People Across The Political Spectrum Are Stepping Up To Defend Kellyanne Conway From An Ostensibly Sexist Joke

Women in politics occupy a particularly precarious space today.

The photo of Kellyanne Conway kneeling on the couch in the Oval Office raised the ire of many people who accused her of a lack of respect for the office, as well as the leaders of historically black universities who were there to meet President Trump. But the anger at Conway also incurred its own backlash. Many pointed out that this was a non-issue and dismissed those clutching their pearls at Conway's apparent lack of decorum. 

The controversy nevertheless put Conway back under the spotlight — and on Wednesday at the annual fundraising dinner for Washington Press Club Foundation, appeared to have exposed politics' impulse for sexism. In a garish joke referencing President Clinton's impeachment over his lying about an affair with then-intern Monica Lewinsky, Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond told the audience: 

You even mentioned Kellyanne and the picture on the sofa. But I really just want to know what was going on there, because, I won't tell anybody. And you can just explain to me that — that circumstance, because she really looked kind of familiar there in that position there. But don't answer. And I don't want you to refer back to the '90s.

First brought to attention by a tweet from Independent Journal Review's Benny Johnson, Richmond's comments were quickly criticized by people across the political spectrum. 

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Richmond's joke at the dinner followed Republican Sen. Tim Scott's own quip about the photo that also referenced the Lewinsky scandal, except his was centered around the couch, rather than Conway's position.

The Louisiana Congressman later clarified his joke to the Washington Post in a statement: "Where I grew up saying that someone is looking or acting 'familiar' simply means that they are behaving too comfortably. I decided to use that joke due to the large social media backlash over her inappropriate posture considering there were more than 60 HBCU Presidents in the room."

Whether Richmond's remarks were incorrectly interpreted or not, being the target of sexist, often violent remarks is nothing new to women at the workplace — Conway herself has been subject to many misogynistic insults in her years working in Washington, D.C. 

Women in politics occupy a particularly precarious space today, wedged between their efforts at upending the status quo and stubborn patriarchal traditions of political institutions. Women from both sides of the aisle have been targeted often not for their policies or rhetoric, but for their outfits, their makeup (or lack of it), and have been called all kinds of gendered insults. 

The disgust towards Richmond's joke shows that sexism will not be tolerated, no matter your political ideology. 

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