NPR Describes Senator Gillibrand as “petite, blond and perky”

In a story posted this morning, NPR’s Morning Edition described New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in highly gendered and sexist terms. From calling her “petite, blond and perky” to saying she has a “girlie” voice, the original piece was filled with face-palm moments. It has since been edited (you can see the original, thanks to Sarah Jaffe, here), but what remains is still pretty offensive.

Here’s a quote:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid once called her the “hottest member” of the U.S. Senate. But friends say the woman has scary grit — precisely the kind of person who can go head-to-head with the military about how it’s handling sexual assault.

There’s obviously a lot of problematic things about Harry Reid’s comment, but the writer here is also making an explicit distinction between someone being called “hot” and someone having “grit.” As if the two were mutually exclusive.

What’s most disturbing though is that this was supposed to be an article about Gillibrand’s vocal and proactive work to reform how the military handles sexual violence – and how this is part of a rising political career focused on women’s rights – but, by using such demeaning and trivializing language to depict her, it ends up perpetuating the very sexist culture that she is fighting.

I’m glad NPR has taken out the worst material, but this likely warrants a public apology to the Senator. Moreover, it warrants a longer conversation with their editorial staff and a deep study of Name It Change It.

Written by Imran Siddiquee at Follow him on Twitter @imransiddiquee