In Which Rachel Maddow and I Have Something in Common

Jason Mattera (of kicking your faithful correspondent out of the Young America’s Foundation conference fame) didn’t limit his comments about his political opponents’ physical appearance to the Campus Progress editorial intern with a relative lack of power or social capital who wanted to cover his conference this past summer. He also thinks he’s going to win back conservatism’s power by making remarks about the appearance of one of the most popular news hosts on TV, as Sarah Posner reported on Monday:

But targeting Millennials through pro-life appeals mixes sexuality with chastity. During the panel, Mattera took the David and Goliath metaphor another perverse step: If conservatives (David) smite liberals (Goliath), they will be rewarded with the hot conservative women, just like King Saul promised his daughter to the warrior who slew the evil giant. “You know his daughter must have been beautiful because there’s no guy whose gonna die for an ugly girl,” Mattera chortled. “Our women are hot. We have Michelle Malkin. Who does the left have, Rachel Maddow? Sorry, I prefer that my women not look like dudes.”

Mattera, who doesn’t seem to see the inherent problem with criticizing women’s appearances instead of their ideas, responded on his blog:

Okay, okay. I’ll admit it: Not all lib women look like dudes. I’m sure there are some who don’t. Maybe. But folks, can we at least agree on Rachel Maddow? Some bipartisanship, people?

Posner refers to the college activism panel that I participated in at Family Research Council’s conference over the weekend. What did hot women have to do with my talk? Not much, actually, despite Posner making it the basis of her piece. It was just a casual reference—me noting that even if I weren’t an activist, I’d probably still wander to the conservative camp because our women don’t look like the picture [of Maddow] above.

Rachel Maddow is an extraordinarily talented and successful woman, and it’s not too often that I get to be in the same category as her, so I’m sort of perversely excited that Mattera thinks I’m as worth calling a guy as Maddow. Seriously guys, I’m milking this for all it’s worth.

But what I find interesting and puzzling about folks’ reaction as I’ve told them about this is how eager they’ve been to assure me that Ms. Maddow is incredibly attractive, or that conservative women aren’t attractive, or to insinuate that the fact that Mattera put me in the same category as Maddow says something good about my physical appearance. I’m interested and puzzled because I would have thought the answer to this would be to challenge Mattera’s (and the conservative movement’s) sexism. This conversation shouldn’t be about which side of the aisle has the nicer-looking women. This has nothing to do with “Newsflash! Dykes can be hot too!” This has to do with the fact that we all—Maddow, Mattera, myself, Michelle Malkin, and everyone—should be judged on the basis of our ideas, not our appearances.

I think there are plenty of interesting things to be said about how confused the conservative movement (as represented by Mattera) seems to be about engaging with women on an intellectual level. Mattera seems rather challenged by the notion that women could contribute more than their appearances to the political sphere, and doesn’t even address the ideas of the women on his own side. It’s as if we’re mascots in his universe, and that speaks volumes about what his universe consists of and how he interacts with it. That’s a social phenomenon we could analyze at great length if we wanted to.

But I really have too many other papers to write to bother with unpacking that one, and I think maybe our time could be better served in the long run by not letting Mattera make this a discussion about physical attributes. Yes, it can sometimes be challenging to sit there and watch someone make sexist and implicitly homophobic comments about you, without challenging him on his premise. But if we don’t void the premise entirely, we’re not going to get anywhere. I think I’m going to focus on hoping that one day Rachel Maddow and I will have something in common that isn’t the length of our haircuts.

UPDATE: Ironically, Maddow has one of the best summing-ups of this whole “conservative movement” thing.

(cross-posted)

One thought on “In Which Rachel Maddow and I Have Something in Common

  1. I think Rachel Maddow is hot. For reals. I don’t know what he’s talking about. She’s got a gorgeous face and she’s so damn cute off-screen too, with her nerd outfits and glasses. And to top it all off, she’s one of the smartest women out there. I love her.

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