Were you offended to the very core of your being when Smoove Obama B went all Barry White on Kamala Harris’ ass at a fundraising event amongst friends and donors? You were not? For serious?
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!
Do you even know what he said?
“You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake.
“She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country — Kamala Harris is here. [Applause.] It’s true. Come on. [Laughter] And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.”
My gawd. It was practically wordrape. And you still don’t see THE PROBLEM?
Obviously you are still wallowing in society’s swampy stew of testosterone and male privilege and Hooter’s buffalo wings and having not lived a life living under the oppression of the “male gaze”, and this is why we can’t take you anywhere because you’d probably be all “Show us your tits! Aaoooo!” at a DAR afternoon tea, you beast, you brute, you…… man.
Because we are about helping a brother out, here are the five hawtest online commentators ladysplainin’ why you’re being kind of a dick and a piggyface. You can thank me later after you have had your man card revoked.
And if, after all this, you have trouble with understanding what context is appropriate for a discussion of someone’s attractiveness, let’s break it down by borrowing a term from discrimination law — BFOQ, which stands for bona fide occupational qualifications. Basically, it says that employers are allowed to discriminate only if the qualities in question are actually necessary and relevant to doing the job — so yes, female models to advertise women’s clothing, but no weight requirements for female flight attendants. Applying the BFOQ test for talking about women’s physical attributes, you might ask yourself the following questions: Are you having sex with this person you want to tell everyone is attractive? Are you trying to get them to agree to have sex with you? Is attractiveness part of their job and thus a professional attribute to be discussed like any other? Are you, perhaps, the cheek-pinching great-uncle of this person and thus entitled to a little slack? (Joe Biden has gotten away with lots, apparently under that unspoken provision.)
The system of beauty is what preceded women’s entry into the paid workforce in a bid to achieve economic equality and professional fulfillment. It operates everywhere in the world, according to regionally variable standards, but goes a little something like this: Women are a natural resource, a form of wealth that men can acquire. Beauty and, to a lesser extent, fertility, are the coinage in this system of value. In contemporary America, women can choose the extent to which they wish to engage with this system of power, but there’s no question that it remains extant, and that in many ways the most economically successful women are those who use it best to their advantage–actresses, models, musicians, and the like. Beauty is a system of power, deeply rooted, preceding all others, richly rewarded. We pay homage to it, still, and young women as they face the world can make a choice to live a life–even a career–within it, just as they can choose to go to law or medical school or contend in any other way for standing and earning capacity in the world.
The president’s remarks, while mild mannered and with no malicious intent, are still problematic because they come in the context of a culture which more often than not values how a woman looks above everything else. The context of the president’s comments matter both in terms of the public setting with which they were made, and the sexist culture with which they permeate in our collective psyche.
I doubt Obama knew any of the lurid history of Harris’s opponents smear attempts. I assume he thought he was just paying someone he admires a compliment. But most women in public life have a complex relationship with their appearance, whether they’re as attractive as Harris or not. Those of us who’ve fought to make sure that women are seen as more than ornamental – and that includes the president – should know better than to rely on flattering the looks of someone as formidable as Harris. Why not praise her Homeowners’ Bill of Rights? Calling her “by far, the toughest attorney general” would have had a better ring. There is so much to say about Kamala Harris; the president had far better options than praising her looks.
Jonathan Chait (yes we know that he is not a lady, but we hear he has the sweetest ass at New York and also to exclude him would be sexist, so….)
For those who don’t see the problem here, the degree to which women are judged by their appearance remains an important hurdle to gender equality in the workforce. Women have a hard time being judged purely on their merits. Discussing their appearance in the context of evaluating their job performance makes it worse.
It’s not a compliment. And for a president who has become a cultural model for many of his supporters in so many other ways, the example he’s setting here is disgraceful.
Now go read this article about Jon Hamm’s groinhawg and sin no more….