Sometimes I make the mistake of pausing my endless Facebook newsfeed scroll to stop and watch the White House press briefing that so often pops up. It’s like a train wreck I can’t look away from. Against my best judgement, I’ve spent many hours of my life watching Sean Spicer, and now Sarah Huckabee Sanders, somehow not say any true things for 40 minutes a day. As a friend once remarked, “It’s not a good self-care strategy.”
The worst part about the non-stop stream of evasions, non-answers, and fake news is, in fact, the comments section. It’s a constant barrage of vitriol and polarization — a disturbing look into the current, incredibly hostile, political climate of America. Trump supporters throw in Make America Great Again hashtags as if they are fire emojis, while opponents of the administration scream about pussy grabbing, racism, and lies.
But what actually disturbs me most is the way people talk about Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
When Sean Spicer was the White House Press Secretary, most of the comment-section anger was at least somewhat fair, although a little mean-spirited. Angry Internet people would call him a liar. They would call him a villain for supporting such a harmful administration. Sometimes they called him Spicey. Sometimes they referenced Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of him. They would often make uncharitable remarks about his various episodes of ridiculousness — be it the hiding-in-the-bushes incident, the Easter Bunny costume, or the Holocaust denial.
Now that Sarah Huckabee Sanders has the position, the comment section has become increasingly focused on her appearance, her “resting bitch face,” and her status as a woman.
“All I hear is MOOOOO.”
“Them lashes look like they’re about to take flight.”
“Must have found the Barbie dress Ivanka threw out.”
“Does she have to look that mean?”
“She should be slapped.”
These kinds of comments have nothing to do with policy. They have nothing to do with legislation. They aren’t funny or enlightening.
But sure, the comments section is never a nice place. What really concerns me is how specifically gendered the criticism of Sanders is, and how that has translated outside of the comments section, with incidents like Scaramucci commenting on her “hair and makeup” and a Daily Beast reporter calling her a “butch queen.”
Sanders is far from being a feminist icon. I’m not here to defend a woman who spends every day making excuses for the least woman-friendly president we’ve ever had. Like in the case of Kellyanne Conway, it’s not enough to be a powerful, successful woman if your power and success is based upon the oppression of other women.
There is very good reason to criticize Sanders. We should continue to do so. But criticism based on her clothing, her anger, or her fucking eyelashes, could not be more counterproductive, especially when that criticism comes from the left. If you care about advancing the status of women in this world, the number one way to do not do that is to tear down women with the same bullshit sexism that has been used against them for centuries.