic" to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democrat appointed to replace Hillary Clinton from New York. Jill Marcellus at the Women's Media Center recently wrote up a ticket for Republican candidate Bruce Blakeman:
“I think Kirsten Gillibrand is an attractive woman, I think she’s bright, and I think she’s probably a good mom herself,” Blakeman announced Tuesday at a debate with rivals Joe DioGuardi and David Malpass.
If you’re experiencing some 1950s flashbacks right now, it’s not just because of the black and white photo of the candidates, arranged in height order, found at that link. It’s 2010, and we are still judging women by ‘50s standards. True, Blakeman’s concession that the successful leader is “bright” could bear on her qualifications as a Senator, but he sandwiches it between evaluations of her looks and of her skills as a mother.
Blakeman, of course, believes this is a compliment:
“I hope Senator Gillibrand will say that I’m bright, that I’m attractive and that I’m a good dad. I’d be very happy with that and I would not be offended.”
He wouldn’t be offended because it would never occur to Senator Gillibrand or anyone else to say that about him at a debate. With his comments, he admits that he sees her first as woman, and second, if at all, as a politician. Gender never obscures Blakeman’s role in office.
A comment is not a compliment if it suggests a politician shouldn’t be in the Senate because she belongs in the home.
That's funny. You might think it would be an insult to feminists if you said Gillibrand was ugly, stupid, and said she was a bad mother for having a career. But it's an insult if you say anything personal about her at all. (For her part Gillibrand said she was much more concerned about the GOP's Bush-trickle-down answers, and when a reporter pressed if she had cringed, she laughed and said "I smiled." She's obviously not feminist enough.)
The irony of all this is that the GOP candidates were asked in the debate to say something nice about Gillibrand, and they're hardly going to say they think her policy ideas are fantastic. Even "say something nice" questions are a minefield. Perhaps Blakeman should have said "no thanks. I don't have anything nice to say about her."
Thompson's report suggested conservative talk-show hosts were going to get pressed: "The effort to track sexist comments and put pressure on advertisers that help bankroll the media figures responsible for some of the remarks comes as women campaign in several high-profile races this year, including for governorships in South Carolina and California as well as Senate seats."
Nowhere in the story do the feminist groups cite the unsubstantiated charges of adultery against South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley, but they do express outrage that people questioned that Sarah Palin could be a good mother and be vice president. But then, those offenders included people in the liberal media who are supposedly feminist.
For the record, in Thompson's lede, she also neglected to say the talk show host tossing the "prostitute" moniker was Glenn Beck talking about Sen. Mary Landrieu being offered millions in Medicaid funds for her state in exchange for her support of ObamaCare. The talker who said a candidate's wife looked angry was Bill O'Reilly talking about Michelle Obama.