The 2016 race to the White House has had its share of sexist commentary, which, of course, is only to be expected when you have women running, let alone daring to comment on the election.
Who could forget Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s classy comeback that Megyn Kelly “had blood coming out of her eyes. Or blood coming out of her wherever” after the Fox News anchor called him out for his sexist remarks?
Last night, during the fifth Republican debate, conservative radio show host Steve Deace felt compelled to further convince young women that the GOP could not care less about them by using “vagina” in an insult directed at Carly Fiorina.
Like Trump’s menstrual insinuation, Deace’s tweet is remarkably sophomoric. Come on, guys! If you’re going to resort to sexism, at least make it cutting and a bit more sophisticated. I heard better jabs about periods and vaginas at recess during middle school.
Also, criticizing a politician’s opening statement as going “full vagina right away” is pretty ignorant, not least of which is because it causes people to immediately wonder if the commentator knows how vaginas work.
What exactly does it mean to go “full vagina”? Did it involve Fiorina’s vagina transforming into a monstrous venus fly trap and debating Ted Cruz on immigration or Marco Rubio on the military budget?
Did Fiorina’s vagina finally browbeat Donald Trump in the way leading Republican contenders have failed to do so? Perhaps, if one of the above situations had occurred, “full vagina” would have been a more commonsensical comment.
Unfortunately, none of those fantastical scenarios sparked Deace’s tweet.
Rather, it was Fiorina arguing that she has overcome adversity, in part due to her experiences as a woman. “I have been tested,” Fiorina said at the start of the debate. “I have beaten breast cancer. I have buried a child. I started as a secretary. I fought my way to the top of corporate America while being called every B word in the book.”
Now, there is a smart way to critique Fiorina’s opening statement. For example, Fiorina’s “secretary to CEO” story doesn’t draw quite the same admiration when, as Michael Daly noted in The Daily Beast, she was the “face of corporate greed and income inequality” during her HP tenure. Thanks to Fiorina, Daly wrote, "HP saved more than $4.3 billion and put more than $4 billion into stock buybacks. It laid off 14,500 workers."
There is also a good way to critique her use of “identity politics,” as Deace later claimed was his intention. One could argue there is something hypocritical about Fiorina discussing challenges she’s overcome due to being a woman while having a record of misrepresenting Planned Parenthood in a way that stokes a backlash against reproductive rights for women.
Deace did not take either of these routes. Instead, his “full vagina” remark served as an efficient way of communicating to the Twitterverse that his brain processes hearing a woman utter a handful of sentences about being a woman as “I’m sorry, doll, but I can’t hear what you’re saying over the sound of your female genitals.”
About an hour later, Deance offered an apology for the tweet, but it only showed that he misunderstood why the remark was repugnant. He tweeted that his wife, Amy, that ol’ ball and chain, “tells me while on point about Carly and gender card I was too vulgar and need to apologize. And my wife is ALWAYS right. So I do.”
“Vulgar” isn’t the problem, Deace. (Also, saying “vagina” for shock value is passé.)
In fact, Deace’s arguably more “vulgar” tweet came a little over an hour later.
Flagrantly dismissing those who call out your sexism with a line like, “The only people who think I hate women are folks in favor of killing them before they’re born” and adding a smug “:-)” is, in fact, a bit vulgar.
Deace has a record of inflammatory comments, especially when it comes to women and what they’re permitted to do with their vaginas.
He accused Planned Parenthood of “peddling dead baby parts for profit”... in a Washington Times column that was actually not about the organization, but about defending Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk dead-set against LGBT people marrying and one of the women who has managed to earn Deace’s compassion.
It’s the Republicans who should be paying attention and worried about the damage.
GOP presidential contenders—Cruz, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul—have graced Deace’s radio show multiple times, a sign of his unfortunate strength and influence in the party.
A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won the majority women’s vote since 1988. Does the GOP think people like Deace will help solve that? Maybe the Republicans themselves would benefit by going “full vagina.