Imagine this: a high-powered white man pushes a female journalist after she asks a question he doesn’t like.
Unambiguously unacceptable behaviour, right? Liberals would be outraged, right?
So why isn’t there more outrage about the fact Neera Tanden, Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the federal Office of Management and Budget, once assaulted a journalist? In 2008 Tanden was a senior aide on Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign and accompanied Clinton to what she thought would be a softball interview. Faiz Shakir, then the chief editor of ThinkProgress, asked Clinton about her support for the Iraq war. Tanden didn’t appreciate this and, according to one witness, punched him in the chest. “I didn’t slug him, I pushed him,” Tanden unapologetically clarified to the New York Times last year. As if that somehow makes things better.
There has been a lot of controversy around Tanden’s nomination. However, most of this has revolved around her tweets: the woman really likes to tweet. Her social media activity appears to have caused more upset and outrage than the fact she once pushed a journalist because he asked her boss an insufficiently deferential question.
Why aren’t people more outraged? Well, because there’s still an assumption that women can’t really hurt men, for one thing. Particularly brown and Asian women, who are often stereotyped as meek, passive and docile. If Tanden was a black woman who had punched a white man, I think the reaction would have been very different. I think a lot of racist tropes about Angry Black Women would have raised their head. Serena Williams, for example, can’t hit a tennis ball without someone accusing her of being violent and aggressive. And, of course, if it had been a white man pushing a brown woman, liberals would be up in arms.
As it is, the punching incident is being treated as something of a punchline and the real attention is on the Republican hypocrisy around Tanden’s combative tweets. “We’ve had a president who has used his Twitter account like a battering ram,” Claire McCaskill, a former Democratic senator pointed out on MSNBC. “Now all of a sudden it’s a disqualification for someone to serve in the cabinet that engaged in her own opinion on Twitter?”
It’s quite right to point out Republican hypocrisy, but the Democrats lining up to defend Tanden ought to think a little harder about their own double standards. If you think a high-powered brown woman pushing a brown man for no legitimate reason isn’t a big deal, ask yourself why. Bullying should never be OK, no matter who does it. Particularly as Tanden doesn’t seem remorseful about what she did. Indeed, she seems to think her combativeness is some sort of badge of honour.
Having said all that, I understand why some people are eager to give Tanden a free pass. Women don’t often get to make mistakes. We have to work harder than men to get to the top and we have to work harder to stay there. There’s very little room for messing up: a 2016 study, for example, found that women receive far harsher punishments than men for ethical violations at work. And a study commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation found 80% of news reports about female CEOs involved in a crisis cited the CEO as the source of the problem. When a man was CEO, however, only 31% of stories blamed him for the company’s issues.
It isn’t fair that women are consistently judged more harshly than men. But we don’t fix that by holding women to lower standards – we fix it by holding men to higher standards. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a world populated with more female Donald Trumps, I want a world with more male Jacinda Arderns. Just because men get away with behaving badly doesn’t mean Tanden’s behaviour should be condoned. I don’t care if she is, as Biden says, “smart as hell”. I don’t care how qualified she is; her unremorseful bullying should disqualify her immediately. If you can’t manage your temper, you shouldn’t be managing the budget.
It has been many months since I plucked my eyebrows – which are now starting to resemble those of a wise old man. Looks like I’m not the only one. Research from Mintel shows that 51% of UK beauty and personal care consumers feel a reduced need to pluck and primp due to the pandemic. The Guardian takes a look at some of the women who have said bye to their beauty routines.
Brussels police recently broke up a private party where there were at least 25 naked men. Many were politicians, including József Szájer, a senior MEP from Hungary’s rightwing ruling party. Szájer, who has now resigned, is a massive homophobe who once boasted of rewriting Hungary’s constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual institution in 2011. Turns out he is a hypocrite as well.
Angela Merkel was recently asked at a tech conference whether she used smart technology at home, or whether she switched on the washing machine herself. She replied by saying “my husband does that”. Seems like she made a smart choice in husbands.
Cox became the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy award for her role in Orange is the New Black. Alas fame does not shield you from bigotry and harassment.
Congresswoman Katie Porter – a California Democrat who recently won re-election in formerly Republican Orange county – is famous for her effortless takedowns of smug men. Her latest victim is Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary. He sneeringly asked her if she was a lawyer (she most definitely is), and she elegantly ripped him a new one. 10/10, would recommend watching.
The Colorado teenager has invented a mobile device to test for lead in drinking water and an AI-powered app to detect early signs of cyberbullying. She’s 15.
2020 seems to be quite the year for festive stowaways. Earlier this month a tiny owl was found in the Rockefeller Center tree; this week an Australian family found a young koala clinging to the Christmas tree in their living room. It seems to have crawled in when the doors were open, hoping for a tasty snack. Unfortunately, the Christmas tree was plastic.