In general, politicians seem to love to talk. Unfortunately, one of their favorite topics seems to continue to be women's bodies, as we learned during the 2016 presidential election. Judge a female political candidate on her merits and qualifications? Why go to the trouble when you can judge her on her physical appearance? Yes, sexism is sadly alive and well in American politics as evidenced by these sexist comments about women's bodies from politicians.
Whether they're looking to regulate them, understand them, or simply scrutinize them, politicians often make some truly confounding statements about women's bodies, especially when it comes to the issues of rape and abortion. Yet, as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand pointed out in an interview with People magazine in 2014, it isn't just what male politicians say about women that can be problematic. Sometimes the issue is what they're saying to women.
For instance, Gillibrand claimed multiple male colleagues felt entitled to comment openly on her body. "Good thing you're working out, because you wouldn't want to get porky," one congressman reportedly told her in a cringe-worthy moment at the gym. "Don't lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby," another said after noticing she'd lost 50 pounds.
If you're still unconvinced, peep these 13 shockingly sexist things politicians have said about women's bodies:
1. Donald Trump On Megyn Kelly
In an interview with CNN in August 2015, President Donald Trump implied journalist Megyn Kelly had thrown tough questions at him while moderating a Republican presidential debate because she was menstruating.
"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever," Trump said.
2. Mike Pence On Women In The Military
Reminder of the time Mike Pence wrote about being victimized by the movie "Mulan" pic.twitter.com/WYDctwCKab— Stephen Elliott (@ElliottStephenB) March 1, 2017
In 1999, Vice President Mike Pence published a column he'd written on a website promoting a radio show he ran at the time. In the column Pence argued women in military combat roles was a "bad idea" and claimed Disney's Mulan, which had been recently released in theaters, was liberal propaganda intended to "cause a quiet change in the next generation’s attitude about women in combat." While Pence didn't appear to have any trouble believing a woman in the military would fall in love with her superior officer, he did have trouble believing that a woman, with all "her delicate features," could experience the same "military success" her male colleagues enjoyed.
"Despite her delicate features and voice, Disney expects us to believe that Mulan's ingenuity and courage were enough to carry her to military success on an equal basis with her cloddish cohorts," Pence wrote.
3. Ben Carson On Reeducating Women
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said women needed to be reeducated about the issue of abortion and their role in giving birth while speaking at the Values Voter Summit in 2013.
"There are those of us in this society who have told women that there's a war on them because that cute little baby inside of them," Carson said. "There is no war on them, the war is on their babies. ... What we need to do is reeducate the women to understand that they are the defenders of these babies."
4. Louisiana State Rep. Kenny Havard
In May 2016, the Louisiana House took up debate on a bill requiring strippers in the state to be 21 years or older. In what he later claimed was a joke, State Rep. Kenny Havard proposed adding an amendment to the bill that would require strippers to also be no older than 28 and no heavier than 160 pounds because, as everyone (with antiquated sexist ideas) knows, women just aren't attractive once they've passed either number.
"[Strippers shall be] no more than 28 years of age and no more than 160 pounds."
5. Donald Trump On Heidi Klum
While campaigning ahead of the Republican primary, Trump appeared to randomly rate then-42-year-old supermodel Heidi Klum's physical attractiveness during an interview with the New York Times.
"Heidi Klum. Sadly, she's no longer a 10," Trump said.
6. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell
While stumping for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in May 2016, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell attempted to argue that Trump's sexist attitude would lose him voters. The problem? Gov. Rendell used the sexist argument that a woman's appearance somehow influences how she votes or responds to sexist attitudes in trying to get his point across.
"Will [Trump] have some appeal to working-class Dems in Levittown or Bristol? Sure," Rendell said. "For every one he'll lose one and a half, two Republican women. Trump's comments like, 'You can't be a 10 if you're flat-chested,' that'll come back to haunt him. There are probably more ugly women in America than attractive women. People take that stuff personally."
7. Sen. Bill Kintner On Women's March Participants
"After yrs of complaints re his behavior in office, BillKintner was undone by a tweet." This is v encouraging that U can B undone by a tweet— Margo Howard (@Margoandhow) January 26, 2017
In January, millions of women and men in cities across the country marched in support of women's rights and the rights of other marginalized groups. In response, Nebraska state Sen. Bill Kintner retweeted a picture of three female demonstrators holding signs referencing Trump's p---y-grabbing remark along with a caption, that appeared to imply the women were not attractive enough to be sexually assaulted. Kintner has since resigned and the tweet has since been deleted.
