Washington Post on Nikki Haley: She Dresses Like a “Real Housewife”

Yesterday the Washington Post published a piece by Ned Martel spotlighting South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. In true sexist reporting form, Martel makes sure to tell us in the introductory paragraph to his four-page article that Haley “was more like a fun mom than a governor” in a recent appearance at a South Carolina middle school. In downplaying Haley’s status as an elected politician and shifting the focus to her mom-ness, Martel sets the tone for a piece that highlights the governor’s physical appearance, lack of experience, and personal refusal to condemn sexism.

As attractiveness is always important when publicizing a United States governor, Martel is quick to include physical details like Martel’s eye color. Eye color, like other descriptions of physical characteristics, is something reserved almost exclusively for women, a journalistic trend we’ve written about before. But Martel’s physical description does not stop with eye color.

In person, she cuts an indefatigable and glamorous figure. She eschews a Church Lady mien for something more Real Housewife: fit, attractive and encased in suits that stop just below the elbow and just above the knee.

Because we all know that women have two options when it comes to style: “Church Lady” or “Real Housewife.” (Both of which sound very appealing and original.)

When discussing Haley’s actual track record as governor, Martel is similarly demeaning. Referring to key financial decisions Haley has made while in office, Martel wonders whether certain tactics were “petty” or “naïve.” This is far-from-subtle code for “childish” and “unintelligent,” two popular insults for female politicians who dare to make unpopular decisions.

In addition to portraying the South Carolina governor in sexist language, Martel also celebrates Haley’s own dismissal of infantilizing, sexist criticism she has received. 

She’s also the kind who doesn’t mind that she still gets called girl. “It’s okay because they truly mean well,” she drawled. “What you have to look at is the fact that this is a Southern culture that has great people that just allowed me to do a job I love. . . . They can call me girl, lady, Indian, whatever.”

To summarize, the Washington Post described an elected United States governor in terms of physical appearance, questioned her experience and track record in ways often reserved for women, and congratulated her on her refusal to acknowledge that sexist language is bad. Ned Martel is a triple threat ... of sexism.


Published by support on 12/16/2011

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