Megyn Kelly Shows How to Fight the #WarOnWomen
Megyn Kelly Shows How to Fight the #WarOnWomen
I have no particular affinity for Megyn Kelly, and no particular animosity for Donald Trump. But I wanted to talk about something that stood out to me in last week’s brouhaha over Trump’s statements directed at Kelly. Trump’s words about Kelly “bleeding” from unspecified orifices were widely perceived to mean that her “anger” towards Trump was because she was menstruating. Whether he meant to imply that meaning or not, the perception was that was his intent.
Trump was displeased with the questions he got at the Republican debate and he called them unfair. He was mostly, or entirely, referring to Kelly’s question to him where she repeated his own statements that he had made to various women in public settings. He had responded to an attack by Rosie O’Donnell by calling her fat and ugly. He had called Ariana Huffington “extremely unattractive” multiple times. He had said to a female on his Apprentice show that her being on her knees “would be a pretty picture.” There are many more similar examples. Trump said he didn’t recall making some of these statements, but it is clearly documented that he did.
Trump’s statements were things he had said in the public sphere, in TV interviews, and on Twitter. The questions were not about his personal life, multiple divorces, affairs, or other private matters. Considering that these types of questions have been posed to candidates across the spectrum over the years, it should not be seen as an unusual question. Mitt Romney was skewered for saying “binders full of women” when what he meant by it was that he interviewed numerous women for jobs. Romney’s statement was made in good faith about how he had consciously directed his pool of possible hires to include a diverse group. Even so, the media and opposing candidates jumped on the War on Women bandwagon and twisted the statement to make it sound denigrating.
Today, the media and opposing candidates don’t have so far to leap to make this association and they certainly don’t need to twist Trump’s words. He said them, he meant them, and he makes no apologies for it. In my opinion, he can say whatever he wants – it’s a free country, and I can form my opinion of him based on his actions – it’s a free country. But his actions that most stand out to me were not the specific things he said, it was his incessant whining about how he thought he was treated unfairly. He could have said he thought the questions were bad, unfair, or unprofessional, once. Or twice. Or maybe even three times. But he kept at it in interviews and on Twitter, tweeting and retweeting through all hours of the night, and that’s what I have a problem with. He was acting like a little girl. Yes I said it.
To compound matters, people took up positions that in another world outside of the Twilight Zone, they may never have tolerated. Trump supporters launched vicious personal attacks against Kelly to include name-calling, death threats, and petitions for firing – a favorite lefty tactic. Those who want Trump out of the spotlight went overboard by taking up the other favorite mantel of the left – uninviting him from a function for top Republican candidates, and actually validating the concept of the Republican War on Women. It’s just bizarre.
All this leads me to the actual point I want make – it’s a reality check on where women really do stand in society today. Does the name Sarah Palin ring a bell? Ever heard of the term Palinized? Or Palinguist, or Palinism? Those terms all refer to some form of being an “idiot,” or having some ability to interpret Sarah Palin’s “idiot ramblings.” Sarah Palin has a quirky way of communicating to be sure, so there is some basis for negatively characterizing her speech patterns. These things are frequently humorous, and arguably the jabs are not that outrageous in the course of political discourse.
Well, have you also heard of the terms Palin Pie, Palin Pipeline, Palin Pong, or Palin Poon? I won’t repeat what those things mean, but take my word for it that they have nothing to do with Sarah Palin’s unique way of talking, record in government, or her public conduct, all of which are fair game. No, those terms and many more personally attack Sarah Palin, and they do so in a sexualized way (they all refer to sex acts, some with a little Alaskan flare thrown in). Sarah Palin was burned in effigy, she was criticized for her clothes, makeup, and looks, and for her Down’s Syndrome baby – either that she was hiding that it was really her daughter’s baby or that she should have had an abortion rather than bring a child with a “defect” into the world.
