Joe Biden doesn’t get it and I want a president who I don’t have to explain sexism to

Today, I read yet another female journalist defending Joe Biden. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Leah Garchik writes: “I’m thinking we might give the old guy a break.”

Why do we have to give him a break? He’s running for president. Is it so much to ask in 2019 to want a leader who understands sexism? I don’t care if Biden is a good guy. I don’t care what his intent was in touching Lucy Flores or Sofie Karasek all the other women he smelled or kissed or hugged.

I’m sick of explaining sexism to men. Especially to powerful men. I don’t want to do it anymore. It takes up an enormous amount of time and energy. Not just mine, of course, but the energy of so many women. What would our lives be like, what would our country be like, if we had a leader who understood sexism, who just got it? What would happen in this country if women could spend time and energy actually fixing the problem of sexism instead of trying to convince someone that a problem exists?

Sexism is the water we all swim in.

Garchik argues: “Of course, a guy should be attuned to response when he’s overly huggy (or kisses the top of a head, rubs noses), and should cease and desist at the first signs it’s not welcome.”

Here’s the problem with that. Women and girls are trained to accept men’s hugs just like we are trained to laugh at men’s jokes. When we feel uncomfortable, we think the problem is us. We minimize the ick factor just as Biden is minimizing it now– making jokes and not saying he’s sorry.

What if women in America were just used to being taken seriously? What if that was the water we swam in? What if we were accustomed to attention from powerful men in the form of hand shakes, respect, and being looked in the eyes?

I used to produce talk radio programs and I had to explain to the liberal/ progressive male talk show host I worked with that defining someone as fiscally conservative but socially liberal was rooted in sexism. “Women don’t compartmentalize like that,” I told him. “If a woman doesn’t have reproductive rights, everything is affected: her health, her economic status, and her education, every issue.” When he told me that he’d never thought of it like that, I decided to write an article and after it was published, I got a call from Kamala Harris who was a deputy DA in Alameda County. She thanked me for writing. She told me she spends so much of her time just explaining to people that reproductive rights don’t exist is isolation but effect every aspect of women’s lives.

Kamala Harris thanked me for telling the truth. I want a president who can do that because only she is ready to change the world.

Obama does the right thing, apologizes to Harris and tells America he gets it

Politico reports:

Obama called Harris earlier in the day to offer an apology, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.


“He called her to apologize for the distraction created by his comments,” Carney said during a Friday briefing at the White House. Carney acknowledged later that the president had also “apologized for the remark” during the conversation with Harris.


Obama “did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general’s professional accomplishments and her capabilities,” Carney said. “He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.”

Harris’s response?

“The attorney general and the president have been friends for many years,” Harris Communications Director Gil Duran said in a statement e-mailed to POLITICO. “They had a great conversation yesterday and she strongly supports him.”

Thank you, Obama. You did the right thing. Mostly, I appreciate how your spokesperson made clear: “He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.”

I also like Harris’s response. She didn’t mitigate the gravity of Obama’s comment. Good job, politicians, Hopefully, Americans are learning something here.

Mr. President, the race for California attorney general isn’t a beauty contest

President Obama,

Today, when you endorsed California attorney general, Kamala Harris, at her fundraiser, you said:

“You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake.  She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country — Kamala Harris is here.”


I know you didn’t mean anything offensive by calling California attorney general, Kamala Harris, the “best-looking Attorney General in the country.” You probably thought you were being humorous or complimentary. You weren’t. Referring to Harris’s looks in support of her campaign shows how out of touch you are with the situation that women in America are in.

Women in America are constantly valued for how we look and not for what we do. This prejudice is something every female in America of every age has to deal with on some level every single day. For the President of the United States to refer to the attorney general’s looks is not a trivial thing. I wish it were.

Kamala Harris is California’s first female attorney general. The first one. Why do you have to call the first female AG the “best-looking?” It’s not funny. Not only are you the president, you’re the father of two daughters. You’re telling America and your own kids that you value Harris because of the way she looks. Would you ever consider introducing a male candidate as the “best-looking?” How men look is basically irrelevant when evaluating their performance. Unfortunately, the same is not true for women. Harris, the women of America, and your daughters deserve more respect and an equal playing field. When you called Harris “best-looking” today, you took that away from her. When Americans hear your words, they, too, will look at Harris and evaluate her appearance. If our daughters– and I have 3– hear you, they’ll get training to do the same thing. That training already exists everywhere around them. The last thing our children need is to hear their President focusing on the looks of a high ranking, female politician.

You need to understand this. It’s important. Women put you in office for a second term. Yet, it’s startling to me how few women you’ve appointed to power positions in your Administration. Your cabinet has more men playing starring roles than a Hollywood blockbuster movie.


Women make up 50% of the population yet we’re drastically under-represented in our U.S. government. In 2013, women are just 18% of the United States Congress. Throughout our history, only four women have held the office of Supreme Court Justice. There has never been a female President of the United States. Do you think a female president would introduce a female politician as “best-looking?” Or would she ever introduce a male politician that way, for that matter?

Right now, the U.S. has only five female governors, a low for this century. Harris has the chance be the first female governor of California. To get her there, it doesn’t help to have the U.S. President reduce the race for California attorney general to another beauty contest. That’s bad for women and bad for America.

Thanks for listening,

Margot Magowan

P.S. I’m crafting a summer reading list for you. I know you love books and some of these may help you understand this issue better.


Karl Rove group funds attack ads on Kamala Harris

The race for California’s Attorney General is getting dirty. Unusual national interest is suddenly coming to California’s election from a group in Alexandria, VA called The Republican State Leadership Committee, a group cofounded by Karl Rove. This committee just put 1.1 million to fund attack ads against Harris now showing in Los Angeles.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

To put the size of this last-minute effort in context, consider that Harris has spent about $3 million for her entire campaign – which she raised within the legal limit of $6,500 per donation, with the identity of each contributor a matter of public record.

The Huffington Post reports:

George Bush and his 

“What’s happening here is absolutely unprecedented in attorney general races in California,” Harris’s political strategist, Ace Smith, told reporters Monday.

“There’s a bunch of people in Washington led by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie [the former Republican National Committee chairman who now runs the Republican State Leadership Committee] who don’t like what the Democratic attorneys general have been up to.

“They are targeting Kamala Harris, but more importantly, they are supporting Steve Cooley…. They know that he is the guy who’s going to go easy on the tobacco companies and oil companies.”

Most Democrats believe that “the female Obama” will go far in America politics. She’s a powerful woman who has fought for women and children for her entire career and pretty much stands for everything Karl Rove and the Bush Administration is against.

Huffington Post:

If she wins next Tuesday, she’ll be the first woman, the first African-American and the first Asian-American (her mother is Indian; her father Jamaican) to be elected California attorney general. And every California attorney general in recent history has used the job as a stepping stone to the governor’s race.

I hope women support Harris by writing checks now and with their votes on election day. More on Kamala Harris here.