"Ladies, I think you're safe," Kintner's tweet read.
8. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn On Breast Implants
During a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to discuss legislation aimed at restricting class-action lawsuits in 2005, Sen. Tom Coburn claimed women with breast implants were healthier than those without.
"I thought I would just share with you what science says today about silicone breast implants," Coburn said. "If you have them, you're healthier than if you don't. That is what the ultimate science shows. ... In fact, there's no science that shows that silicone breast implants are detrimental and, in fact, they make you healthier."
9. Idaho Sen. Chuck Winder On False Rape Claims
Idaho Sen. Chuck Winder (R) (surprise, surprise) worries that women will claim rape to go abortion-crazy just to get abortions. Oh Really?— Judee Flick (@judeeflick) August 23, 2012
In 2012, Idaho Sen. Chuck Winder claimed women falsely claim to have been raped in order to get abortions while arguing his mandatory ultrasound bill before the Idaho Senate. He isn't the first — or last — male politician to imply women who make accusations of rape or sexual assault shouldn't be believed.
"I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape," Winder said.
10. Harry Reid On Sen. Kristen Gillibrand
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dropped this poorly-thought-out joke in 2010 after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was ranked third on the Hill's list of "the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill." While Sen. Gillibrand said she wasn't offended, the comment still reeked of sexism in that it implied Gillibrand was known purely for her looks and not her work.
"Many senators are known for many things," Reid said. "We in the Senate refer to Sen. Gillibrand as the hottest member."
11. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner On Michelle Obama's Butt
In 2011, Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner reportedly brought up the size of then-First Lady Michelle Obama's butt while speaking out against her healthy eating and physical fitness initiatives.
"She lectures us on eating right while, she has a large posterior herself," Sensenbrenner is reported to have said.
12. Donald Trump On Carly Fiorina
Although presidential elections are not beauty pageants, Trump reportedly commented on the face of his Republican rival former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina while speaking to a reporter from Rolling Stone in 2015.
"Look at that face," Trump said. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really folks, come on. Are we serious?"
13. Poland's Janusz Korwin-Mikke On Physical Inferiority
Proving that it's not only American politicians who make sexist comments about women's bodies, conservative Polish politician Janusz Korwin-Mikke attempted to argue earlier this year that women don't deserve equal pay because physically they are smaller, "weaker," and "less intelligent." Unsurprisingly, he is also on the record as having said the right to vote should be taken from women.
"Women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent," he said.
While this list is centered on shockingly sexist things politicians have said about women's bodies, I'd like to draw your attention to a few honorable mentions. These remarks don't qualify as shockingly sexist per se, but they are still shockingly stupid.
- "If an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious ... a prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape, theoretically. That makes sense in a first date scenario, but to me, not where people have a history of years of sexual activity."
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing about a sexual assault consent bill in 2015, Utah state Rep. Brian Greene questioned if sex with your unconscious wife really equated to rape. He later apologized and said his intentions had been misinterpreted and he was always opposed rape.
- "In the emergency room they have what's called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out."
Sometimes women say dumb things about their own bodies, as was the case in 2013 with Texas Rep. Jodie Laudenberg. When some state legislatures moved to add an amendment exempting cases of rape and incest to a bill banning abortion at 20 weeks, Laudenberg argued such an amendment was unnecessary and falsely compared a rape kit to an abortion. In actuality a rape kit is a package of tools medical personnel use to collect and preserve DNA evidence.
- "It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy resulting from rape is] really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Todd Akin's comments about legitimate rape are infamous. He dropped the line during an interview with a St. Louis TV station in 2012.
- "The facts show that people who are raped - who are truly raped - the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work and they don't get pregnant."
Akin isn't the only politician to imply that a woman's body would prevent them from getting pregnant if the rape was "real." In 1995, then 71-year-old Rep. Aldridge told a House Appropriations Committee debating legislation eliminating a North Carolina state abortion fund for low-income women that a woman who is "truly raped" would not get pregnant.
Whether shockingly sexist or shockingly stupid, politicians often make disturbing comments about women and their bodies. Which makes one wonder how men (and women) who seem to be so completely clueless about women even become elected officials in the first place.