There’s a right way and a wrong way to criticize women. A sure-fire way to do it wrong: talking about their looks in the context of their jobs.
David Horsey, a “two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist,” cartoonist, and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, just published a piece attempting to eviscerate Sarah Sanders. The piece titled, “Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the right mouthpiece for a truth-twisting president,” makes the argument that the press secretary’s lack of mortality makes her the perfect fit for a lying president.
“She delivers the daily load of fibs and evasions in a flat, emotionless voice and, if questioned, keeps her cool, repeats her fallacious statements and sneers as if she hopes there is a firing squad waiting outside for the upstart journalist,” Horsey writes.
As aggressive and over the top as Horsey’s critiques are, there isn’t a problem with complaining about Sander’s performance. It’s entirely fair game to take aim at how she answers questions and interacts with reporters — that’s all part of her job.
The problem is that this entire argument comes after Horsey spends the opening two paragraphs commenting on the looks of the leading ladies in the Trump administration.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders does not look like the kind of woman Donald Trump would choose as his chief spokesperson. Much like Roger Ailes when he was stocking the Fox News lineup with blond Barbie dolls in short, tight skirts, the president has generally exhibited a preference for sleek beauties with long legs and stiletto heels to represent his interests and act as his arm candy.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and wife Melania are the apotheosis of this type. By comparison, Sanders looks more like a slightly chunky soccer mom who organizes snacks for the kids’ games. Rather than the fake eyelashes and formal dresses she puts on for news briefings, Sanders seems as if she’d be more comfortable in sweats and running shoes. Yet, even if Trump privately wishes he had a supermodel for a press secretary, he is lucky to have Sanders.
This piece is especially tasteless in light of Horsey’s claims of being an advocate for women.
For a man who wants to be an ally against misogyny, this is despicably sexist.
Describing women as “Blond Barbies,” and “sleek beauties with long legs,” is rude, condescending, and just creepy. Don’t assume to know what a woman would “rather be wearing.” Literally almost every woman would rather wear sweats than heels — have you ever worn heels and a pencil skirt? It’s fun for maybe 20 minutes. Finally, never connect a woman’s looks to her work ethic.
I shouldn’t have to explain this to an “ally.” If you want to talk about how she does her job, do that. If you want to talk about her looks, make a fashion blog.
UPDATE: Within the past two hours, David Horsey updated his piece with an apology. The statement reads, “It surely won’t be my last mistake, but this particular error will be scrupulously avoided in my future commentaries. I’ve removed the offending description.”
I’ll give him credit for his apology, but let’s be blunt: this never should have happened in the first place. This blatant and aggressive attack, this sexist comparison of successful women, should never have been typed in a draft, let alone approved and published by an editor.
I hope Horsey sticks to his word, and tries to do better in the future. If not, this might be the start of his bright future in “hot or not” reports.
Also read: Trump's best Russia defense
Gabriella Muñoz is a commentary desk intern with the Washington Examiner and a student at Georgetown University.