Sorry, Ted Yoho. Having daughters doesn’t get you a sexism free pass.
Brett Kavanaugh invoked it. Mitch McConnell used it too. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have each talked about it, and this week, Representative Ted Yoho joined their ranks: he, too, is now a member of the having-a-daughter-makes-me-an-ally-to-women — or at the very least, should-excuse-my-bad-behavior — club.
“Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of language,” Representative Yoho said in a speech on the House floor this week, denying that he called Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Congresswoman from New York, a “fucking bitch” after a confrontation on the steps of the Capitol.
Mr. Yoho later expressed regret for the “abrupt manner of the conversation,” in which he told Ms. Ocasio-Cortez that her statements about poverty and crime in New York City were “disgusting.” But, he noted, “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.”
On Thursday, in a speech on the House floor that has since gone viral — in which she read the vulgarity into the Congressional record — Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, “I am someone’s daughter too.” She said she’d planned to ignore the insults — it’s “just another day” as a woman, she said — but changed her mind after Mr. Yoho decided to bring his wife and daughters into the fray.
Our culture is full of platitudes about fathers and daughters: the Hallmark card, the weeping dad at the wedding. But invoking daughters and wives to deflect criticism is a particular kind of political trope — and one that’s been used throughout history to “excuse a host of bad behavior,” said the historian Barbara Berg.
The love a man has for the female members of his family, particularly his offspring, is presumed to have special power — to humanize the other half of the population, to allow him to imagine the world his daughter will inhabit. Sometimes, in fact, this happens. Other times, the Daughter Excuse comes across mostly as cynical ploy.
“As if familial affiliation alone equals enlightened attitudes towards women,” said Susan Douglas, a professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan. “It’s like claiming ‘I have a Black friend‚’ as if that makes you anti-racist.”
There is social science that’s shown there is something to being the father of a daughter.
In a study called “The First-Daughter Effect,” Elizabeth Sharrow, an associate professor of public policy and history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her colleagues, determined that fathering daughters — and firstborn daughters, in particular — indeed played a role in making men’s attitudes toward gender equality more progressive, particularly when it came to policies like equal pay or sexual harassment protocols. The researchers also determined that those dads of firstborn daughters were, in 2016, more likely to support Hillary Clinton or a fictional female congressional candidate delivering a similar pitch.
“Our argument is not that it is genetics or biology, but that it is proximity,” said Dr. Sharrow. In other words: The daughters help the fathers see the problems they may have previously dismissed.
Or Dick Cheney, whose views on same-sex marriage shifted earlier than many might have expected because of his daughter, who is gay.
Daughters influencing fathers’ views for the better is far different from fathers using their daughters as “shields and excuses for poor behavior,” as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez described Mr. Yoho in her speech.
It’s also different from fathers using them as “props,” as Dr. Berg puts it, to emphasize their alignment with women’s causes — or, by contrast, their disgust over behaviors perceived to be in opposition to them.
Consider Justice Kavanaugh, who — during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about allegations of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford — spoke repeatedly of his daughters (as well as his wife and mother) and noted that coaching his daughter’s basketball team was what he loved “more than anything I’ve ever done in my whole life” — as if loving coaching and allegedly treating women badly as a teenager are mutually exclusive.
“Men have often pointed to their relationships with and love for some women — especially wives and daughters — to combat claims that they have mistreated other women,” said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “We have seen this both inside and outside of politics, especially when men are subject to accusations of sexual harassment and assault.”
In the wake of the 2016 reports on comments made by Donald Trump on the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, a host of fathers-of-daughters came out to condemn the behavior. Mr. McConnell noted that “as the father of three daughters” he believed that Mr. Trump “needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere,” while Mitt Romney said that the comments “demean our wives and daughters.” (It is perhaps worth noting that Mr. Trump, too, has daughters.)
Similarly, in response to revelations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein, both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who had worked with the disgraced Hollywood producer, expressed their disgust on behalf of their female offspring. We “need to do better at protecting our friends, sisters, co-workers and daughters,” Mr. Affleck said on Twitter, while Mr. Damon explained that “as the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night.”
Women, too, have at times invoked men’s daughters — and other female relatives — in trying to appeal to some men. When asked about Mr. Yoho’s behavior, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “What’s so funny is, you’d say to them, ‘Do you not have a daughter? Do you not have a mother? Do you not have a sister? Do you not have a wife? What makes you think that you can be so’ — and this is the word I use for them — ‘condescending, in addition to being disrespectful?’”
The caveat, of course, is the qualification. “Qualifying your outrage against misogyny as due to your role as a father or husband implies that, absent those roles, you would be either unaware of or unconcerned,” said Dr. Dittmar.
Or as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez put it: “Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.” Why should daughters still have to be a prerequisite to respect?
Disparaging comments. Demeaning jokes. As the mogul reportedly considers a 2020 presidential run, it remains an open question whether his long-alleged history of undermining women will affect his chances.
If you find yourself seeking, in these turbulent times, evidence of steadiness among the chaos—proof that even as the seas rise and the winds whip and the world that was gives way to the world that will be, some things will remain the same—here is a fact that seems always to be true: Mike Bloomberg is considering a run for president.
The newest version of the old truth comes from an article published this week in The New York Times: The billionaire former mayor, the paper announces, validating the rumors, is again considering a presidential run—this time, however, as a Democrat. It would not be an easy candidacy. “Mr. Bloomberg,” the Times points out, “is plainly an uncomfortable match for a progressive coalition passionately animated by concern for economic inequality and the civil rights of women and minorities.” Indeed: In an interview with the paper, Bloomberg defends stop-and-frisk. And, voicing “doubt” about some of the revelations that have been made in the course of #MeToo, Bloomberg mentions as an example Charlie Rose, who had broadcast his show from a space in Bloomberg’s corporate offices. He declined to say, specifically, whether he believed the many allegations against Rose. “Let the court system decide,” the former mayor said.
What is not fully addressed in the Times article, however—and what is not fully explored in the many similar pieces that consider the current iteration of Mike Bloomberg’s presidential ambitions—is a series of stories about him, accumulated over decades, that suggests in the aggregate a distinct pattern when it comes to his treatment of women:
- reports of disparaging comments made about women’s bodies and appearances.
- Allegations of a deeply sexist work environment at the company that Bloomberg founded and, for many years, ran. Stories that linger like exhaust in the air every time Mike Bloomberg is mentioned as, potentially, the next president of the United States.
This is a time in America of accountabilities that are—this is the most generous way to put it—unevenly distributed. Some people bear the heaviest and cruelest of burdens; others move through the world with easy indemnity. Christine Blasey Ford makes an allegation of sexual violence against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh; she is attacked as a victimizer. The man who last sought the presidency of the United States admitted to—bragged about—his own history of assaulting women; he won the office nonetheless. Exhaust, exhausting: The impunities form their own kind of fog.
The stories about Mike Bloomberg, though—stories, told through lawsuits and journalistic accounts, that involve allegations not of physical abuse but of more insidious manifestations of misogyny—ask broader questions about the ways electoral politics and basic morality will continue to tangle with each other as #MeToo marches onward. Will the stories (many of which Bloomberg has publicly denied as the inventions of money-hungry opportunists) have any bearing on his potential presidential candidacy? Will the Americans (and specifically now, apparently, the Democrats) of the current moment consider allegations involving casual misogyny, on the personal level and at the institutional, to be politically disqualifying? Will they consider those claims, indeed, to be worth discussing at all? Or will they dismiss them as the predicable collateral of the thing Americans are conditioned, still, to value above all: the successful accumulation of power and wealth?
From 1996 to 1997, four women filed sexual-harassment or discrimination suits against Bloomberg the company. One of the suits included the following allegation: When Sekiko Sakai Garrison, a sales representative at the company, told Mike Bloomberg she was pregnant, he replied, “Kill it!” (Bloomberg went on, she alleged, to mutter, “Great, No. 16”—a reference, her complaint said, to the 16 women at the company who were then pregnant.) To these allegations, Garrison added another one: Even prior to her pregnancy, she claimed, Bloomberg had antagonized her by making disparaging comments about her appearance and sexual desirability. “What, is the guy dumb and blind?” he is alleged to have said upon seeing her wearing an engagement ring. “What the hell is he marrying you for?”
