Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Is Obama a Sexist?

I know this is old news by now, but I wanted to talk a bit about the recent controversy involving Barack Obama commenting on the looks of Attorney General Kamala Harris. 

In case you aren't a national news follower, the story is that Obama was at a fundraiser for AG Harris, and was introducing her.  The comment was (per Huffington Post) "She’s brilliant and she’s dedicated, she’s tough," Obama said. "She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney
general ... It’s true! C’mon."
She is indeed a pretty lady
This caused an uproar in the media about how Obama is a sexist and he is contributing to the objectification of women.

I think it must have been a slow news day.

When I heard about this I wanted to know more.  I can sympathize with feminism to a degree, but I also blame it in part to the rise of the man-child which is ever so prevalent. 

I don't think that Obama was out of line for the following reasons.  He was giving an introduction for Ms. Harris at a fundraiser.  The event was one of 'I am amongst friends' much similar to the event where Mitt Romney felt it safe to say that 47% of Americans are 'takers'.  Also from what I have read, Obama and Harris are long time friends.  If my boss were to say something like that about me, yeah, it would make my skin crawl, no doubt.  However if my friend did it, I wouldn't think anything of it other than being flattered.  Plus his comment wasn't crass or anything of the sort you'd hear being a foxy lady walking by a construction site or something.  Lastly, I can't find any information stating that Harris herself was offended by this.  Shouldn't that really be the test of appropriateness?? (Granted, on further reflection, it probably would have hurt the party she was fundraising for had she admitted to being offended.) Also, from an amateur comedienne's perspective (myself. lol) I find the comments to be merely an attempt to add some humor/lightheartedness to the sentiments about how tough and smart she is.  For instance, if someone were introducing me, they would of course mention my brilliance, headstrong nature and kindness, and also maybe that I could eat a whole block of cheese in one sitting.  Is that an offensive fat joke?!  No, it is just true and relaxes the seriousness of it all. 

No, the outcries were from everyone else who thought commenting on her looks was bad form.  Maybe it was, it is really a personal decision on how you interpret communications with others.  There are certain contexts where I think this would be offensive.  Like if he were recommending her for the supreme court or something.  But the time and the place made it more 'okay', at least in my opinion.

My next question for the ladies is - when you put your makeup on and do your hair and wear clothes that flatter you, isn't your end goal for people to find you as attractive?  Because if Charleze Theron has taught us nothing else, your pretty usually takes some effort:

Exhibit A
Exhibit B.  Wha???!
I personally would not enjoy people complimenting me on my looks unless it is my wedding day, prom night or the like. (except for Aaron, you don't get off that easy, lol) And sure it would be a weird world if people just complimented everyone about their appearance all the time.  I have never been a 'classically attractive' person though, so I don't know what life is like for someone like that.  Maybe people tell you that you're good looking all the time and you enjoy it? 
I feel like feminism is at the heart of all of this, and the anger stems from the thought that we don't ever talk about the way men politicians look.  Except when we do -
and I am fairly certain looks alone are why Rick Perry keeps getting elected Governor in Texas... :\

The pros and cons of feminism is another post for another day though!  What are your thoughts?  Did you find Obama's words offensive, or much ado about nothing?



Bekah Loves Blog said...

I think you're right. Slow news day. When did calling someone attractive become sexist? It wasn't lewd by any means, and as you mentioned, they know each other.

Nichole Gaertner said...

I think you nailed it straight on the money. I think there is a time and place and I don't think he was being inappropriate. Infact I found it funny myself.

Anonymous said...

You don't really site any sources of WHO was saying that he was sexist so it feels really unfair to just blame it on the feminists. We get that enough. There's also a common thing that happens where people say "oh people are upset about X" but you all you see are people saying how upset some vague group of "people" are.

I don't think it was a terrible thing for him to say, but he did apologize and I appreciate that. It's also not accurate to say that women don't get scrutinized for appearance way more than men do, particularly in politics. Overall we're focused on appearance but it's not an totally balanced scale here. I would mostly agree with your sentiment, but have a couple issues with the way you prove your point here.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

When I first heard the comments (and I am an Obama suporrter through and through) I did feel that they were not neccesarily sexist but were somewhat borderline as far as inappropriatness for the setting. That being said, I do not feel that he's in any way sexist.

Laura said...

much ado about nothing, I agree with you - I wish people would just calm down.


In response to Roxanne, (I couldn't email you because you are set up as a no-reply blogger :( )
While I didn't site any exact sources, my train of thought was that if you find it offensive/distasteful to publicly compliment a woman on her looks, then you hold the same veiwpoint as the collect group identifying as 'feminists'. Much like if I was mad that my neighbor put a whole bag of beer bottles in the regular trash instead of the recycling, one could reasonably assume that I am an environmentalist to a degree. I don't disagree with feminism to a degree, but at the same time I feel those upset by this situation are far past the degree that I think is beneficial/reasonable/normal/whathaveyou. I disagree that women get more scrutenized than men do, just in different ways. I think attractive/personable people have an easier/more successful time in life all the way around. I think the attractive people know this too, and use it to their advantage to get ahead. Politically speaking, we haven't had an unfortunate looking president ever since mass media became a thing, and those are all men. The thing with appearance judging and feminism to me is that the victim is also the criminal. No one judges women on their looks more harshly than other women. So what's the answer there? #sorryforthenovel

Lindsey said...

I think it's about as stupid as if I jumped all over you for assuming every construction site makes lewd comments to a "foxy lady" walking by. My husband works on construction sites and could/would be offended by your assumption. (Not really) This whole compliment issues is so irrelevant it's not even funny.

The media sucks. The stuff they chose to constantly focus on and blow out of proportion sucks and the public sucks for buying into all that crap-o-la.

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