April 5 2013
President Obama apologized to California Attorney General Kamala Harris Thursday night for calling her the “best-looking attorney general in the country” after some took offense at the compliment.
One critic on the Left, Salon writer Joan Walsh, wrote that the comment made her stomach turn. She had covered Harris’ race for San Francisco attorney general in 2003 in which opponents “smear[ed] her with charges she’d relied on her looks and effectively slept her way to the top.” Walsh believes, “Those of us who’ve fought to make sure that women are seen as more than ornamental — and that includes the president — should know better than to rely on flattering the looks of someone as formidable as Harris.”
The President’s Spokesman Jay Carney reassured those with ruffled sentiments that the President “fully recognizes the challenge women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.”
Indeed Kamala Harris is quite beautiful. The incident, however, opens a can of ugly worms. Some women have experienced disrespect in the workplace where they have been stereotyped as just a pretty face who makes no other contribution. Clearly this is not what the President intended, yet one can’t fault someone like Walsh for having a stomach churning moment. Gender stereotypes are hurtful.
Still other women see nothing wrong with such a compliment. After all, the President also praised Harris’ brilliance, dedication, and tough mindedness. Praising a woman’s mind, heart and appearance is not objectifying but shows appreciation for the whole person.
If it were an ordinary office place, a gentlemanly compliment can be much appreciated. This is no ordinary office; however, it’s the Oval Office. With that in mind, one has to ask if it is appropriate to call someone the “best-looking attorney general in the country.” Is it presidential?
Some of us with old school sensibilities say “no.” We’d rather not see the President on The View or Letterman, either. It lacks decorum and respect for the Office of the Presidency. While the consternation on the feminist Left seems a bit overwrought, at least the now admonished President won’t be using the word “hottie” any time soon.