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 7:56 AM
Updated: Feb 2, 2018 7:56 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.

West Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 53°
Kokomo
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 57°
Rensselaer
Mostly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Fowler
Partly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 53°
Williamsport
Partly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 53°
Crawfordsville
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 54°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Delphi
Partly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 55°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 55°
Logansport
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 54°
Warming up with plenty of sunshine!
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events