Sexism Award Goes to Brit Hume for Saying Hillary Clinton Was ‘Not Necessarily Attractive’ During the Debate

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Fox News anchor Brit Hume said that Hillary Clinton was “not necessarily attractive” during the first presidential debate — even though her looks have zero bearing on her performance. (Photo: AP Images)

Rest assured, ladies: You can be deemed the most qualified candidate for the highest office in the land by the most influential newspaper in the country, but when push comes to shove, all that really matters is, y’know, if men think you’re pretty enough.

Because that’s exactly what happened to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who was thought to be the winner of last night’s first presidential debate for the general election — when Fox News’ Brit Hume described Clinton as “composed, smug sometimes, not necessarily attractive” during the debate, according to the Washington Post.

And the Internet had some feelings about a woman’s performance being measured solely by her appearance:

Even Chrissy Teigen felt compelled to speak up:

And Fox News’ Megyn Kelly even appeared to not exactly agree with her colleague’s criteria for success:

Hume later clarified his remarks on FOX News Channel’s “The Five, On the Record,” telling co-host Juan Williams: “Well, I was commenting on the candidates demeanor which is what you evaluate as a political journalist when you’re watching a debate and I said Trump looked uncomfortable and out of sorts and I’ve forgotten what else. And I said Hillary Clinton looked composed, smug some of the time and not necessarily attractive… talking about demeanor here. This is what we judge. Well, a lot of people on the internet took that as an attack on her looks so they mounted this massive tweet storm attacking… guess what? My looks.”

He added: “I was just talking about demeanor. We are not yet living in a society where a female candidates demeanor cannot be criticized. We’re just not there yet, but at the rate we’re going we may get there.”

Megyn Kelly herself is, of course, all too familiar with what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a blatantly sexist critique — namely, when Republican presidential nominee and former reality television personality Donald Trump took issue with Kelly simply doing her job and holding the candidate accountable for his own sexist language toward women during the first debate among those vying for the Republican nomination.

“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ 'dogs,’ 'slobs,’ and 'disgusting animals,” Kelly asked Trump, according to CBS News. “Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?”

Trump replied: “What I say is what I say. And honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry, I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that to you.”

By the next morning, Trump was telling television pundits that Kelly had “blood coming out of her whatever” during the interview, insinuating that Kelly’s credentials as a debate moderator were lessened by the fact that, in his opinion, she must have been menstruating.

Last I checked, Trump was not Kelly’s gynecologist. And perhaps even more important, being female — and having a period — doesn’t keep a person from being able to do the job, regardless of what men like Trump and Hume might think.

Female politicians, including Clinton, have always faced sexist evaluations of their work, with everything from their clothes to their abilities to “juggle” career and family. They’ve often been a part of a forced journalistic conversation in a way that their male peers are often spared.

Through the years, there have been constant conversations about Clinton’s hair, pantsuits, laugh, smile, voice, and weight.

But here’s the thing: None of those things — and certainly not how attractive Hume does or does not find Clinton to be — mean anything when it comes to whether or not Clinton, or any candidate for that matter, is qualified for the presidency. If anything, comments like Hume’s underscore what it might mean for our culture at large should a woman actually hold the office of president, and thus display that women’s work, just like the work of all people, can and should be evaluated only by the quality of that work, and not the physical attributes of the person doing it.

Because looks, of course, are highly subjective. Which is how you end up with the (sexist) problem of different men wanting different things from women’s job performance based solely on their looks.

Or as the Guardian’s Scott Bixby aptly summarized:

Indeed.

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