Hillary Clinton gave an interview last week – her first since the 2016 presidential election – in which she said that misogyny was at least partially to blame for her election loss last year. MSNBC decided to use that quote as a hook for an afternoon segment, in which an all-male panel discussed the factors affecting the 2016 election results:
Although sexism did not make it into the discussion as a standalone topic, as the hook suggested it would, the panelists debated whether Hillary’s loss was caused by external factors rather than the candidate’s own actions. One panelist expressed his distaste for pinning blame for the election loss on people other than Hillary, calling it “elite identity politics”. Another talked in general terms about the difficulty of pinpointing a single cause for the election outcome.
Later, the host of the MSNBC segment – Steve Kornacki – took to Twitter to defend his show and the panel against criticism from Washington Post correspondent Karen Tumulty, who hinted that maybe four men were not the best group of people to address the role of sexism in the election. Kornacki’s main defense appeared to be that the panel did not really discuss the sexism angle all that much, since he moved away from that topic given that his panelists were all men. However, as Tumulty reminded him, he did use the misogyny quote as a hook (presumably to attract viewers). And even if he was careful not to single out sexism in his discussion, he did lump it together in a catch-all question about whether the sentiment among Democrats is that Hillary’s election loss was about “things that were done to her”.
There are a few issues with Kornacki’s defense. As NPR’s Linda Holmes pointed out in the Twitter exchange, dropping the discussion of misogyny because of the lack of women on the panel is in itself problematic (Kornacki agreed). Related to this point, in the context of the discussion, lumping the misogyny question into a “things done to a person” category comes with a certain level of condescension. It trivializes misogyny by making it sound like an imagined slight, something you complain was done to you when you want to dodge responsibility. Finally, as the Mary Sue piece on the subject also rightfully explained, saying that your panel of four white men is acceptable since you made an effort to pivot away from discussing sexism implies that you only need female panelists if you are talking about misogyny.
Kornacki shows some awareness that summoning a group of men to analyze sexism is not fully appropriate. However, for using misogyny in a segment’s hook to attract viewers, then trivializing it and quickly ignoring it because the segment’s panel was missing women, we give this 3 out of 5 Enough Alreadys:
Women’s rights are frequently violated on multiple fronts, and some violations have more significant consequences than others (e.g., violence against women, denial of affordable healthcare, sexual harassment). But we believe that every form of sexism is important to challenge, including pervasive forms of casual sexism that we see every day. In “Today’s Sexism Alert,” we call out incidents of such casual or “everyday” sexism that come to our notice.