Barack Obama

Obama's Sexist Double Standard

What the Kamala Harris controversy reveals about about sexism and the left.

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The kerfuffle over President Obama referring to California Attorney General Kamala Harris as "the best-looking attorney general in the country" at a San Francisco fundraising event has ended with the president apologizing to Harris for "creating a distraction." Too bad. The apology was due from the self-righteous zealots who blew up an innocuous comment into an offense against womanhood—to the detriment of both women and men.

First, the facts. The scene of the "crime" was not a strictly professional setting—say, a conference of state attorneys general—but a fundraiser at a private residence. Its  relaxed atmosphere is evident from the fact that Obama also quipped about the short stature of Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.): after initially failing to spot Honda in the crowd, he commented, "He's not a real tall guy, but he's a great guy." Obama and Harris are longtime friends, and she did not seem remotely offended by his compliment. And, far from implying that her worth came only from her looks, the president had opened by praising Harris as "brilliant," "tough," and "exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law."

This is the remark left-of-center pundits decried as "sexist" and requiring "gender sensitivity training." What makes it so bad, critics say, is that historically beauty was often seen as woman's chief asset, and even today women's quest for equality can be hampered when they are judged on looks rather than merit. Salon.com editor Joan Walsh, who wrote that her "stomach turned" over Obama's comment, also cites Harris's own history: when she ran for San Francisco District Attorney in 2003, some of her rival's supporters insinuated that she had slept her way to the top (earlier, Harris had been romantically linked to California Assembly Speaker and then San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown). Walsh acknowledges that these smears didn't hurt Harris: she won.

This deplorable history of sexism is very real. Yet to insist that any mention of a woman's attractiveness must therefore be off-limits in any work-related setting is, in effect, to let sexism win. Such a taboo subtly perpetuates, rather than undercut, the notion that a beautiful woman is unlikely to be smart or competent (after all, even to acknowledge her beauty implies it's the sole basis of her success!). It also promotes a blatant double standard: since men do not face the same cultural burden of being "the fair sex," a female politician can compliment a man's good looks with impunity. (Would eyebrows have been raised if Hillary Clinton had referred to San Francisco's mayor Gavin Newsom as the country's best-looking mayor?)

Somewhat similar issues of women and sexuality in the workplace have been raised by another recent brouhaha known as "donglegate."  Computer technology specialist and blogger Adria Richards was attending a presentation at a tech conference when she took offense to an overheard conversation between two men behind her: they were making jokes that hinted at the sexual connotations of technical terms such as "forking" and "dongle." Without telling them she was upset, she snapped a photo of the "offenders" and sent it out on Twitter (where she has some 10,000 followers), noting, "Not cool" and asking conference staff to intervene. The men were ejected; one, a father of three employed by the conference sponsor, was later fired because the company felt his conduct was at odds with its commitment to "gender equality."

Richards received a lot of hate messages, including at least one creepy death threat; then she too lost her job over the controversy. Many women in tech, while agreeing that sexism is a problem in the industry, felt that Richards had done them a disservice by making such a public mountain out of a molehill. Yet feminist  and left-wing blogs  supported her; the website Jezebel.com ran a headline slamming the two hapless jokesters as "sexist dudes." Fordham University communications professor Alice Marwick wrote that while a "dongle joke" may be trivial, Richards's perception of its harm was justified by the tech world's "structural sexism."

This looks like startlingly neo-Victorian paternalism: mild suggestive remarks, not directed at an individual woman or at women in general, are presumed so offensive to women as to warrant swift retribution. Of course, no one who has worked in a mixed-sex environment seriously believes that women don't make sexual jokes or comments in work settings. But that's where the double standard comes in: unlike the Victorian lady, the modern feminist who demands such protections needn't shun bawdy humor herself. Richards has made male anatomy jokes on her Twitter feed, which she uses professionally. When men make them, though, it's apparently a female-excluding assertion of male privilege.

