Yesterday, Friday, April 5, 2013, an editorial piece titled “Why should Obama apologize for telling the truth?” was written by Ginger Rutland. You can read it here. http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_swarm/2013/04/why-should-obama-apologize-for.html
In response to remarks by President Obama and seemingly follow on coverage from Fox News, Ginger asked, “Where else in the world do men have to apologize for calling a good looking women good looking?”
Here are the remarks from President Obama that led to this discussion.
“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.
“She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country — Kamala Harris is here. [Applause.] It’s true. Come on. [Laughter] And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.”
I believe that women and the struggles they continue to face to be viewed equally within the work place with duly noted recognition for their professional talent is demeaned when Ginger
1. Defends the President or politicians in light of this situation
2. Attempts to compare the choice of words from President Obama with media stories published about the California Lieutenant Governor, and
3. Excuses a privileged society of men who “feel constrained at the office, afraid of offering even the most common place compliments to their female co-workers,
President Obama clearly overstepped the privilege of being male and the authority President of the United States of America. How did he do this?
There are very few instances where he isn’t at “work” and put in the context of a corporate conglomerate, he essentially turned to a senior-manager of a subsidiary within the corporation and praised her work and skills before continuing on to remark about her physical appearance which has absolutely no bearing on her job performance. Furthermore, this was stated in contrast to senior managers in the same role at the other 49 subsidiaries of the corporation which means all of those individuals stand to critique themselves on what they can do to climb the ladder of “appearance” in the eyes of the CEO since it’s obvious that he pays close attention to that. Otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it, right?
Maybe, just maybe, I could be a teeny bit okay if he complimented her specifically on something she was wearing. In this case, regardless of how much he admires her appearance and regardless of how “okay” she might be with the compliment, he’s wrong for making that statement. Furthermore, he did the right thing in apologizing and I believe it’s great for the media to discuss this matter in a mature fashion. Unfortunately, expecting maturity via the media (especially television) is almost like seeking the same in political discourse – very unlikely.
This story provides yet another opportunity to have a practical and constructive conversation on male privilege in our society. Within that there rests an opportunity to install a small sample of coaching on the difference in complimenting and borderline objectification or maybe just a lesson or introduction to the fact that male privilege really does exist and simply being aware can go a long way toward improving work conditions and career experiences of women throughout the United States and the world.
This closely aligns with a post I made last month regarding an incident at a technical conference (PyCon) and is yet another indicator that it does happen everyday and we all have a responsibility to improve it. Here’s the blog post https://lamillsgarrett.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/dongles-and-forking-and-privilege-oh-my/
I believe –
1. President Obama was wrong in his choice of words
2. President Obama was right to apologize
3. President Obama further perpetuated the entitlement many men feel in their words and behaviors toward women
4. Ginger Rutland (and every other person of influence publicly espousing a similar message) should apologize for her editorial that defends this situation and seemingly presents “ordinary men” as victims for a culture created by men.
Then we should get back to our lives and ignore the ignorant media outlets that will make this about anything but what it really is in the hopes of selling another advertisement on behalf of some talking head.