Accuracy in Media

Before Republican members of the House stormed the secure area of the Capitol on Wednesday to try to force Democrats to carry on their impeachment investigation in public, they stopped for a press gaggle. In photos of the press event, on a staircase above where they were speaking stood, a woman in a blue dress, bathed in a spotlight, looking heavenward.

The woman above gained a lot of attention on Twitter, wrote Christina Cauterucci of Slate in “She’s Not Your Type” – subhead: “The woman in the blue dress was yet another loyal conservative mistake for a resistance warrior.”

Don Cheadle and Alyssa Milano, both fierce anti-Trumpers, asked their Twitter followers to caption the image, Cauterucci reported. “Is it raining douchebags?” read one. “Please dear God now, right now with the lightning strike,” read another.

People assumed the woman was gazing up with disgust at what was going on below her, but that turned out not to be the case, Cauterucci reported. She actually was Charli Huddleston, an aide to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight.

Later the same day, Cauterucci reported, a photo appeared of a woman standing by a stack of boxes from Domino’s with pizza Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), had bought for reporters covering the Republicans’ storming of the secret compartment. “The woman wearing black looks like she wants no part of this foolishness,” responded one Twitter user, according to Cauterucci.

“Whoever you are, ma’am, you speak to me,” wrote another. “#SheIsUs,” read another.

But that woman also didn’t play to type – she was the press secretary for Rep. Mark Walker, “another pro-Trump congressman who forced his way into the SCIF.”

The problem, Cauterucci wrote, is “a broader propensity among liberals to ascribe their own politics and emotions to any woman reacting to a conservative man in public. The Trump era has seen wider-than-ever gender gaps in presidential approval ratings, opinions on the role of government and party support at the polls. As a result, women have leaned away from the Republican Party and led the activist opposition to Trump’s agenda, their gender has become shorthand for the entire Trump resistance.”

In short, she is saying it is easy to mistake any woman involved in any political situation as a member of the resistance to Trump.

She provided as an example the Kavanaugh hearings and the “iconic” photo of then-nominee Brett Kavanaugh exclaiming his innocence while “behind him, in the front row of the gallery, a line of women sit and watch, wearing expressions of sorrow, confusion and disgust.” Media rushed to point out their pained expressions represented “every woman” in America and that their reactions “were likely shared by millions of other women all over America. And they vote.”

But the women behind Kavanaugh that day were his mother, his wife, his former clerk and two friends who had gone on Fox News to defend him. “Their revulsion wasn’t aimed at the petulant nominee who performed the worst attributes of belligerent masculinity that day, but at the people who, in their view, had unjustly tainted the reputation of an upstanding gentleman. While they leveraged their gender to support Kavanaugh, their gender was making them into easily adoptable tragedy masks for his detractors.”

Don’t assume, Cauterucci concludes. “Yet the desire to assume that any woman in the middle of a bout of conservative theater is above all the white male idiocy surrounding her seems particularly suspect in light of the post-election scrutiny on white women who voted for Trump and the Trump-appointed women now using corporate feminism to whitewash the abuses they carried out in his name.

“…But to recognize female subjectivity and agency is to recognize that women work toward a wide range of political ends, including ones that run counter to the interests of their own gender.”

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