Independent Voices, Indy Voices

Was Barack Obama's 'good-looking' remark inappropriate?

President Barack Obama’s decision to call California’s top law enforcement officer “the best-looking attorney-general in the country” has provoked fierce debate

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He may have thought it a throwaway remark, but President Barack Obama’s decision to call California’s top law enforcement officer “the best-looking attorney-general in the country” has instead proved to be the political equivalent of a boomerang. Read the full news story here.

So were his comments sexist?

Yes! Says Ellen E Jones

There will be some men scratching their heads in theatrical befuddlement over this one. A moment’s reflection should set them straight, as it did Obama.

If women made up 50 per cent of attorneys general and 50 per cent of Parliament, and Theresa May complimented Chuka “humuna humuna” Umunna on his tight trousers during PMQs, this would just be clumsy flattery. As it is, Harris is one of only eight female AGs and women represent less than a quarter of legislators in the UK and US. Those who do overcome institutional sexism to arrive at high office are routinely valued according to appearance or dismissed outright as ornamental. Can you see how that might be irritating?

No! Says Charlotte philby

She’s brilliant and she’s dedicated, she’s tough. She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general ... It’s true! Cringesome? Absolutely. Sexist? No.

While the constant reference to women in terms of their looks undermines our right to be judged on equal terms as men, Obama’s remarks about Kamala Harris were so trite and impersonal they totally failed to objectify her at all. This wasn’t about gender, it was about Obama trying once again to charm the pants off the room. As writer Dan Amira pointed out in New York Magazine, the President is “an equal-opportunity flatterer, not a shallow, sexist pig. Calling people ‘good-looking’ – men, women, penguins – is just something he does. It’s almost a tic at this point.”

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