Bloomberg denied having made those comments, claiming that he passed a lie-detector test validating the denial but declining to release the results. (He also reportedly left Garrison a voicemail upon hearing that she’d been upset by the comments about her pregnancy: “I didn’t say it, but if I said it, I didn’t mean it.”) What Bloomberg reportedly did concede is that he had said of Garrison and other women, “I’d do her.” In making the concession, however, he insisted that he had believed that to “do” someone meant merely “to have a personal relationship” with them.
That suit was settled in 2000; its terms were not disclosed. Other suits made similar claims. In a 1998 filing, Mary Ann Olszewski reported that “male employees from Mr. Bloomberg on down” routinely belittled women at the company—a pattern of harassment, she said, that culminated in her being raped in a Chicago hotel room by a Bloomberg executive who was also her direct superior. The case was dismissed (not, apparently, on its merits, but rather because Olszewski’s attorney had missed the deadlines to respond to a motion to end the case). Before it was, though, in a deposition relating to the suit, Bloomberg testified that he wouldn’t consider Olszewski’s rape allegation to be genuine unless there were “an unimpeachable third-party witness” to corroborate her claims. (Asked by a lawyer how such a person might happen to witness a rape, Bloomberg replied, “There are times when three people are together.”)
“Bloomberg’s Sexual Blind Spot” is how The Village Voice summed it up in 2001. “Anti-woman obnoxiousness,” Cord Jefferson, then at Gawker, called it in 2013. Part of that obnoxiousness involves the many reports related to what Bloomberg once told a reporter: “I like theater, dining, and chasing women.” (He elaborated: “Let me put it this way: I am a single, straight billionaire in Manhattan. What do you think? It’s a wet dream.”) In his 1997 autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg, the mogul bragged about keeping “a girlfriend in every city” during his years working as a Wall Street stock trader in the 1960s and ’70s. He is reported to have said, of the computer terminal that made his fortune, “It will do everything, including give you [oral sex]. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”
There’s more: Bloomberg reportedly saying to a journalist and the journalist’s friend, as he gazed at a woman at a holiday party, “Look at the ass on her.” (He denied having made that comment.) Bloomberg, according to a top aide, seeing attractive women and reflexively remarking, “Nice tits.” Bloomberg, mocking Christine Quinn, the then-speaker of New York’s City Council, for going too long between hair colorings. (“The couple of days a week before I need to get my hair colored,” Quinn once said, “he’ll say, ‘Do you pay a lot to make your hair be two colors? Because now it’s three with the gray.’”) Bloomberg mocking Quinn again, she said, for failing to wear heels at public events. (“I was at a parade with him once and he said, ‘What are those?’ and I said, ‘They’re comfortable,’ and he said, ‘I never want to hear those words out of your mouth again.’”) Bloomberg, quoted by colleagues as saying, “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale’s.” Bloomberg being asked in a deposition, “Have you ever made a comment to the effect that you would like to ‘do that piece of meat,’ or I’d ‘do her in a second’?” Bloomberg replying, “I don’t recall ever using the term meat at all.”
These reports suggest the extent of the blind spot. They also suggest, however, the expansive underbelly of #MeToo: the easy entitlements by which men come to see women as existing in part for their pleasure. The stories told of Bloomberg paint a picture of self-centric power, of moral tautologies, of limited empathies. (Joyce Purnick, in her 2009 biography, Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics, describes a man who is “curt, profane, cranky, and willful,” and, relatedly, “allergic to introspection.”) And, set as they are in the towers of the American corporation, places where power is assumed to justify itself, they suggest precisely the kind of trickle-down inequalities that politicians in particular might be in a position to combat. Sexism, for one, converted into a system: There is so much that is summoned—of hateful history, of the way that the past insinuates itself on the present—when a powerful man sizes up a less powerful woman in his employ and says, “I’d do her.”
Earlier this month, another suit involving Mike Bloomberg was (very briefly) in the news. The mogul was reinstated as a defendant in a 2016 civil suit brought against Bloomberg the company by a former employee: She claims that in addition to the hostile work environment and sexual discrimination she experienced at the company, she was raped by a manager at Bloomberg when she was 22. (Lawyers for Bloomberg and the now-terminated manager deny her allegations.) The suit also holds the majority owner of Bloomberg liable for the woman’s claims. The judge in the case, who had previously ruled that Mike Bloomberg had no immediate connection to the woman’s claims, reconsidered his ruling; the case will move forward with Bloomberg listed as a defendant.