The logic here is similar to that of the outcry over Obama's "gaffe": since our culture has a history of demeaning women by reducing them to sex objects, the slightest whiff of sexuality or sexual speech in the workplace disempowers women and creates a hostile environment. But this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of female fragility: women cannot be accepted as equals if their special sensitivities require constant protection—whether those sensitivities are seen as the product of nature or culture. What's more, taboos and double standards inevitably invite backlash.

Both of these much-ados-about-nothing also reinforce the worst stereotypes of feminists: as humorless, speech-policing puritans intent on keeping men on a tight leash. Feminists may sneer at men who think it's their sacred right to tell penis jokes in a professional environment; but how many women would be pleased to find themselves pilloried for "inappropriate" banter within the earshot of an offended male? When did stripping the workplace of all personal, friendly, even frivolous interaction—particularly in an age of increasing work-life overlap—become progressive?

A hundred years ago, anarchist feminist Emma Goldman famously said that she did not want to be part of any revolution that would not allow dancing. Likewise, not only men but quite a few women women want no part of a feminist revolution if it bans innocent compliments and silly off-color jokes.

A version of this originally appeared at RealClearPolitics.

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  1. Ah, the media’s tempest in a teapot for the week. How insanely boring and trivial, and therefore worthy of the media’s attention. Where would we be without our primate-level-intellect gatekeepers?

    1. What the media isn’t reporting is that he said right after that how much he’d like to see Kamala Harris and Pam Bondi is a lesbian porn film.

      1. If he can singlehandedly bring playoffs to college football then surely he can make this happen.

        1. Can’t he just issue an executive order? I mean, what are the limits on his authority? I’m not clear on that.

          1. There are no limits on his authority, ProL. Don’t be absurd.

            1. Oh, okay. Thanks.

              I’m going to ask him for a trillion dollars. Who knows, maybe he’ll give it to me!

              1. Yeah but it’ll come in the form of a single platinum coin and they are the only ones capable of making change for you.

                1. So I’d better just buy something that costs pretty much $1 trillion, huh? How much for the Moon?

                  1. The moonpeople don’t accept fiat currency.

                    1. I don’t recognize their rights, as Armstrong conquered the Moon for America in 1969. I know, I saw the video.

              2. he’ll be makin’ it rain all over heeyah!

                1. Jimmy Fallon, the poor man’s Mike Myers

      2. “Kamala Harris and Pam Bondi is a lesbian porn film.”

        I’m not even here two seconds and I have to go to my bunk.

    2. Can’t much blame them. Back in my very brief journalism days, I was told repeatedly how utterly and crushingly dull the White House press corp job was.

      1. No, I can blame them all I want. And I do.

        1. They learned it from you!

    3. It’s either write about this or about the baby decapitations by 15-year-old medical assistants in Philadelphia.

      C’mon, get some journalistic sense

      1. You mean report on a story that could bring up ethical questions concerning partial birth abortion? Blasphemy! Women hater.

        1. The mainstream media aren’t really trying to hide their bias on this. The non-coverage is deafening. And I’m pro-choice.

          1. you could have stopped after “bias”

            That train left sometime in late 2007 if not earlier.

      2. baby decapitations by 15-year-old medical assistants in Philadelphia

        Say what?

  2. Wish that Our Glorious Leader, or any other public figure targeted by this crap, had the balls to give the middle finger to “those who may have been offended.”

  3. I read this as “Obama’s Sexiest Double Standard” and am now disappointed

    1. once you go biracial, there’s no better facial?

    2. I’m very comfortable with the idea that he only compliments women on their attractiveness.

  4. Well obviously Gloria Alred and NOW are gunna be all over this, just like they were with Bill Clint….oh wait

  5. My wife’s input on the subject was “If we can’t say that kind of stuff at work, then he can’t either. I’m glad he’s in trouble for it.”

    1. Yep. Hoisted by his own retard, or something like that.

    2. Two close friends of mine, tenured full professors at a university near here, were just fired because he made similar, slightly sexist jokes, and she defended him. They were fired for being ‘sexual predators and retaliating against whistle blowers’.

      I’m not making this up. They are both in their sixties, and ill, and face a future of relative poverty.

