If anyone needed more confirmation that the United States in 2017 is as backward as ever, take a look at this. On Tuesday evening, during a CNN panel, former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said Sen. Kamala Harris was "hysterical" during the Jeff Sessions hearings. Harris, the former California attorney general and district attorney of San Francisco, grilled the attorney general during his hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It seems that many a white man did not like that.
Harris was shut down by Republican senators during both the Comey and Sessions hearings, despite her questions being no different than her male counterparts'. Miller seemed not to recognize that, saying that she "shouted" at Sessions and that she "talked over" him. "I think she was hysterical," he said to the CNN panel of five men and two women.
But Kirsten Powers, a CNN political analyst, didn't let that slide by, insisting that Miller explain himself. Powers said she didn't understand his statement, and Harris was asking tough questions, how was that hysterical?
"From my perspective, my, I would say objective, perspective, I mean it was — it didn't seem like there was any effort to try to get to a real question or get to the bottom of it," he said. "She was purely out there to shout down."
Fortunately, Powers explicitly pointed out the double standard, saying that Sen. Ron Wyden's questioning of Sessions was far, the most aggressive of the questioning. She even clarified that Miller thought Wyden "wasn't hysterical and [Harris] was." Miller didn't buy into her criticism, giving her placid looks.
Jeffery Lord, another CNN panelist, tried to back Miller up by saying that hysteria was gender neutral. "And yet, it's just women that are usually called hysterical," said Powers, adding with a smile, "I'm hysterical right now, for example."
Powers is right about the gendered usage of the word. Not only was "hysterical" used widely in the 18th and 19th centuries to describe women, but the word itself has Greek roots from a word meaning "womb." Ah, yes. Mansplaining at its finest! Thanks, Jeffery Lord!
Miller's comments weren't said in a vacuum. It seems clear why Harris is targeted by these men: she is both Black and a woman, and her colleagues' "criticism" of her is couched in misogynoir, the interplay between racism and sexism.
Saying Harris was "hysterical" is a classic use of the "angry Black women" trope that's used to dehumanize Black people, especially women, and remove legitimacy from them. What's worse, Harris wasn't even displaying anger; she was just doing her job — and doing it well.