Hosts of ABC's The View chatted about Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina on Friday's show, but they didn't talk about her policies, nor her quest to support videos that allegedly back her anti-abortion platform. Instead, they joked about Fiorina's smile and said it makes her face look "demented." Host Joy Behar even suggested that it would make a "good Halloween mask." Instead of just calling out the sexist double standard, Fiorina said The View's hosts should "man up," because sexism is such a great response to sexism. (Not.)
Fiorina rightly said that the hosts should call her out on her policies instead of attacking her looks, which is a totally valid claim. I mean, who really stoops to attacking a candidate's looks in a presidential campaign? Other than Trump? But Fiorina didn't stop when she was ahead.
"If you want to debate me on policies — the Obama administration for example has been bad for women, Planned Parenthood is harvesting baby parts — if you don’t like those facts and those messages, man up and debate me on them," Fiorina said on "Fox and Friends," according to Talking Points Memo. "But don't sink to talking about my face."
Her argument was great until she used the phrase "man up," which, in this case, implies that men have superior reasoning skills and women should get on their level. The phrase "man up" is one of many sexist, gendered terms used to imply that being feminine is weak, while being masculine — "manning up" when life is tough or you're struggling emotionally — is how you get ahead. This kind of language, which also includes phrases like "don't be a pussy," or "don't be a little girl about it," helps perpetuate gender inequality.
As a woman who has experienced gender discrimination in her business career, you'd think Fiorina would avoid that kind of language. Or, as the only woman in the Republican field and one of only two women running for president, you would think she'd want to empower women a bit more, rather than use phrases that tell them that masculinity is superiority. As a woman running for president — or, as a woman doing anything, really — it's troubling that Fiorina thought that language was acceptable. Her use of "man up" indicates that she may not be as committed to gender equality as she has claimed.
Words have consequences. And, as statistics on crimes against women show, when the meaning of certain words is reinforced, words are often turned into actions. The First Amendment gives Americans the right to use sexist phrases that contribute to misogyny, but it doesn't give an excuse for the way that speech could be perpetuating said misogyny and its effects.
This isn't that surprising, since Fiorina often blankets "liberal feminists" as a group of people who attack the messenger and not the message (engaging in blanket statements that are a similar argumentative flaw she criticized The View hosts for). During a campaign speech in June, she said she would redefine feminism to mean "a woman who lives the life she chooses," according to TIME. But Fiorina's feminism doesn't include women who want abortions or equal pay.
Now, Fiorina's use of "man up" shows that her feminism is some type of masculine feminism, where women shouldn't complain about access to healthcare or the gender wage gap. Under Fiorina's feminism, "liberal women" just need to "man up" and get over it, and that's pretty troubling.