      Damn right–THAT’S NOT FUNNY!

      1. That sucks but they probably should have had their retirement planned out before their sixties.

      2. A people’s revolution without the occasional purge isn’t any fun.

      3. The only acceptable course in an job setting is to say nothing, ever.

      4. tenured full professors at a university

        So I couldn’t give two shits what happens to them?

        Unless they have been quite vocal in opposition to victimology during their careers, they deserve it.

        Get into bed with government, expect to get fucked.

        1. Who knows what their job was? Should a physics professor or an economics professor be expected to stand up to ‘victomology,’ which has nothing to do with their job?

          1. physics? don’t you know that Newton’s Principia is a rape manual?

            1. I listened to Dawkins rant on that for a bit. Hilarious.

          2. Speaking of physics professors, I went to one of mine after I got a midterm back and received no credit for a correct answer. I was told “answers don’t matter.”

            And who says that academia if going down the tube?

        2. He actually was. He’s a conservative (a real, genuine one) who made all kinds of conservative comments on his FB page. That probably contributed to the fierceness of the university’s attacks against him.

          1. He’s a conservative (a real, genuine one)

            Don’t get me wrong, I would feel the same if Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams were fired. University professors benefit considerably from taxpayer subsidies. They make good salaries from the system they supposedly oppose and shouldn’t be surprised when the same system turns around and stabs them in the back.

            1. I think sowell is just a fellow at hoover now, dont think he teaches anymore

              1. Sowell teaches us everyday.

                1. you are correct good sir

            2. Yeah, because once you accept a taxpayer subsidy you lose all your rights. You could be ganged raped by the SWAT team and forced to watch your dog and her puppies shot, and Marshall still wouldn’t give two shits about you. Because you took a government grant, or claimed the mortgage deduction, or whatever.

      5. “Sexual predators”??

        Since when can making comments be predation? I thought that “sexual predator” was supposed to mean a serial rapist or something like that, not someone who is fond of off color jokes.

        1. Defending the guy was apparently considered ‘retaliating against whistle blowers.’

          Sanity has no place in modern universities.

        2. Officially it was ‘creating a hostile environment’, but a high ranking official referred to them as ‘sexual predators’.

          At one point my friend apologized for offending people. That constituted ‘retaliation’.

          Yup.

          In case you can’t tell, I’m unspeakably angry about this, but can’t do much about it–it’s another university.

          1. You could start a blog and publicly name and shame the university in question. Actually you could start the naming and shaming here. I’m thinking of possibly going back to school for a Master’s degree and I’d hate to accidentally end up giving these shitheads my tuition dollars.

            It’s not much, but it’s a start.

            1. He probably doesn’t want to do that under his real name lest the same happen to him.

  6. feminism is nothing but stalinism with tits

    1. Well, maybe bras, but often without noticeable tits.

      1. had tits been noticeable they wouldnt be feminists in the first place…duh

        1. You are forgetting about the fat ones.

      2. Well, these feminists certainly have boobs…and balls! The Atlantic

        1. Yeah I heard about that as well. The problem is that the Left in other parts of the west have feminists and multiculturalists to cater to. Therefore the fems bitch about there not being enough female fire fighters but criticizing decapitations shows a “lack of understanding and islamophobia”

        2. Yeah, with European sexual norms, and the ballsy fuck-your-morals Mosque protesting, some will have a hard time grokking them as a “progressive” movement

  7. Hey. c’mon – credit where credit is due! Self styled feminists work pretty damned hard every damned day to keep jokes about changing light bulbs relevant!

    Bless their hearts!

    1. Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

      A: ONE GOD DAMMIT AND FRANKLY I’M OFFENDED THAT YOU WOULD EVEN ASK!

      1. STOP IT WITH YOUR PATRIARCHAL MICRO-RAPES

        1. Q: How many flies does it take to screw in a light bulb?

          A: Two. But no one knows how they get in there.

      2. “How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

        She obviously needs a man.

