Kirsten Gillibrand was “Porky” and Hillary Clinton is “Old.” Hello, Sexism 21st Century Style

kirsten gillibrand called fat, porky, honey badger by colleagues, Hillary Clinton called old by opponents, sexism in politicsHillary Clinton is old.  U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was fat. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is ugly. Even fictional political women get bashed for their wardrobe choices.

When it comes to criticizing women politicians who put a “D” beside their names, that’s the kind of insightful political commentary their opponents like to make, either to persuade voters to consider those attributes (true or not) when deciding who should represent them or to keep people distracted from the real issues at hand.

Forget about actual education, qualifications or effectiveness with colleagues. If you thought that in the 21st century we’d be past the time when women lawmakers would be treated with the respect they deserve by rivals, colleagues and pundits, you’d be as wrong as you could possibly be.

No one says Mitt Romney is too old, even though he and Hillary are the same age, and he is pondering yet a third run for the White House.  OK, actually he’s seven months older than she is, so we should really start beating the drum about what a geezer he is. And don’t get me started on the whole Hillary-will-be-a White-House-grandma thing. Romney made clear use of his 23 grandkids (and counting?) in an attempt to show what a solid guy he is.  But grandmas? You know they’d be distracted from foreign policy matters with all that knitting to be done.

As for fellow U.S. Senators commenting on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s size, how do we elect guys who believe they’re the arbiters of appropriate female body types? Fortunately, Gillibrand’s got a sharp tongue:

“Good thing you’re working out, because you wouldn’t want to get porky!” one of her older male colleagues said. Her response: “Thanks, a—hole,” that according to a quote in her new book.

One can only imagine what Senator Barbara Mikulksi would have done or said to that guy.

Yet anyone dares to mention New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s weight is tantamount to fat-shaming. Both are considered potential 2016 presidential candidates, but we live in a world where the weight of a woman who wears a size 10 dress is appropriate commentary, but questioning whether Christie, as an obese man, is healthy enough for the strains of of Oval Office is off limits.

Interestingly, both men and women in politics bear the brunt of being called ugly, though I don’t generally hear about left-leaning outlets taking the time to weigh in on the looks of Republican women. But with news outlets vying to keep the 2016 campaign “coverage” in the news, we’re bound to see more “you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny” stories because even though they aren’t news in any way, they are quick and easy and take no sort of intellectual heavy-lifting to crank out quickly. Voters might have to take it upon themselves to learn about the intricacies of policy positions, because the people who are supposed to be analyzing and summarizing that for you? Well, they’re too busy channeling their inner eight-year-olds.

Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is also the author of the book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder and publisher of the The Broad Side. You can find her on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Also, follow The Broad Side on Twitter at @The_Broad_Side and on Facebook!

Image via iStockphoto

  • Marille

    there are currently no strong female Republican contenders. otherwise the democrat males what be out on wardrobes, voice shaming, did n’t we see enough a few years ago?

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