Obama's Kamala Harris Quip Wasn't Sexist

Kamala Harris (Stan Honda/Getty Images); Barack Obama (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)
Kamala Harris (Stan Honda/Getty Images); Barack Obama (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Recently, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer drew the scorn of some of the very women who had been celebrating her rise as one of the most powerful women in America. The reason was her comments about her unwillingness to wear the label that some of those women celebrating her sport so proudly: feminist.


When I first heard about Mayer's remarks, I, too, rolled my eyes and thought, "Here we go again. Another woman who has feminism to thank for where she is and now doesn't want anything to do with it." The only bigger cliché is the minority-group member who says that affirmative action is unnecessary after he's already used it to get ahead. (Here's looking at you, Clarence Thomas.)

But then I actually read Mayer's quote in its entirety and realized that I agree with her.

And I'm someone who proudly calls herself a feminist. What Mayer said is, "I don't think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that I certainly believe in equal rights. I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so, in a lot of different dimensions. But I don't, I think, have sort of the militant drive and sort of the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it's too bad, but I do think feminism has become, in many ways, a more negative word."

She's right. Feminism has gotten a bad rap, and the overreaction by so many to the president's recent compliment of Kamala Harris is a perfect example of why. For those who don't know, the president called California Attorney General Harris "the best-looking attorney general."

According to certain women (and a few conservatives with axes to grind), all women should be offended. Last time I checked, I am both a woman and a feminist, and I'm not worried about the comment; nor do I care. As a woman, I have more important things to worry about, like the fact that there has been a string of brutal sexual assaults in recent weeks, from gang rape in Brazil to acquaintance rape in Steubenville, Ohio. Not to mention the fact that reproductive rights are under assault.

And for those who don't know, we are still paid less than men. Yet for the next couple of days, media coverage that should be devoted to these issues will be focused instead on this manufactured noncontroversy controversy.


But the main reason I think this whole kerfluffle is stupid — for lack of a better word — is that a double standard is at play. If I referred to Harris as beautiful in a column, no one would care. If I referred to President Obama as the nation's best-looking president, no one would care. But if we reversed the genders and a male columnist referred to Harris' appearance, based on the reaction the president has generated, apparently the columnist would have to apologize.

Think I'm wrong? Then ask yourself what would have happened — seriously — if an older female elected official had referred to the president as "the best-looking president" ever. We wouldn't be having some national conversation about sexism — the kind people are trying to force today. We would all be having a laugh.


That is, if we even knew about it. My guess is that most of us wouldn't, because the comment wouldn't have been deemed worthy of national news coverage.

The president's comment about Harris wasn't, either.

She is beautiful — a beautiful black woman, to be exact. And none of us should apologize for celebrating that, including the president — who, for the record, is the best-looking president our country has had.


And I don't care what my fellow feminists have to say about my saying so. 

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter