Dozens of women have accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment and assault, a scandal that has been buried under the innumerable other scandals and blunders of his administration. But before he was president, Trump had built a public persona on insulting women, so it comes as no surprise that his deep-seated misogyny continues to manifest, as was evidenced by his interaction with an Irish reporter on Tuesday.
"We have a lot of your Irish press watching us right now," Trump said on a phone call with Leo Varadkar, Ireland's new leader, beckoning journalist Caitríona Perry to come over to him. "We have all of this beautiful Irish press, where are you from?" he asked Perry. After she told him she was the US bureau chief for RTÉ News, he said to Varadkar, "Caitríona Perry, she has a nice smile on her face so I bet she treats you well."
This seemingly minor interaction is a reflection of the pervasive small potatoes sort of sexism—the microaggressions, if you will—that women experience daily. Now, before the men's rights activists get up in arms about the feminists complaining that the president simply said a woman had a "nice smile," let me explain.
Even the way Trump beckoned Perry over was entitled. He's (unfortunately) one of the most powerful men in the world: When he beckons you over, you're not in a position to refuse him. (Even former FBI director James Comey had a hard time saying no to him!) Trump created a scenario that immediately rendered Perry powerless, simply because he was struck by her physical appearance.
Trump is certainly not the only prominent politician to belittle women by commenting on their appearance. Even his predecessor, Barack Obama, found himself in hot water when he called Kamala Harris, now a California senator, the "best-looking attorney general in the country," which spawned a litter of male-authored thinkpieces from New York Magazine's "Obama in Need of Gender-Sensitivity Training" to the Washington Post's "Obama was right about Kamala Harris."
Obama later called Harris to apologize, but the outpouring of support he received—CNN's Dylan Byers bemoaned, "How did it become so difficult to call a woman good looking in public?"—shows how blind even self-professed liberals can be to their own sexist behavior and how easy it is for them to brush off remarks as benign compliments.
"She has a nice smile on her face." A reminder that even in a professional setting, women can never escape their gender or transcend their bodies. You'll always be read as a woman before anything else, and treated accordingly. It's a reminder that your gender is a burden, it's something that can be used by the powerful to make you feel small. That moment was a reminder—your womanhood can be used as a weapon to reduce you first and foremost to a "nice smile," or a pussy to grab.
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