  8. Since any mildly offensive comment overheard by a woman in the workplace can lead to even highly placed male executives losing their careers, the solution is simple: Don’t allow women anywhere near the powerful in any organization. Keep them down in the secretarial pool with the girls where they can talk about men’s packages all they want.
    Seriously, if I were evaluating different candidates for a high level position, I would be very carefull about allowing a humorless feminist anywhere near people I couldn’t afford to lose.
    What’s that?? Unintended consquences? Isn’t that just a libertarian myth?

    1. Kinda like how disability laws actually result in higher unemployment among the handicapped due to the fact that they are now walking lawsuits

      1. they are now walking lawsuits

        or lawsuits in waiting!

      2. they are now walking lawsuits

        I find this comment to be insensitive to handi-capable people in wheelchairs! You should be publicly shamed and then fired for failing to foster a more inclusive environment.

    2. Pretty much any candidate that has “gender studies” or any sort of ethnic studies listed as their major should be relegated to the mailroom, if they’re even hired at all. Those kinds of folks thrive on conflict and typically lead to more drama than is warranted.

      Look at the worthless bitch who got a nerd fired for some off-color joke at PyCon.

      http://www.dailydot.com/societ…..-richards/

      Her fucking job was as a “developer evangelist”–in other words, a stupid PA-type position that required no real skills in computers whatsoever. And what did the company get for hiring this woman? A shrill, easily offended self-righteous stalinist (at one point she compares herself to Joan of Arc–if only she actually had been burned at the stake instead of getting negged relentlessly on Twitter) that brought them a ton of negative publicity because MUH FEELINGS!

      Grievance studies majors are business poison.

      1. What the fuck is a “developer evangalist?” Someone who goes around evangelizing to developers? I thought religion was another one of those subjects that you’re not supposed to bring up in a professional setting.

        1. I’ve met some. The few that I know are quite nice people. The job it seems is merely a form of marketing: getting the developers excited about your project.

      2. She’s got a history of doing this shit.

        , Danielle Morrill was giving a lightning talk about how to use screencasting software called “Getting the Money Shot”. She’d never told us she was offended, she’d never told Danielle- she told her podcasting audience and blog readers that we were promoting porn. In the end, after great drama, she attended and deep sixed her talk, instead lecturing the attendees about how porn wasn’t acceptable at conferences. The beginners in her class were less than amused and ultimately, deprived of the opportunity to learn from her.

    3. Dont’t put Baby in a binder.

  9. This just in:

    Teh gayz sue for equal sexual harassment as wimin

    1. catchers AND pitchers?

  10. Sounds like a solid plan to me dude. Wopw.

    http://www.Net-Privacy.us

    1. I find anon-bot’s comment above to be insensitive to the Italian-American community. I hope its programmers are sacked for this.

      1. I am offended! I demand Anonbot be fired!

  11. “…the worst stereotypes of feminists: as humorless, speech-policing puritans…”

    While any “true believer” of any movement fits this bill, I do find that feminists (especially radical ones) are the purest examples. Personally, I find it horribly frustrating that some co-workers feel the need to walk on eggshells around me to avoid the swift vengeance of the PC gods. If I were in to that sort of thing, I’d like it, but I’m not. It’s not that I don’t find some things offensive but only that I have some sense of proportion and a sense of humor.

    1. So, tooots. Hows about you go pretty up and then fix me a snack. *slaps your behind* There’s a good girl.

      ;-P

  12. One time after I had started a new job one of the guys asked how I like it, and I said it was fine except for the lesbian midget. Well, she happened to be standing beside the guy who asked, but I couldn’t see her since she was shorter than the cooler that reached dude’s chest. Anyway, I got hauled into the office for allegedly calling her a dyke. I explained that she’s four foot something and prefers women, so referring to her as a lesbian midget was just a statement of fact. The manager did a good job of holding a straight face, but I knew he cracked up as soon as I left the office. No, I was not fired.

    1. diversity and sensitivity training for you and your weapon/penis?

