PSA: It Is Possible To Talk About Women You Don't Like Without Being Sexist About It
Don Lemon is very sorry for calling Nikki Haley "past her prime."
In a discussion on Thursday's "CNN This Morning" about how Haley had suggested that politicians over 75 ought to be subject to mandatory mental competency tests (what with Donald Trump being 76 and Joe Biden being 80), Don Lemon said some things that were not great.
"This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s the wrong road to go down. She says politicians are suddenly not in their prime," Lemon said, before choosing to go in the worst direction possible. "Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry. When a woman is considered to be in her prime — in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s."
Poppy Harlow then asked him, “Prime for what?”
“That’s not according to me” Lemon injected.
“Prime for what?" Harlow asked again.
“It — It just depends. It’s just like ‘prime,’ if you look it up, if you Google ‘When is a woman in her prime,’ it’ll say 20s, 30s, and 40s."
It's true, this is indeed a sentiment I have seen all over the internet, most frequently on incel messageboards and misogynistic subreddits. There are also many fascinating discussions about how the earth is flat, Bill Gates put microchips in the vaccines, and even an entire TikTok channel from a mom who claims her daughter is a Blue Avian alien who has to get up every night at 3 a.m. to do surgery on her home planet and can heal people with her mind.
Harlow tried to give him an out, saying, “I think we need to qualify. Are you talking about prime for childbearing or are you talking about prime for being president?”
“Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what the facts are,” Lemon replied. “Google it.”
We just googled it, and you can't be president in your twenties, Don Lemon, it is against the law.
Lemon brought it up again an hour later, this time with commenter Audie Cornish trying to give him the "You were talking about babies, right?" out.
It remains unclear how whether or not a woman can have children would have any impact on her ability to govern unless we are talking about someone who has not hit puberty yet, but good try there.
Lemon later apologized on Twitter by calling his comments "inartful and irrelevant," though failing to admit that they were sexist. Sexism is still bad, after all, when it is applied to women you don't like.
\u201cThe reference I made to a woman\u2019s \u201cprime\u201d this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it. A woman\u2019s age doesn't define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.\u201d— Don Lemon (@Don Lemon) 1676572343
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is usually lovely, responded to the tweet by saying that he just knew Lemon was talking about childbearing age, despite the fact that this theory continues to make absolutely no sense in the context of running for president.
\u201c@donlemon Don - we know your heart was in the right place. \nI think you were referencing women being in their prime during their \u201creproductive years\u201d. \n\nWomen are always in their \u201cprime\u201d because in my opinion, they get stronger, more courageous and more beautiful as they get older.\u201d— Don Lemon (@Don Lemon) 1676572343
We all know exactly what he meant because we all live in a world where women are still no longer considered "relevant" after a certain age, while men get to maintain said "relevance" well into their twilight years. Where actresses over 40 frequently cannot get hired except to play the mothers of people around the same age as they are. It's something we should be working against, not perpetuating.
The whole grotesque thing gave Nikki Haley the opportunity to tweet out a video of the exchange on Twitter and accuse liberals of being "the most sexist."
\u201cLiberals can't stand the idea of having competency tests for older politicians to make sure they can do the job.\n\nBTW it's always the liberals who are the most sexist.\u201d— Nikki Haley (@Nikki Haley) 1676565682
If I may.
“One’s prime is elusive. You little girls, when you grow up, must be on the alert to recognise your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur. You must then live it to the full.” — Miss Jean Brodie
Normally I tend not to care about things supposedly giving Fox News "a real field day" — partly because it's usually a way of trying to silence the Left (women in particular, if you will notice), partly because I have been on this planet long enough to know that Fox News can have "a real field day" about anything, including things they just make up themselves. What I don't like, however, is when they are given an opportunity to actually have the moral high ground, when every one of their female anchors gets a chance to weigh in on the incredibly sexist remarks of a liberal man.
Of course, not every Fox anchor disapproved of Lemon's hot take, with Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld commenting that it was a pale imitation of Jesse Watters, who would have doubled down and said that women are in their prime in their late teens.
\u201cFox News' Jesse Watters reacts to Don Lemon's comments about Nikki Haley's "prime": "Only I can do Jesse. Jesse would say, if I was doing Jesse, he would say women are in their prime in their late teens."\u201d— Justin Baragona (@Justin Baragona) 1676587311
So at least there's that?
One thing that really bothers me is the fact that you really don't ever see conservatives hemming and hawing about whether men will be able to bring themselves to vote for female Republican candidates or if their voices are just too "grating." I hate it even more that whenever I have shared this pet peeve of mine, someone has countered with, "Yeah, and Marjorie Taylor Greene's voice is actually annoying!"
Strangely enough? Not really all that helpful!
There is no question that the Right sweeps the nominations when it comes to sexist policies, but when it comes to discussions of "electability"? There are a whole lot of ostensibly liberal male pundits who think we don't know what they're doing when they try to couch sexist commentary in things "other people" might think. Like we don't all know that game. "I think Matilda is lovely even though everyone else thinks she's real annoying and sounds like she's always nagging." Or "I'm not the one saying women over 50 are 'past their prime,' it's just a fact and you can Google it." (nota bene: It is not a "fact")
I have to give them this — Republicans truly do not care what gender a GOP candidate or politician is, how they behave, what they are wearing, how they talk, how they look, whether or not they are physically attractive (or too physically attractive), how much they "draw attention to themselves" (a criticism usually leveled at women, but occasionally against non-WASPy men), whether or not they are "statesmanlike," whether or not they will scare or annoy people, etc. etc. They care about whether or not someone is advancing their agenda. That's what we need to care about, too.
We have got to get better with this shit. Liberal men do not get a pass on sexism because they are "the good guys," and none of us gets a pass on saying things that we know are shitty just because we are saying them about people we think are bad. It doesn't suddenly become okay to say something sexist about a Republican woman, or something fatphobic about Donald Trump, or something racist about Candace Owens or Diamond and Silk, or something homophobic about George Santos, or something classist about whomever (for those who don't like the term "classism," maybe you could just not make fun of people for being poor or having aesthetics frequently associated with poverty?).
That's not "fighting back," it's not "fighting fire with fire," it's a bad look and it doesn't actually help anything — and frequently hurts people who have nothing to do with the person you meant to attack.
There are a thousand things to drag Nikki Haley for. If Don Lemon would like a list, I would be more than happy to provide that to him. Nowhere on that list, however, are her age, her looks, her voice, or anything else outside of her very bad politics. In fact, while we're at it, here's one more!
\u201cliberals got me out here defending NIKKI HALEY?? me for @msnbc\u201d— manny (@manny) 1676580246
Yes, "Nikki" is Nimrata Nikki Haley's actual middle name, and good folks who are not xenophobic or othering can all stop showing their asses trying to drag her for using it.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse