We can't ignore Trump's sexist treatment of female reporters
From his comments about “pussy grabbing” to the restrictive reproductive policies he pushes to the lack of women on his staff, it’s understandable why so many women are uncomfortable with and resistant to President Trump. And Trump’s misogyny only continues: Caitriona Perry, an RTE News Washington Correspondent, was the latest woman to endure an upsetting interaction with the president. Perry was in the oval office this past week alongside other members of the Irish press, all of whom were there reporting on Trump’s conversation with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. In a video Perry later tweeted, Trump told Varadkar about “all this beautiful Irish press” during the phone call. Specifically, he singled out Perry, who he noted “has a nice smile,” and therefore, “I bet she treats [Varadkar] well.” Then, Trump called Perry over by pointing a demanding finger at her to inform her of his creepy thoughts on her appearance.
But this incident in particular has spurred many debates over whether or not Trump’s comments were kind or inconsiderate, flattering or inappropriate. Of course Perry’s thoughts on the matter should take precedence over any third-hand opinions, and she thought it was a “bizarre moment.” But even so, many people still dismissed the incident because Trump used generally positive words like “beautiful” and “nice.” But it is important to see how this incident is about something more than just the words Trump said—how those words contribute to diminishing attitudes about female reporters as a whole.
Trump’s comments about Perry, and his decision to single her out based on those comments, reinforced the idea that female reporters are valuable for their appearances more so than their opinions; that they are objects rather than respectable workers. Reducing women journalists to vestiges of femininity is an attack. It’s a method of intimidation that works to invalidate our words. Being dubbed “beautiful” is not so much a compliment in this situation as it is a reinforcement of a societal standard of womanhood that is both ridiculous in and of itself as well as irrelevant to the evaluation of a professional.
Trump’s comments also exist in a general societal context of disrespect for female reporters beyond the political beat. Take, for instance, the video #MoreThanMean, in which men read real tweets written to female sports reporters. One tweet states, “Sarah Spain is like a nagging wife on TV.” Spain—who humorously noted that she is not even married—is reduced in this attack to the “essence” of being a woman: a wife. Spain and the other female reporters mentioned in the video are repeatedly objectified. They are told that “one of the players should beat [them] to death with their hockey stick,” that they “should be Bill Cosby’s next victim,” and that “we don’t hire females unless we need our cocks sucked or our food cooked.”
Essentially, whenever a woman assumes a position of authority, she becomes the object of patriarchal anger. Though his comments may not have blatantly revealed his sexist anger, Trump’s comments to Perry served the purpose of undermining her authority by objectifying her, and stripping her of the intelligence and verbal prowess she came to the Oval Office to utilize.
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