    2. I’m surprised you weren’t chewed out on the carpet for that one. Sounds like you just missed drawing the short straw.

      1. I think he sounds like he made the short bus, though.

      2. She had cried wolf so many times by this point that taking me to the office was just a formality. She reacted to most any criticism or complaint by accusing the person of hating homosexuals. If someone ordered a burger medium and she cooked it medium well, they only complained because she’s homosexual. Didn’t matter. The place sucked. I had another job within three months.

        1. She had cried wolf so many times by this point that taking me to the office was just a formality.

          Also getting her all wound up to the point of having you sent to the principal’s boss’ office was probably like a right of passage at that point.

          1. Pretty much. She drove off a lot of good help, but they wouldn’t get rid of her because they knew she’d take them to court.

    3. OUTLIER!

    4. How typical of your callous inhumanity.

    5. You just made that up to tantalize us with visions of lesbian midgets. Damn you, now I have to go check to see if there’s a site for that!

      1. Oh gawd, not only are there a dozen sites for that, they even have a lesbian midget jello wrestling league!

        1. Dead Milkmen – Lesbian Eskimo Midget Left-Handed Ninja Albino
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB9DSWxtsgU

      2. There was nothing tantalizing about that woman. She was short, round, hygienically challenged, no makeup, butch hair, flannel and everything. She fit every negative stereotype you can think of regarding lesbians.

    6. This sounds really familiar, have you told this story before?

  13. you take away the sex and the drugs and all you have with lefties are pathological and totalitarian theocrats

  14. In a professional context it’s bad manners to refer to a woman’s (or anyone’s) looks. There are very clear standards about these things, and there is no need for every Internet pundit to rewrite them.

    1. Yeah…cuz women HATE IT when guys think they’re attractive

      1. But what about all the feelings of all the other state AGs?

        I struggle too; I feel the need to defer to women in doorways at work, even though technically that is treating them according to their sex and thus incorrect in that setting.

        1. You’re shitting me. Will no one think of the feelings of the wealthy and successful attorney generals?!?!

          You have to be a sock puppet. You’re like a parody of a mindless leftist.

          1. STOP picking on lawyers, look how much they have done for us

          2. If I were being a mindless leftist I would be defending Obama. I am wearing my etiquette police hat here.

        2. I struggle too

          You know who struggled, too, and even wrote a book about it, and titled it as such?

            1. Very nice!

      2. In a personal setting, maybe not. But it is generally accepted that professional behavior requires refraining from discussing whether or not you feel like fucking your colleague.

        1. well degrees matter of course; complimenting a nice haircut for instance is not the same as asking how loud the clapping sound would be if you were to do her doggystyle

          1. Its a fine line, to be sure.

      3. No. They hate it when ugly and/or creepy guys think they’re attractive.

        Unless they can use that to get you to do stuff for them.

        1. tru dat

        2. *ding*

    2. Tony, he was giving a speech at a fundraising event. He wasn’t actually in a ‘professional context’ so much as he was giving an after dinner speech at a fundraiser. Joking around is what’s expected in that environment.

      1. Yeah it’s a gray area, but their relationship in that context is as professional colleagues.

        1. Which has nothing to do with the outrage from liberals over this. They could have been joking around at a bar, and if cameras caught him jokingly saying that she was the best looking attorney general, leftists would still be whining.

          Regardless of whether it was ‘appropriate’ there’s no way it can be considered sexist or requiring of gender sensitivity training.

    3. What if you say “dongle” at a tech conference?

  15. I can’t add much except had Bush said it feminists would be arming their tits with bullets to kill him. Yeah, baby!

    AND

    She IS hot.

    1. I’d hit it. ur from montreal right?

    2. She IS hot.

      meh

  16. Isn’t anyone going to do something to get this thread to 46 comments? The two articles below this one both have 46, but not this one. It’s obviously some sort of racism/sexism hybrid thing. I had to step in and at least make an effort to shame you racist, sexist, anarchist monsters.

    1. all disparities equal discrimination…which is why we will always be racist and sexist until the exact same number of Germans own as many sushi restaurants as japanese people and when male strippers make as much as female ones

      1. All hail the coming bureau of everything, to usher in the glorious utopia of equality!

        1. Diversity

          learn it
          love it
          embrace it

          OR ELSE!

