May I have a Wednesday Word with you?
Weeks later, and I am still thinking of Michelle Obama’s brilliant, master class of a speech in the wake of Donald Trump’s gross and vile statements recorded while he was working (and not palling around in a locker room). That’s a testament to how powerful her speech was. I also am thinking of the near-universal outrage expressed after the release of the recording.
But all outrage is not equal. And it was a reminder for us all to take greater care when we write and speak about each other as human beings. Take a look at the following quotes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”
I appreciate their outrage, but look deeper at their statements. “As the father of three girls” and “championed and revered” lessen the impact of what otherwise would have been strong statements.
Why? Two reasons. The first statement makes it seem as if women only can be spoken about in relation to other men, as if it takes a man to validate us human beings. The “championed and revered” phrase in the second statement otherizes and patronizes women, as if we are some sort of odd creatures instead of–wait for it–human beings.
Emily L. Hauser perfectly captures this sense:
Frederick Douglass once said: ‘You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed.’
One hundred and fifty years ago, our nation resolved to climb out of the deepest, darkest chapter in American history–the insidious institution of slavery. –Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid
Yesterday, President Barack Obama; House Speaker Paul Ryan and House and Senate leaders (I hope House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was comfortable with his role during the ceremony); members of the Congressional Black Caucus; and other House members, Senators and guests commemorated 150 years since the ratification of the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States. The august ceremony was held, most appropriately, in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC.
That profound, meaningful and important moment seemed to garner relatively little media attention and comment.