You know when someone angrily replies to a sexist comment and your feminist alert center starts blowing out Gloria Steinem-shaped sparkles only for you to realize that their answer was even more chauvinistic that the comment itself? Kind of like when someone defends women’s rights to choose (yes!) only as long she’s not like a slut (oh hell no). You’re left feeling mislead and preempting the sheer exhaustion that will come from a debate you’re now obliged to have.
I wouldn't be surprised for an event like this to happen at a place like CPAC, but I was surprised to hear it come out of the mouth of a Democrat. Paul Begala, CNN contributor and 1992 Bill Clinton campaign strategist, was in the midst of a debate with pundit Tucker Carlson. It was all pretty harmless (as far as debates between Democrats and Republicans go) until the crowd decided to get involved. You’ll be relieved to hear that (this time) they didn't collectively boo at the mention of the word "Hispanic" (keep it classy, GOP!), but opted to heckle at the mere allusion of a female president instead.When democratic strategist Begala was asked about Hilary Clinton’s intentions of running for President in 2016, he expressed enthusiasm about her potential run but explained that there are a number of non-political activities she might prioritize:
"I think she's actually going to first live a life, write her book, reacquaint herself with the real world..."
Then, this HILARIOUS gentlemen from the crowd yelled: "Get a face lift?!"
HAHAHA. Making an egregious comment about a female politicians' appearance to discredit her? Check out humor impresario over here totally making new strides in the realm of misogynistic comments about women in politics! What a true pioneer.
Begala overheard the highly sophisticated and highly hilarious remark and quickly retorted:
"No, not get a face lift, she's not a Republican society lady, she's a real woman."
Although I’m glad the Democrat hastily responded to the misogynist comment from the crowd, I’m not sure saying women who get face lifts aren't "real women" is the right way to go. Begala's reply is still based on the assumption that women who modify/care for/appreciate/attend to their appearance are somehow lesser and presumes that they deserve to be disparaged for doing so. Elevating the status of Democratic women at the cost of Republican ones deserves no medal. It doesn't challenge the beliefs that underlie the original comment; it simply gives credence to them.
The "face lift farce" is a strong narrative that permeates our culture and that is used to validate women’s lesser status as politicians. Moreover, it isn’t uncommon and it doesn’t stop at crowd-hecklers. Fox and Friends recently ran a segment asking if Hilary Clinton’s alleged face lift is "the face of presidential ambition" and Republican Congressman Gohmert used Nancy Pelosi’s appearance to expose her hypocrisy as a politician. He said: "There’s no face lift with John Boehner. He is who he is."
So a man can excessively tan until he’s a terrifying shade of orange but a woman can’t get a similarly cosmetic procedure without being scorned as a "phony" unable to carry her responsibilities as an elected official? That sounds like a major double standard.
Face lift gags directed at female political figures aren't harmless nor are they innocuous. They create toxic environments for women in politics. A focus on their physical attributes takes the focus away from their intrinsic value as politicians and leaders. It won’t encourage women to enter a field in which they are already sourly underrepresented and it certainly won’t aid women like Clinton and Pelosi who are important female pioneers in the field. Rather than spend our time criticizing powerful women’s appearance to lessen them, perhaps we should invest our efforts into changing the very culture that allows us to make those judgments in the first place.
The only thing that really needs a face lift is our chauvinistic culture.