President Obama’s comment was inappropriate but that doesn’t mean he’s a bigot. Are we too quick to call someone a sexist?
The political blogosphere has been spilling barrels of ink over Pres. Barack Obama and California attorney-general Kamala Harris. Our president, at a Democratic fundraiser said that Kamala Harris is the best looking attorney general in the country. Before he commented on her looks, he said that she was “brilliant”, “dedicated”, and “tough”. Two quick things before we get too far into the weeds: 1) The comment was inappropriate. 2)Depending on your preferences, it’s fairly true.
So, after this, Ruben Navarrette Jr. lit into the commander-in-chief with righteous indignation. By the tone of this article, you would think that Pres. Obama gave her a firm open-handed slap to the buttocks while sipping Scotch and dangling a Lucky Strike. Let’s not forget that this is the man who signed the Violence Against Women Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
Either the word sexist needs to be broken into its constituent elements or we need to reserve it for more vile displays. What Navarrette Jr. seems to be referring to is not ‘sexism’ but ‘patriarchy’.
Side Note: Navarrette Jr. mentions that this is not something that would be said about a man thus it is a sexist thing to say. This is a good point. Counter-point: If this were to be said about a man by a man, it would be a funny joke. If it were said about a man by a woman, it would be a compliment. That is patriarchy.
I don’t think he was demeaning her or belittling her achievement. What happened to the “beg-your-pardon” in our vocabulary? These days, the Twitterverse is exploding with anger before anyone ever thinks to give the man the benefit of the doubt. What reason do we have to believe that President Barack H. Obama “believ[es] that one sex is inferior to the other in a variety of attributes. (World English Dictionary)” ?
I don’t know Barack Obama (no matter how many times I challenge him to bocce on the National Mall), so I don’t know if he’s a sexist or not. I’m of the opinion he’s not. Here is another opinion I have: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a patronizer, and so are those who believe that one inappropriate compliment makes a sexist. Did Navarrette call the office of Kamala Harris for a comment on Pres. Obama’s remarks? There’s no evidence that he did. Did he interview anyone who was at the fundraiser for his/her remarks? Yet again, no evidence.
Here’s what he did: he heard something that he thought someone else should be offended by and made about nine leaps. Who the hell is Ruben Navarrette Jr. to be offended on behalf of the Attorney-General of the state of California? She can speak her own mind; she doesn’t need these John Wayne bloggers riding to her rescue. If she were upset, she could speak up. Hell, she could sue President Obama with all the power of her office. She’s the most powerful law enforcement officer in the largest state in the most powerful country in the world. But when her friend (yes, she and the president are friends) makes a stupid joke, some men feel the need to stand up for her honor. Don’t worry, Lil’ Lady, I’ll protect you from the big bad sexist.
Get over yourselves. If AG Kamala Harris is angry or offended, then I want her to speak up and I want Pres. Obama to be held accountable for offending her. She doesn’t need men to speak for her.
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—Photo National Library of Australia Commons/ Flickr