Last week, President Donald Trump responded to criticism from MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski via Twitter, calling them psychotic and going so far as to accuse Brzezinski of having a facelift. It was Trump’s latest, and certainly not his first, attack on a woman’s appearance in an attempt to sweepingly dismiss and discredit her work. He’s previously suggested Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton‘s appearances should have disqualified them from the presidency.
And yet the day after Trump blasted Brzezinski on Twitter, rumor also began to circulate that the Trump administration was flirting with the idea of dissolving the White House Council on Women and Girls, founded by the Obama administration in 2009. The council was tasked with “monitoring the impact of policy changes and liaise with women’s groups,” according to Politico, but ever since Trump took office, it “has been defunct” as Trump leans on dissolving it.
After all, the president and his sharply anti-choice administration probably aren’t too interested in monitoring detrimental policy changes limiting women’s reproductive options and rights when by and large, they’re the ones leading the charge.
Tina Tchen, who was director of Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls, told Politico that the office served as a reminder to career staff that they needed to consider equality gaps in their work.
“It shows the priority you place on the issues surrounding women and girls,” said Tchen, who also served as an assistant to Obama and as first lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff.
The potential closure of the council certainly shows where Trump’s priorities lie — not with women, that’s for sure.
But in either case, news that the president is considering terminating a council meant to guard women’s rights just one day after directing a sexist tweet toward a female journalist, and minimal coverage of this internal debate reflect the dangers of only focusing on one side of Trump’s sexism.
Media seems to underestimate the attention spans of its audience by assuming they can only follow Trump’s tweets and not policies, both of which merit criticism. But equal attention, if not more, should be paid to his policies on abortion and reproductive justice, workplace equality, and the issue of sexual assault, harassment, and violence against women, which demonstrate just how dangerous and consequential the president’s casual sexism can truly be.
Sexist comments by Trump reflect his authentic, personal beliefs about women, which subliminally dictate the people he appoints (take a look at his male-dominated cabinet) as well as his policies where women’s rights are concerned. His comments show that he views women as valuable only to the extent that he deems them attractive, and his policies show that he views them as second-class citizens unworthy of bodily autonomy.
His comments only demonstrate one side of the coin of his sexism — his decision to eliminate a council that aims to represent and advocate for women’s rights, his executive order to censure global organizations that talk about abortion, his support for legislation that defunds women’s health organizations and slashes birth control access show his sexist policies constitute a problem just as big as his mouth.
Few are aware that the Council for Women and Girls could soon be quietly erased, but with cable news content to run commentary about Trump’s sexist tweets at every hour, at this point, most Americans could probably recite a plurality of his tweets from the last few days by heart.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be highlighting just how abnormal and abusive of the power of his office that his tweets and public comments often are — but for the sake of protecting women’s rights, media has to achieve some sort of balance in its coverage, or the legislative rollbacks will be quiet, but all the more lethal because of this.
And all of this is happening, of course, while First Lady Melania Trump supposedly leads her anti-cyber bullying campaign and Ivanka Trump continues to identify as a champion for women’s rights.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.