Palin’s nickname became Caribou Barbie (we all know how much respect Barbie gets), and who can forget Obama’s clumsy attempt at trying to flip Palin’s joke about the difference between a pitbull and a hockey mom (lipstick) when he said, “You know, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” That happened right after Palin entered the race, and most took it to mean that McCain was the pig, and Palin was the lipstick, or even that Obama had just called Palin a pig. Either way, the use of “lipstick” was perceived to be gender oriented and a reference to Palin, not just a tired use of an old clichéd saying. Lipstick is associated with women (usually) and is something superficial – used to cover up flaws or enhance underwhelming features. A comparison to anyone being like lipstick is insulting because it says unserious, shallow, window dressing. Obama got some pushback from Republicans on it, but nothing major ever came of a woman being compared to a shallow (maybe even deceptive) beauty product.
Palin got attacked in a way I had never seen directed at anyone, man or woman. She got attacked from both sides, left and right. The attacks against her were severe, and they tended to be gender oriented in that she was called a bimbo, or her looks compared to a sexy librarian. The attacks on her appearance were more prolific than critique on substantive issues. She was hot, and she was a dumb slut.
Obama was attacked too, but for things other than his appearance or race. He was criticized for his peer group – Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright, for his upbringing outside the United States and for his noncitizen father and how that might affect his loyalty to America, for his lack of political leadership experience, for his voting non-record, and for his community organizing – which was just a euphemism for agitating. These attacks were not oriented around or connected to his gender.
The point to be made here is not that women cannot be criticized, but when they are there is almost always an immediate jump to gender oriented slurs. When men are criticized there is rarely a resort to similar types of statements. In the case of Trump v. Kelly, the groundswell against Kelly was immediate, vicious, and centered on her female qualities. This is very similar to the attacks that continue to this day on Sarah Palin. The War on Women does exist, but it is not in hampering the opportunities women have to succeed. It exists in the easy acceptance that we have of justifying criticism of women through correlating that criticism with gender.
When Barack Obama came out on top of the attacks against him by using the race card as a criticism of those very attacks, but Sarah Palin gained no ground despite the undeniable sexist attacks against her, that’s when I first accepted that gender inequality existed (and, how race will outplay gender – but that’s another issue). The same double standard displayed itself a few days ago when criticism of Trump was thoroughly trumped by the ferocious vitriol directed at Kelly. This was made all the more interesting because the attacks were primarily coming from the Republican sphere who should have remembered the unfair and unseemly attacks against Palin. But no one political party holds the market on gender oriented attacks, and they are not even limited to males attacking females, as there were plenty of women who joined in on the attacks on both Palin and Kelly.
I personally would not have asked the question that Megyn Kelly did. I don’t have any interest in ferreting out misogynistic tendencies or trying to point out politically incorrect behavior. I just make assessments of people based on their actions and act accordingly. I figure the best way to change someone’s mind is not by getting them to admit they are wrong, but by convincing them through my own performance that I am right (and my gender should not be a consideration or detriment for that determination). I don’t like Trump’s comments because I think they are rude, not because they are gender related. It is his exaggerated reaction that has greatly contributed to my opinion of him, less so the coarseness of his words, and not at all the disparagement toward women.
So while I feel no particular recoil towards Trump, even after this dustup, I think the incident illustrates the reality of where women stand in American society today. Opportunities are open equally, chances and prospects are ours to be pursued without artificial obstacles. That war has been won. But if a woman behaves like any other fallible person – she falters, she fails, or she doesn’t toe the party line, the response to her won’t be based on a human deficiency, but on a genetic one.
So, should something be done about this second sex status? Certainly we could fight like the feminists do and crank up the attacks for being politically incorrect. But I think the way Megyn Kelly handled it is the best. She didn’t continue down the road of vitriol and try to ramp up the rhetoric. She didn’t play a victim card, a sexism card, or any other card. She addressed the controversy in an objective way, declared herself a big girl, said she could handle it, and moved on. In doing so, she demonstrated a model of professional decorum that had no gender orientation. She showed women how to fight back against sexism without resorting to political correctness. She showed that condescension based on gender says a lot more about the person uttering the remarks, than it does to affect the kind of person she aspires to be. She showed how to earn respect, not demand it.
This is the type of response I hope we can see more of, because I believe it is the only type of reply that can actually lead to mutual respect between the sexes. Forcing people to kowtow and apologize endlessly leads to resentment and no real change of heart. It is only when they can see and experience the rightful worth of an individual without categorizing by gender, that we can truly eradicate cultural gender inequality.