    2. 46 is two-thirds of 69.

  17. Cathy Young is a gender traitor!!! /Womyn’s Studies graduate

    1. isn’t anyone who understands some statistics and basic economics and “gender traitor” to these harridans?

  18. And the big picture: If these chicks want their opinions to matter they are gonna have to spend more time on being hotter

    Your level of hotness is commensurate with your level of legitimacy as a woman: I call it the Ovarian Principle.

    1. the Ovarian Principle

      pffffftttt….

      The Peter Position Principle is much better

      1. I was gonna call it that but the gay bar by the airport already took it.

        1. I don’t know how many times we have to have you arrested before you get this – it’s a Catholic think tank, NOT a gay bar!

    2. “Venusian Principle” sounds more poetic

      1. Iron Law of Lustiness

    3. how do you draw that conclusion

  19. You know who else would be angered by a black guy complimenting a white woman on her looks?

    1. Michelle Obama?

      1. those cops who beat Wesley Snipes ass in “Jungle Fever”…I’m shocked he didn’t know martial arts in that movie

  20. From what little I know of Harris, her ugliness is all on the inside.

    1. That’s not a job that is sought after by people who believe in liberty and freedom.

  21. One thing I like about many reality-based foreign TV shows (gameshows, news/entertainment programs) is that they aren’t plagued with this kind of ultra-PC omg-sexist nonsense

    1. They must not be from Europa or AU. They’re both worse than us.

      1. I just sent an email to my wife after she asked me to check some of her homework for grammar(English is not her first language) and I told her to tell them to stop freaking trying to indoctrinate her, that I’m not paying for that crap!

        Every single hypothetical scenario or topic they think up is either about gay marriage or women’s issues. There is never anything else.

        What about a topic on fishing, or camping, or even one about sports where the main questions for analysis are not ‘Mens basketball players make more money than womens players, does that bother you?’ How about this for an answer, STFU already!

        1. Long time ago I took some English Comp class at a community college. Getting rid of core classes.

          Anyway, the bitch teaching was doing her undergrad in Womyn’s Studies. So our papers were on things like the political influence of Madonna and the movie ‘Thelma and Louise.’

          At least I was able to get into the pants of one of the cuter girls in the class, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

          1. I did a paper on why affirmative action was bad for minorities in a class that was taught by a jewish lesbian. She got very upset, but couldn’t really say anything because all the people I interviewed were successful minorities who were against affirmative action.

            It was beautiful watching the gears turn, trying to find some way to criticize me.

      2. You haven’t seen an Italian gameshow then.

        1. I haven’t. I’ve seen lots of Brazilian ones though. But actually, I prefer their soap operas. Eye candy.

          1. SEXIST! There you go, judging Brazilian soap opera stars solely by their looks, as if that’s the only reason for their success.

      3. It would actually include some European countries, Central/South American countries, and Japan.

  22. what Marjorie answered I am stunned that some one able to earn $4029 in 1 month on the internet. did you see this website and go to home tab for more detail— big76.??m

  23. “Dongle” IS funny. So is “forking”, and “docking”. “Hot-swapping” is also good. Don’t even get me started with football (“Roughing the passer” for instance).

    Oh, and FBGM. Now go make me a sandwich, and I better not have to tell you twice.

    1. Yeah and how is joking about these words in any f’ing way sexist? I don’t f’ing get it. Maybe I’d understand if I was a completely irrational humorless uptight bitch.

  24. This is great, but I would add the fact that Obama has complemented men on their looks in professional settings several times.

  25. At least he didn’t ask someone in a wheelchair to stand up and take a bow.

  26. You’d think they’d be more offended that he pays his male and female staffers differently…but noooooooo won’t see a bunch of articles about that. Just this silliness. Because we can’t show him for being the raging hypocrite that he is…but we can slap him on the hand and poo poo him for being a bad boy.

    *eyeroll*

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