Column

The Absurd Outrage Over Biden’s All-Female Press Team

The same people mad about the gender breakdown didn’t seem to mind when we had all-male leadership

Symone Sanders, the senior adviser to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, speaks to the media after the eighth Democratic primary debate. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

There’s a picture from 2003 that I can’t seem to forget: It shows President George W. Bush, flanked by a gaggle of other old and smiling white men, signing into law sweeping anti-abortion legislation. The photo serves as a reminder that the regulations that most affect our lives and families are often decided by people who will never have to make the same kinds of decisions we do about our bodies and futures — people who often need remedial biology lessons about female anatomy.

I’ve thought about that picture often this week as conservatives continue to whine about the all-female senior communications team announced by the incoming Biden administration. (Apparently, an all-male group rolling back women’s bodily autonomy is not nearly as controversial to some people as women creating press strategy.)

The nonsense claim of the day is that the only reason President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris selected an all-female team was because of gender, not capability. Fox News host Greg Gutfeld, for example, huffed, “When you pick an all-women team, what you’re saying, quite clearly, it’s about gender and not competence. You’re meaning to tell me you couldn’t find one dude, one dude in D.C.?” Gutfeld, who’s made headlines in the past for insinuating that his female co-host was giving men erections and “joking” that a female fighter pilot wouldn’t know how to park her plane, went on to chide the Biden-Harris picks as a pure “virtue signal.”

Apparently a group of all-men rolling back women’s bodily autonomy is not nearly as controversial to some people as women creating press strategy.

The idea that women are only in leadership positions because of their gender is nothing new. (Just ask any woman who supported a female presidential candidate.) But why are people who have never had a problem with mostly white male leadership suddenly aghast about a bit of gender homogeneity in the incoming Biden administration?

Because to them, white men are a politically neutral group: the default choice. Any deviation from that standard must be about identity politics. It has never occurred to them that white men are the most political identity of all.

For centuries, straight white men have been at the world’s helm because they were straight white men. Still, despite eons of patriarchy and the systemic disenfranchisement of marginalized communities, we are supposed to believe that the glut of white men in power is based on competence alone. How many times have we heard that an all-white male panel, board of directors, or leadership team was chosen solely on ability? They were race- and gender-blind in their process, they swear! It was all about who was best for the job!

Let’s say that’s actually the case and that the throngs of straight white men in positions of power are really there solely because of their smarts — why, then, would it be so hard to believe the same could be true for a group of women? (Given the sexism women have to overcome, I’m willing to bet that an all-female group would actually be more adept than a group of men who haven’t had to face the same hurdles.)

If a person’s first thought when seeing a group of accomplished women is that their gender got them there (as opposed to the truth that it likely hindered their rise), what they’re really saying is that they cannot imagine so many women are truly that smart or capable. One or two women? Sure. But more than a token amount of anyone other than a white man is suspect.

Maybe to change that, we need a few more all-female teams across more levels of government and business for people to get used to the idea of women as adept. It’s like what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said when asked how women would be enough on the Supreme Court: “My answer is when there are nine.”

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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