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The Internalized Misogyny of Sarah Sanders

Sarah Sanders and Nancy Pelosi

The White House press secretary told Nancy Pelosi she should "smile" more. It's just one more in a long line of sexist defenses she's delivered for her boss. 

During Tuesday's State of the Union address, several Democratic lawmakers watched stone-faced as Donald Trump touted the Second Amendment, spoke of protecting religious liberty to the detriment of LGBT people, painted undocumented immigrants as murderers, and praised his administration for ending the war on "clean coal" (an oxymoron if ever there were one).

But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders's takeaway from those who didn't agree with Trump was to invoke the sexist suggestion women have been subjected to for ages and suggest that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "should smile" more.

Trump's apologetic mouthpiece appeared on CNN with Chris Cuomo shortly after the State of the Union, where she took the opportunity to add another quip to her growing list of statements that telegraph her deeply internalized misogyny. Referring to Pelosi's less than enthusiastic expression, Cuomo said, "I've never seen Nancy Pelosi's face like that."

That's when Sanders took the opportunity to bash Pelosi in terms that reek of sexism.

"I'm going to be a little bit in disagreement with you. I think Nancy Pelosi looks like that all the time. I think she should smile a lot more often, I think the country would be better for it, she seems to kind of embody the bitterness that belongs in the Democratic party right now," said Sanders, practically implying that Pelosi has "resting bitch face," while also tossing in "bitter," another dog-whistle term often used to belittle older, single, or childless women.

Considering Sanders's history of tone-deaf comments in defense of a man who boasted about having committed sexual assault, it's not surprising that she would implore Pelosi to "smile more," something too many women have heard throughout their lives while merely trying to walk down the street, ride public transportation, use a machine at the gym, and so on.

A few of Sanders's greatest hits include her defense when Trump called Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" while at an event ostensibly to honor Navajo code talkers" He spewed a racial term, but Sanders suggested that Warren, a woman, must have somehow cheated to get her position in the Senate.

"I think what most people find offensive is Sen. Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career," Sanders said, deflecting away from Trump's racism with her own brand of sexism.

Less than six months into his reign, Trump attacked Morning Joe cohost Mika Brzezinski's looks with a disgusting tweet that read, "I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

When a reporter asked, "How do you feel about the president attacking another woman specifically for her looks, and what does that show as an example to how men should be treating other women?" Sanders implied that Trump's response was manly.

"I don't think you can expect someone to be personally attacked day after day, minute by minute, and sit back. When the president gets hit, he's going to hit back harder," Sanders said. "The American people elected a fighter; they didn't elect somebody to sit back and do nothing. They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump," although she failed to mention whether or not the 3 million more Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton knew what they were getting.

Worse though, Sanders did actually bring up her gender in regard to the Brzezinski melee, but it was no way in solidarity with women.

"Everybody wants to make this an attack on a woman. I'm a woman, and I've been attacked by this show [Morning Joe] multiple times, but I don't cry foul because of it," Sanders said, implying that women who are publicly criticized shouldn't speak up or complain (but it's OK if men fight back, clearly).

One of Sanders's most audacious defenses of Trump came in November amid the deluge of allegations felling sexual predators across industries when several of Trump's accusers spoke out (there are 11 women in total).

Responding to the sexual abuse allegations that had resurfaced about Trump, he deflected with his hackneyed "fake news" defense.

"All I can say is it's totally fake news. It's just fake. It's fake. It's made-up stuff, and it's disgraceful what happens, but that happens in the world of politics," Trump said.

In a press conference with Sanders, a reporter said, "Last week, during a press conference in the Rose Garden, the president called these accusations 'fake news.' Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?"

"Yeah, we've been clear on that from the beginning and the president's spoken on it," Sanders replied.

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