Bloomberg has traditionally dismissed the lawsuits filed against him and his company as publicity stunts and money grabs and, in the fullest sense, nuisances. (“What’s happening,” he explained of one such case, “is that because I’m so visible, that obviously I’m a target.”) To run for office, however, is to make oneself a different kind of target; that is the exchange that is made when a person seeks such direct power over other people’s lives. The story published in the Times this week is a trial balloon for a potential presidential candidacy; it is also testing, however, another thing. What are voters willing to tolerate, at this point, in those who propose to lead them? What are they willing to ignore? What has changed since the last time Mike Bloomberg ran for public office? And what—the world being, in the end, full of truths that remain so stubbornly true—hasn’t changed at all?
As HuffPost’s Emily Peck pointed out, when CNN held a marathon forum Monday night, in which five of the contenders answered questions one by one before an audience of college students, only the three women — Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — were queried about sexism and the pay disparity between men and women. Once again, women’s issues were consigned to female candidates, rather than being treated as a set of problems that ought to matter as much to contenders such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the other two candidates on the program
.. In the eyes of the antiabortion movement, Richards was the elegantly dressed, politically savvy personification of evil. But during her years as Planned Parenthood’s leader, its membership nearly quadrupled, from 2.5 million supporters to more than 11 million. After she stepped down about a year ago, there was much speculation — and hope, among her admirers — that she would run for office.
.. But instead, Richards — who spent her years after graduating from Brown University working to unionize low-paid hotel and hospital workers — is returning to her political roots as an organizer. On Monday, she will launch a new organization called Supermajority that seeks not only to change that mind-set but also to provide resources and training for female activists across the spectrum of backgrounds and life experiences.
The anti-bullying advocate tells John Oliver that no one asked the former president if he’d consider a new identity
Monica Lewinsky wonders why people don’t ask her the same questions as Bill Clinton.
John Oliver, host of HBO’s T, +0.36% “Last Week Tonight,” asked Lewinsky on Sunday evening about the difficulty getting a job after completing her Master of Science degree at the London School of Economics in 2006, and asked her if she ever considered changing her name.
.. She also said it was a matter of principle, given that no one asked Clinton that question. “I think that’s an important statement,” she said. “I’m not proud of all the choices I’ve made in my life, but I’m proud of the person I am. I’m not ashamed of who I am.”
Lewinsky said it was sexist that the scandal was named after her rather than Clinton. “As hard as it has been to have that last name sometimes, and the pain that I have felt that what it’s meant for the other people in my family who have that last name, I am glad I didn’t change it,” she added.
.. But Lewinsky also said there may have been an upside to Facebook FB, -3.55% and Twitter existing in 1998 when her relationship with Clinton became public. “I might have heard some support from some people,” she said. “It would have been more balanced.”
.. Still, she told Oliver that the media representation of her became more and more detached from her real persona. She described it as a form of identity theft. “It was a shit storm,” she said. “It was an avalanche of pain and humiliation.”
“Not to say I wasn’t flawed, or make terrible mistakes or do stupid things, or say stupid things, because of course I did,” she added. Lewinsky said the scandal is referenced somewhere on a daily basis. “Because the scandal has my name,” she added, “I’m forever attached to it.”
Tucker Carlson is a creep. John Iadarola and Brooke Thomas break it down on The Damage Report. Follow The Damage Report on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDamageRep…
“Between 2006 and 2011, Tucker Carlson spent approximately an hour a week calling in to Bubba the Love Sponge, a popular shock jock radio program where he spoke with the hosts about a variety of cultural and political topics in sometimes-vulgar terms. During those conversations, Carlson diminished the actions of Warren Jeffs, then on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list for his involvement in arranging illegal marriages between adults and underage girls, talked about sex and young girls, and defended statutory rape. Carlson, who was hired by Fox News in 2009, also used sexist language to talk about women, including then-co-workers at NBC and public figures. He referred to Martha Stewart’s daughter Alexis Stewart as “cunty,” called journalist Arianna Huffington a “pig,” and labeled Britney Spears and Paris Hilton “the biggest white whores in America.” He also said that women enjoy being told to “be quiet and kind of do what you’re told” and that they are “extremely primitive.”