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I am a proud and unapologetic feminist and have been all of my life. I know how difficult it is for women who have to work twice as hard to prove that we are equal to men in ability and competence in the workplace and I know that attractive women have to work even harder to be taken seriously.

So, I'm a little surprised to find myself in an apparent minority of women, judging by the barrage of indignant tweets, who weren't offended by the President's comments on California Attorney General Kamala Harris' undeniable good looks when introducing her at an event in Northern California.

Although he prefaced his compliments by noting that she's “brilliant and she’s dedicated, she’s tough,” by going on to state the obvious fact that she's also gorgeous he crossed the rubicon of inappropriate behavior and in the process demeaned her. At least enough people thought so that he's now issued an apology.

At the risk of having my feminist credentials revoked, I kind of wish he hadn't. Maybe my problem is that the President said something that most of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area and are familiar with Kamala Harris have said ourselves. I don't think I have ever heard her speak, and I've heard her speak a lot, when I haven't been absolutely floored by how informed, articulate and engaged she is and by how spectacularly attractive she is as well. What's more, all the people I know who are active in Bay Area public life, again quite a few, feel exactly the same way.

Everyone likes attractive people, and not just attractive women. His attractiveness is one of the things that we like about Barack Obama. We love that he is wicked smart and capable, but we also appreciate the fact that he's tall, fit, good looking and has a smile that lights up a room. I've commented on it and I've heard other people comment on it as well.

It's true that women have a harder road to hoe than men, and to be thought of only in terms of looks makes it even harder. However, Kamala Harris' looks aren't why she's been so successful in life and they are not the reason she's so popular in the state, or so well-respected in the law enforcement community. They are simply a part of who she is and to acknowledge that fact doesn't diminish her talents or her skills.

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Comment Preferences

  •  slippery sloap (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    calling a woman perty leads to not allowing her get paid equally well as her male counterparts which leads to legitimate rape comments.

    i see it all the time.

    •  Apologizing for saying a compliment (0+ / 0-)

      seems a little weird. If they were alone and it was creepy, it would be different. Hey, maybe she liked it, nobody seems to have asked her. As a hairstylist, I'm betting she did.

      I'm afraid that my signature won't match the mood of my comment.

      by heybuddy on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 07:04:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's true. (5+ / 0-)

    She is gorgeous. Met her at an event once; a sight to behold. And I'm gay, so...

    Fuck me, it's a leprechaun.

    by MBNYC on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:05:24 PM PDT

  •  I missed this item, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, wilderness voice

    and had to go see for myself.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:06:18 PM PDT

  •  Did no one ever comment (8+ / 0-)

    on Arnold Schwartzennagger's build when he was Governor?

    It's not like Obama reduced her to a sex object or anything like that.  He mentioned one of her assets which, while irrelevant to her position as AG, is nevertheless, shall we say, noticeable?  

    I'm not an Obama fan (although I worked for his reelection campaign), but come on, he was only trying to be humorous and gracious at the same time.  

    We can be respectful and still be human, can't we?

    "Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

    by penguins4peace on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:08:17 PM PDT

  •  This is simply false: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UnaSpenser, sturunner, ffour, JesseCW
    I know that attractive women have to work even harder to be taken seriously.
    Any visible, prominent woman these days is ruthlessly hounded if she deviates from a cultural norm of "beauty" that includes youth, slenderness, and light skin. It's enough to make all but the toughest want to crawl into her shell and hide. By design.

    Kamala Harris, last I heard, wasn't involved in a line of work (e.g., actress or fashion model) in which her looks were specifically important. Why are they even under consideration, any more than those of a man in her exact position would be?

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:13:40 PM PDT

    •  that's the clincher. no one would ever introduce (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, karmsy, sturunner, ffour, JesseCW, Bill W

      a male attorney and say, "he's so clever and tough and the handsomest attorney we've ever known."

      "attractive" is definitely a part of the "success" package for women. yes, "attractive" women may have to cross a bigger hurdle up front to be seen as more than attractive, but once they've established those credentials, they will rise through the ranks far faster than a woman who isn't attractive.

      it is not on par with the "attractive" factor for success for men.

    •  It's true but especially for working women (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      I know that attractive women have to work even harder to be taken seriously.
      The quoted text did not include the words "visible, prominent" that you're addressing.  That's going off on a tangent from the original point:  "attractive women have to work even harder to be taken seriously."

      I can attest to it from personal experience, circa age 20 - 50.

      Here's a comment I posted about this on another thread that addresses one period of that 30-year span:

      I sold life insurance for a living (the only female salesperson in the whole company at the time, c. 1970s) and learned that I specifically did not want anything to distract people from what I was saying.  That meant no perfume, no short skirts (not an easy thing in the '70s), very low-key make-up, etc.  I had waist-length hair but I wore a Mary Tyler Moore-style wig to look older and as innocuous as possible.  Through trial and error, I finally settled on a work wardrobe of very conservative pant suits (even more conservative than the ones Hillary Clinton wears these days).  I basically had two drastically different wardrobes, one for work and one for the week-ends, and used to wonder if my customers would even recognize me if they saw me on a Saturday.

      The goal was to help people give serious thought and concentrate on what I was saying without them being conscious that I was female and attractive.

      It must have worked; I was darned good at what I did, much to the chagrin of some of the guys.

      To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men. -Abraham Lincoln

      by Eyesbright on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:46:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Heaven help you if you'd been overweight, (0+ / 0-)

        then, or had some other "flaw" in your physical appearance.

        Your career would have been very different. Harder.

        NOT saying it isn't difficult for "pretty" women. Merely saying that it's even harder for "average" women.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:57:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not necessarily so (0+ / 0-)

          My point in my comment was to underline that being attractive was a hindrance when the goal was to get people to listen to what I was saying, as opposed to looking at me.

          Obviously, the particular job / career makes a difference and sometimes being attractive is an advantage - but definitely not always.  An "average" woman who is intelligent and well spoken is not going to be held back in most professions.  The examples that come to mind are Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor and Elizabeth Warren.  Heck, I don't think Hillary Rodham Clinton has ever been more than "average" in looks.  

          To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men. -Abraham Lincoln

          by Eyesbright on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 07:01:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  What about Angela Merkel - nt (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
  •  I think in the new world (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    (the one we see because we're willing to be it), flaps like this one seem sort of antique.  Sadly, for many of us it is still 1970 or 1980 or 1990 and we react as we had to do back then.  For someone like the prez the implicit sexism some would see in pointing out that a woman is pretty is something he probably never thought in a sexist way.   I don't think many boys who grew up with functional (heroic?) single moms (me being one) have any real capacity to be sexists.

  •  Before or After (0+ / 0-)

    Did this happen before or after Michelle Obama called herself a single mother?

  •  Obama compliments men's appearances all the time (8+ / 0-)

    too.  He's referred to several high-profile men as "the good-lookin' one over there" when introducing them to a crowd.  It seems he's just comfortable telling people of both sexes, as a way of being friendly, that they look good.  I don't find myself feeling offended by it on Kamala Harris' behalf.

  •  When I sing "Summertime", I switch it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    so it runs

    Summertime and the living is easy
    Fish are jumping and the cotton is high
    Your mama's rich and your daddy's good looking
    So hush, little baby, don't you cry
    Changes the connotation a bit, once one notices, don't you think?  Enough IMO to establish that we're not past certain things just yet.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:28:58 PM PDT

  •  I dunno, my perception may be skewed (8+ / 0-)

    But I don't know why I'm supposed to be offended by someone calling a woman pretty, when that wasn't the point of his remarks.

    Remember when Scott Kleeb was running for senate? Many of us fluttered over his beauty. And he is incredibly handsome.

    I guess I don't get it. It's not like he said she's just a pretty face, he complimented many aspects about her. I can't take offense at that.

    P.S. I am not a crackpot.

    by BoiseBlue on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:36:21 PM PDT

    •  Don't get it, either. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BoiseBlue, Urizen

      This is "outrage" is beyond ridiculous.

      Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

      by JoanMar on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 05:00:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Beyond ridiculous? How about "understandable, (0+ / 0-)

        but misdirected".

        Seems like most of the commenters here so far agree with the diarist that it really shouldn't be a big deal, but I think that we do need to understand that some of the critics have reason to be sensitive to comments that might be taken as sexist.

        Let's not forget that the fight is not finished.  It's true that some of the more ardent feminists tend to come across as over sensitive, and the negative reaction to our President's comments might reinforce that perception.  But I think it's fair to cut them some slack.  They've fought the hard fight, and lived to see most of the glass ceilings broken. Compare today to the 60's and 70's when they were burning bras and they'll readily admit that things are far better now.  But there is still work to be done, and I don't fault them for being keen to any backslides on the progess we have made.

        Dont Mourn, Organize !#konisurrender

        by cks175 on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 05:22:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My energy is all used up fighting (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PaDemTerry, jan4insight, KenBee, Loquatrix

          the real enemies. I have nothing left for manufactured controversies. I am a woman with two daughters and the president's remarks did not even register on my outrage meter.

          Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

          by JoanMar on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 05:42:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is not a "binder full of women" (0+ / 0-)

            comment even though people are striving mightily to equate the two.

            Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

            by JoanMar on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 05:51:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Even if it were, it's politics. (0+ / 0-)

              When our guy missteps, we pick him up.  When their guy missteps, we pounce.  

              I agree that most of the ire is manufactured, and it's unfortunate that a few of our own bought into it.  But I'm not going to fault them for it.

              Dont Mourn, Organize !#konisurrender

              by cks175 on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 06:04:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I think Obama should take the hit (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill W, louisprandtl

    If someone on the other side did this, we'd fucking eat their lunch for them.

    But since its Obama we're supposed to laugh along?  Im not saying he meant anying insulting by it, but still.... the man knows better.

    I'm not the President but if I introduced someone at a corporate meeting like this I'd have my ass handed to me.

    If Reince Preibus said this at the RNC it would have been front fucking page here, and god forbid Romney did it at a campaign event.

    Be fair people.  He's the President and he's Obama but he can still say some bone-headedly stupid shit every now and then.n  He should own it.

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:37:35 PM PDT

    •  But . . . if one of them said it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      it wouldn't be meant the same way.  See, some people are post-sexism and the political party they support is a pretty fair indicator of that.  O doesn't worry about making a remark such as this because he's not a sexist, where the guy who was talking about 'wetbacks' the other day was making a bigotted remark because he is actually a (subconsciously at least) a bigot.

    •  UPDATE: He did own it and apologized. (0+ / 0-)

      But I think the point of the diary is that this is much ado about nothing.  Comparing it to a GOP comment is really out of context.  

      He was at a private event among friends and supporters of Kamala Harris.  I would think it's safe to say that she's admired by all in attendance for her accomplishments, yet at the same time they would probably all agree that the President is right, she's the best looking AG in the country.  Dumb, akward comment? Yes.  Worthy of Twitter-rage?  No.

      Dont Mourn, Organize !#konisurrender

      by cks175 on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 05:28:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  msopine - I agree totally (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A tip and REC for your diary.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 04:39:01 PM PDT

  •  after reading, I think the apology was on point (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    According to Jay Carney, Obama apologized for "the distraction created by his comments." That seems fair to me.

    "You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake," he said. "She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country -- Kamala Harris is here...."
    I don't think that came out as gracefully as he intended. Obviously different people will hear it differently.

    Election protection: there's an app for that! -- and a toll-free hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE
    Better Know Your Voting System with the Verifier!

    by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 05:07:39 PM PDT

  •  did the Obamas divorce and cover it up? (0+ / 0-)

    I watch "Scandal" too you know...

    cheerleaders need not apply.

    by kravitz on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 05:40:39 PM PDT

  •  I can't fault Obama for what is essentially (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    swansong50, jan4insight

    an accurate statement.

    Alternative rock with something to say:

    by khyber900 on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 05:43:03 PM PDT

  •  He apologized but it's kind of sad we can't give (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cks175, swansong50, PaDemTerry

    compliments anymore lol.

  •  In all honesty... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    if a Republican had said the EXACT same words in the EXACT same order and context that Pres. Obama had said it, I still wouldn't be up in arms over it.  I can definitely appreciate how women could get upset over it, but it just doesn't strike me as being a sexist remark the way it was said.  Am I splitting hairs on this?

  •  Disagree, I think it was inappropriate (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock

    It's fine for him, or anyone, to appreciate her looks, and it's fine for ordinary shmoes like us to comment on her looks in conversation, but when introducing her on a speaker's platform, it would have been better not to go there.

    And I have a slightly differnet cut on why he said it.

    ... “brilliant and she’s dedicated, she’s tough” a high professional accolade for an attorney general. Just what one would want to hear said. And all that is needed.

    To go on and comment on her personal appearance, in that context, hardly seems like a spontaneous personal reaction, coming from a highly skilled politician who is not known for straying off message.

    I think it was intended as a backhanded way of noting that in spite of her professional excellence and long working hours, Harris  retains her womanhod credentials, i.e: don't worry, it's okay, guys, She Has Not Lost Her Femininity.

    Whether I'm right or wrong about that, the net result was to demean her by putting her looks as a woman on a par with her hard-won professional qualifications.

    As an illustration, imagine:

    CONGRESSWOMAN INTRODUCING SPEAKER ON PLATFORM: "Let me introduce to you the man who has expanded Americans' access to health care, the man who has ended the war in Afghanistan, the man who is putting this country back on track in spite of the worst tactics of the obstructionists -- and the best-looking man in American politics these days -- President Obama!"

    •  Obama frequently compliments men's looks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      so would you say, when he utters something like this:

      Introducing HUD secretary Shaun Donovan last February, Obama declared, "There he is, the good-looking guy in the front here."
      At a speech last March, Obama pointed out his secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, by calling him "a good-looking guy.”
      A couple of months ago, Obama gave a shout-out to the "outstanding Secretary of the Navy," Ray Mabus. "There he is right there — the good-looking guy over at the end."
      that the "net result was to demean [each man] by putting his looks as a man on a par with his hard-won professional qualifications"?

      I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that no, of course you would not.  You would say Obama was just having fun and being friendly and warm with individuals he knows personally and likes.  

      Why, then, would you impute some kind of nefarious sexism to the comments when Obama makes them about a woman?  Don't create trouble where there is none.  This is clearly a harmless pattern of speech (which he has actually employed in the context of significantly more men than women, as a point of fact), and not some subtle manifestation of the patriarchy in action.

    •  He didn't put looks on par with accomplishment. (0+ / 0-)

      What he did was point out her outstanding professional credentials, and then added bonus points for being attractive.

      In the context of a closed to the press, private fundraiser, while introducing a future gubernatorial/(national?) candidate to the  political elite of California, a good natured compliment is entirely appropriate.

      For a poltician, personal attractiveness does happen to be a tangible asset.  I didn't take the President's comments as being back-handed to women in any way.  Remember that it's too early for President Obama to go the endorsement route when we're not even at the early primary stage in California.  He didn't endorse her on the podium, but he did tell the audience "we've got a real winner in front of us here".

      Dont Mourn, Organize !#konisurrender

      by cks175 on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 03:32:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agree with Clio2 (0+ / 0-)

      Busy all weekend, just catching up, so this is too late to add to the discussion or (sadly) to recommend, but I agree with you Clio2. Thanks for putting this in.
      I'm glad he apologized. I think he's generally a pretty courteous man and this is a small-ish fault, but it is a fault. He should stay away from any comment on the attractiveness or unattractiveness of anyone, male or female, when he's in a professional or quasi-professional situation. Everyone should.
      Good business manners limit you to very general remarks like, at most, "It's good to see you again, you're looking well" and stuff like that. Basically, you're not supposed to officially notice people's bodies enough to remark on them or make judgements.
      You may be right in your analysis of why he said it. I wish he hadn't.

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