By the time comedian Michelle Wolf had recited her last line at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (“Flint still doesn’t have clean water”), untold numbers of tweets and posts and articles were in the works. One of the most discussed joke was this one about White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
“I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
Some heard that as a critique of Sanders’ looks. I admit I had to look up “smoky eye” and learned that it was a way of applying make-up. An online dictionary adds, “smoky eyes are a makeup classic that never go out of style.” Doesn’t strike me as an insult, and Wolf said that it wasn’t.
What I’m more interested in, though, is the reaction to that joke tweeted by Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski:
“Watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable. I have experienced insults about my appearance from the president. All women have a duty to unite when these attacks happen and the WHCA owes Sarah an apology.”
Many critiqued Brzezinski’s reaction on all sorts of grounds, starting, of course, with the misreading of the joke as an insult to Sanders’ appearance. If Wolf actually had insulted another woman’s appearance, that may have bothered me, too. But even if Wolf had insulted Sanders’ appearance, do you see the problem with what offends Brzezinski?
At the Daily Beast, Erin Gloria Ryan got partway there when she said, “To treat her with kid gloves because she’s a wife and mother would be condescending and sexist.”
Another part? It would also be singlist. (And also insulting to people who are not parents.) I could not find that critique anywhere, until a fellow single person pointed me to the comments section of this article. These people get it. (I’ve made some minor edits and added the emphasis to the first comment.)
“ShortPale&Adequate” started a thread with this:
“Aside from the obvious accuracy issue, I also seriously resent the implication that it’s ok to insult unmarried women without children. A ‘real woman’ doesn’t need to hide behind her husband and kids to avoid criticism.”
That elicited a chorus of appreciation. From “sunshine bear in a world of grey”:
“F’ing THANK YOU. I’m a good person! I do good things! I hate injustice! I don’t need a f’ing husband or kids to validate all of my feelings and experiences. Sick of over-privileged women using their platforms to remind the world that I am a lesser being because I have failed to procreate.”
“This woman has a husband. A husband. She didn’t deserve this! HE didn’t deserve this! You’ve ruined her … for him.”
“Lemme see that!” had this to say:
“That to the nth power…that seemingly innocuous remark is the most disgusting defense of patriarchy. Female bodies exist for other people’s benefit, exploitation, and often pleasure, according to this. Well, nuh uh.
“If I hear one more woman starting a justification on any random idea with ‘as a mom,’ I swear I will snap. Single women also know and care about good laundry detergent! It’s like we are not human or something.”
Thank-you to short, sunshine, ambitious, and lemme. You saw the singlism that hardly anyone else did. Maybe you should be promoted from commenters to writers.
Note to Mika Brzezinski: Next time you want to tell people not to criticize women for their appearance, how about extending your directive to all women, and not just married women and mothers?