Sarah Sanders and the sexism of women

Thank White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders for the latest reminder that even women entrusted with high positions...

Posted: Feb 2, 2018 6:56 AM
Updated: Feb 2, 2018 6:56 AM

Thank White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders for the latest reminder that even women entrusted with high positions of authority can promote sexist ideas about women.

Appearing on CNN's morning program, "New Day," Wednesday, Sanders sang Donald Trump's praises for his State of the Union speech, and then delivered the jaw-dropping suggestion that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should smile more.

"That room ... was grossly divided, I've never seen Nancy Pelosi's face like that," said host Chris Cuomo, commenting on Pelosi's stony expression as she listened to the speech. "How can he unify that room?"

Sanders' response? "...I'm going to be a little bit in disagreement with you. I think Nancy Pelosi looks like that all the time. I think she should smile a lot more often. I think the country would be better for it. She seems to embody the bitterness that belongs in the Democratic Party right now."

While it should be no surprise that Sanders, who stands behind a podium with the White House seal and regularly lies to and misinforms the American people, would borrow a line from an average cat caller on the street, it is doubly upsetting for another reason: Sanders is only the third woman to serve as White House press secretary. Even people who oppose her boss's policies might have expected better from her.

But let's recall that her job is basically to justify the actions and/or deflect accusations away from of a man who was infamously heard, loud and clear on tape, boasting that serial sexual assault was a perk of his "star" status.

And to date, Sanders has covered for the President in the face of at least 15 women accusing him of sexual misconduct, repeatedly parroting his denials and throwing doubt on the women's stories. She has backed every anti-women policy of the Trump administration, on issues ranging from equal pay to reproductive health care.

Sanders' suggestion is a classic, sexist line as old as time. Regardless of how much harm or harassment a person consciously intends to cause a woman by using it, the request itself assumes that women owe the world -- and principally men -- something. They don't -- not even a smile.

Moreover, as writer Erika Hardison notes: "the sexualization behind telling women to smile is alarming. It makes women feel that we are only meant to be happy and pretty, and it's a passive way to engage into an unwanted conversation. Asking a woman to smile is a selfish act, and it's rarely in a caring tone; it's condescending and it turns a simple gesture into something sexual. Instead of asking a woman how she actually feels or being open minded to the idea she might not be interested, there are men that will berate a woman into doing something that she isn't comfortable doing. That is unacceptable."

Artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh echoes Hardison's sentiments in her anti-sexual-harassment art series, titled "Stop Telling Women to Smile," in which she addresses gender-based street harassment by creating a visual and bold presence for women in an environment where they do not always feel comfortable or safe.

Sanders' comment was out of line. Pelosi's expression was not. Trump is not giving Democratic lawmakers, men or women, much to smile about.

Pelosi said as much in her tweeted response to Trump's speech, noting its self-congratulatory tone and lack of vision. "He promised unity, but sowed division," Pelosi wrote. "America deserves better."

Clearly, Pelosi is not happy with the President or his policies. So why should she smile?

As one of the most politically accomplished and experienced women in Washington, who has served her country far longer than both Trump and Sanders, it is disgraceful that either of them would try and reduce Nancy Pelosi to a "pretty woman" who should just be quiet and smile. Going way beyond partisan politics, Sanders' comments are offensive and demeaning to all women.

Even worse? The White House Press Secretary's comments are a depressing reminder of how women can be just as sexist towards other women as men.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30900

Reported Deaths: 1111
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds249840
DeSoto159416
Madison130034
Jones112449
Neshoba98871
Rankin93412
Harrison91211
Lauderdale90979
Forrest86942
Scott77115
Jackson62216
Copiah60215
Washington5849
Leake57819
Holmes55341
Lee54718
Wayne54513
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51518
Yazoo5096
Leflore48751
Grenada4835
Lowndes48313
Lincoln46034
Lamar4587
Pike43112
Monroe40130
Lafayette3914
Sunflower3727
Attala36023
Covington3565
Panola3506
Newton3399
Bolivar33414
Simpson3173
Adams31118
Pontotoc2866
Tate28310
Marion28111
Chickasaw27718
Claiborne27410
Noxubee2638
Jasper2626
Winston2616
Pearl River25432
Clay25010
Marshall2323
Smith21811
Clarke20724
Union2079
Coahoma2016
Walthall1995
Kemper17914
Lawrence1772
Yalobusha1707
Carroll16511
Humphreys1479
Tallahatchie1364
Itawamba1358
Montgomery1322
Calhoun1304
Tippah13011
Hancock12813
Webster12710
Jefferson Davis1114
Prentiss1083
Jefferson1073
Greene1058
Tunica1003
Wilkinson949
Amite912
George883
Tishomingo801
Quitman760
Choctaw744
Alcorn692
Perry664
Stone651
Franklin452
Sharkey370
Benton360
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 44375

Reported Deaths: 984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5221152
Montgomery4127103
Mobile4080134
Tuscaloosa228842
Marshall171110
Madison14307
Lee138437
Shelby128423
Morgan11025
Walker93924
Elmore92514
Franklin89514
Dallas8809
Baldwin8649
Etowah73913
DeKalb7195
Butler63328
Chambers62927
Autauga60712
Tallapoosa59169
Russell5520
Unassigned50323
Houston4964
Limestone4950
Lauderdale4906
Lowndes47221
Cullman4524
Pike4295
Colbert3956
St. Clair3822
Coffee3772
Bullock36910
Covington3587
Calhoun3545
Escambia3506
Barbour3492
Hale31121
Talladega3097
Marengo30211
Wilcox2918
Dale2880
Sumter28512
Clarke2746
Jackson2732
Winston2583
Chilton2462
Blount2351
Monroe2352
Pickens2356
Marion22413
Conecuh2097
Randolph2069
Choctaw19512
Macon1949
Bibb1901
Greene1868
Perry1771
Henry1343
Crenshaw1253
Washington1097
Lawrence1080
Cherokee977
Geneva800
Lamar771
Fayette701
Clay652
Coosa581
Cleburne361
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 76°
Columbus
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 73°
Oxford
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 72°
Starkville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 70°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather