For guys like Erick Erickson, standing up for a woman like Megyn Kelly is nothing more than protecting their own interests.
A weird thing is happening in my social media timelines: Otherwise liberal and progressive folks have been cheering for Erick Erickson, who, appalled at Donald Trump’s comments toward Megyn Kelly after last week’s first Republican primary election debate, announced he will be excluding Trump from an upcoming RedState gathering.
And yes, credit is due to Erickson for marking a line in the sand for the behavior of one of the most verbally abusive celebrities to ever grace our television screens (not to mention a Presidential primary). But before we decide that Erickson is some sort of great leader or a hero to women, we need to examine what exactly it is that Erickson is defending.
It started when Megyn Kelly, often considered one of the heavy hitters of the FoxNews television network, took the first opportunity she had during last week’s Republican Presidential debate to ask Trump about some of the more sexist names he’s called women in the past…
While Trump got the laughs for his Rosie O’Donnell punchline (and was widely considered the winner of the debate), the real fallout for the billionaire tycoon began when he implied on CNN that Megyn Kelly asked him a hard-hitting question because she was menstruating.
Turns out Erick Erickson, organizer of an upcoming RedState gatherings, took offense to this line. He tried to clarify with Trump what he meant, but Trump wouldn’t explain it to his liking, so he excluded Trump from the next event.
As Erickson explained, he didn’t want his daughter or his wife in the room with Trump if his uncensored schtick was going to venture into this sort of discourse, which Erickson believes lacks decency.
“I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal. It just was wrong,” Erickson added.
But in case anyone is confused about what Erickson is doing, thinking maybe he’s standing up for the fair treatment of women in politics or professional settings, let’s break down exactly what it was that upset Erickson, exactly what it is Erickson is trying to fight.
First and foremost, why would anyone consider Kelly’s question for Trump “hostile”? Did she call him a name? Did she say he was a bad person? Did she venture away from questions about his potential Presidency and into his personal life? Did she even raise her voice? No. She asked him if he thought his past word choices were Presidential, and if they would help the Republicans win the election against a probable female candidate.
There was nothing hostile in Kelly’s question, it just didn’t pander to Trump, or any man. That Erickson thinks this straightforward question is “hostile” is our first red flag.
Second, Erickson seems to think that mentioning a woman’s period is classless, and inappropriate. It is, of course, but it is not more inappropriate than calling Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig during a Presidential election debate.
No, Erickson isn’t standing up for equality, he’s standing up for one woman in one instance. Setting aside the fact that Erickson has said some really foul sexist crap about women in the past (check out what HuffPost’s Gabriel Arana dug up from Erickson’s own Twitter stream, including the word “feminazi” and multiple “make me a sandwich” jokes, not to mention horrifying slams against our First Lady and politician Wendy Davis), if Erickson were actually interested in standing up against Trump’s sexism and horrific treatment of women, the first thing he would’ve noted is that, on a political stage, Trump was willing to call Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig and a slob.
— Michael Rowe (@rowemichael) August 8, 2015
While I don’t think Erickson sees himself as a feminist, or would say that’s what he’s trying to do, it’s important we don’t confuse his actions for anything that’s pro-equality for women, even if for one moment he said something sort of great.
After all, being pro-woman or pro-equality doesn’t dictate that you stand up for just “your” women—and Megyn Kelly is one of “his” women—-it dictates that you stand up for equality for all women. And standing up for all women is one thing we know most Republicans don’t do: not women of color, not queer women, not women’s reproductive rights, not equal pay for women.
No, Erick Erickson was being chivalrous, a term that is often considered very positive when applied to men, but which can often have a dark flip-side.
Chivalry is traditionally considered to be a code of ethics wherein men pledge to help protect women. Seems good in theory, but in practice it’s often just another expression of patriarchy, wherein men set the rules and enforce them, and women are left as voiceless pieces of property.
And that’s what Erickson is expressing here. Megyn Kelly is one of his people. He’s a FoxNews contributor, she is a famous white, blonde Conservative FoxNews personality. As much as they’ve gone head-to-head in the past (watch this clip of him maligning working moms and same-sex parents, and Kelly standing up to him), she’s still his people, still within his circle, still a woman he feels responsible for protecting.
His women are also the wife, daughter and friends he mentions as reasons to exclude Trump. Those are the ones he wants to protect. As Michael Rowe expresses in his tweet, if it were about more than just Erickson and his own interests, he would’ve also stood up against Trump for the awful other things he said about women in the past, including the horrific things he said about Rosie O’Donnell on stage that night.
But for Erickson, it’s not about the harm Trump causes women, it’s about protecting his property, and that’s where chivalry often goes wrong. It’s not about equality, it’s merely about vesting his interests.
And lest you think this sneaky form of paternalistic sexism is rare in the GOP, let’s take a moment to hear why Jeb Bush is upset with Trump for his statement to Megyn Kelly:
“Do we want to win? Do we want to insult 53% of all voters? What Donald Trump said is wrong, that is not how we win elections.”
Bush is right about one thing: What Donald Trump said is wrong. But what Bush is missing is that it’s not wrong because that’s not how you win an election… It’s wrong because it harms women. And that should be reason enough to stand up against it.
When did the harm being caused to women by men like Trump become irrelevant? When did winning the election become a better reason to speak up against sexist language than the battle to end sexism itself?
I think we all know, deep in our hearts and minds, that for the GOP it’s never been about women. It’s sometimes about winning our votes, but it’s never been about serving us as their constituency. After all, when they only reason you’ll stand up against Trump is because he’s going to harm your party’s chances at a win, and not because he’s harming women, you’ve got a powerful symbol that something has gone very, very wrong.
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