SEVERE WX : Fire Weather Watch View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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 4:56 AM
Updated: Feb 2, 2018 4:56 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.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21010

Reported Deaths: 355
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah484994
Washington304725
Marion288370
Umatilla225128
Clackamas152340
Malheur76814
Deschutes59610
Lane5793
Jackson4612
Yamhill45013
Lincoln4149
Union3942
Jefferson3554
Morrow3543
Polk31312
Linn27710
Klamath2012
Wasco1893
Hood River1840
Benton1696
Douglas1501
Josephine1142
Columbia940
Coos910
Clatsop850
Crook471
Baker380
Tillamook340
Lake320
Wallowa191
Sherman160
Curry150
Harney100
Gilliam40
Grant40
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 554388

Reported Deaths: 10307
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2067784967
Riverside40452799
Orange39076720
San Bernardino35452502
San Diego31779586
Kern22626171
Fresno17031171
Alameda13213208
San Joaquin12303211
Santa Clara11475203
Sacramento10795161
Tulare10475196
Imperial9693244
Stanislaus9566161
Contra Costa9022138
Ventura814689
San Francisco743267
Santa Barbara670469
San Mateo6110120
Marin528779
Monterey521235
Merced501264
Kings445356
Solano402940
Sonoma343147
Madera230239
Placer218620
San Luis Obispo209315
Yolo169043
Santa Cruz12386
Butte10958
Napa104610
Sutter9217
El Dorado7291
San Benito7094
Lassen6380
Yuba5884
Shasta41810
Mendocino38010
Colusa3624
Glenn3603
Nevada3221
Humboldt2824
Tehama2761
Lake2202
Amador1642
Mono1531
Tuolumne1522
Calaveras1471
Del Norte990
Siskiyou930
Inyo643
Mariposa602
Plumas340
Modoc50
Trinity50
Sierra30
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 90°
Brookings
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 90°
Crater Lake
Clear
87° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 87°
Grants Pass
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 86°
Klamath Falls
Clear
87° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 87°
Early week high heat
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events