Update: Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned.
Here’s a quick thought experiment for you regular news consumers: Think about all the stories you read or hear in a given day from the world of politics. Now think of how many of those stories are about something going terribly wrong. Then, see if you can identify the people in those stories who are responsible for, or at least contributed to, the screw-up that is the very reason that story exists. Next, determine if you can observe a trend when it comes to the gender of those people. Finally, because undoubtedly the gender of most of those people will be male, try to find a discussion on a major news station or website that homes in on maleness as having possibly contributed to that problem.
And you were doing so well until that last challenge. The reason why you couldn’t locate a conversation about whether men — in their capacity as belonging to the male gender — are unfit to have the positions they hold in government, in the business world, and elsewhere, is because that conversation simply doesn’t exist. A man in a position of power is considered the default, and if he screws up, the reason for it will be anything but the fact that he is a man.
Now, if you had been trying to look for that same conversation, but one that’s about a woman, you would need to look no further than Wednesday’s Morning Joe on MSNBC.
Speaking about the recent security breach at the White House, where a man was able to hop the gate and make it all the way into the East Room of the president’s residence, the Morning Joe crew had some unique — which is to say, poor — insights on what might explain the Secret Service’s security lapse, and it starts with the fact that the director is a woman, Julia Pierson, who took over after the agency’s infamous prostitution scandal in Colombia in 2012:
Donny Deutsch: This is a delicate subject. We need to be careful, though, that we are never ever throwing the baby out with the bath water as far as, the best person always has to get the job. As we go through her resume, you go, obviously, coming off the prostitute scandal, okay, yeah, woman on top, good for the “brand,” if you will. But the brand doesn’t work if it’s not competent. In positions of national security, quota second, competency first. It’s a delicate subject, but we’ve gotta talk about it.
Joe Scarborough: While we go on this delicate subject, let’s talk about the woman who was standing in the White House that got overpowered by this guy. Now, if a woman six foot four can tackle a big guy or a big woman that’s intruding, that’s one thing. But we can’t have people standing between the president of the United States and a terrorist that can get knocked down for political–and is there for politically correct reasons. And I understand what you’re saying and I understand what Donny’s saying. After the prostitute scandal, somebody thought, hey, you know what, it would be really good for the Secret Service brand to have a woman running the place. Maybe she’s still there because of that. I don’t know.
Even if Donny Deutsch hadn’t weirdly used the phrase, “woman on top” in such a context, the exchange is still cringe-worthy. Both Deutsch and Scarborough mention the Secret Service’s prostitution scandal in which several male agents were implicated, yet oddly, neither ever pinned the culpability for that fiasco on the maleness of then director Mark J. Sullivan.
This isn’t the first time the White House has been breached, but it does appear to be the first time where the gender of the Secret Service director has factored into a discussion about concerns over a possible “quota” allegedly being responsible for the fact that a woman is currently in charge. That’s because Pierson is the first woman to head up this organization which, again, has failed to stop breaches before. And yet, after none of those other White House security lapses did the Secret Service director resign.
Scarborough: Obviously, she needs to go.
That’s because guys like Deutsch and Scarborough seem fully willing to assume or at least speculate that if a woman holds a high-ranking position, then there’s a good chance she’s there for politically correct reasons, whereas if a man holds such a position, then hey, he’s got a penis, right?
While it might be tempting to blame the sexism of Morning Joe on the maleness of Joe Scarborough and Donny Deutsch, that would be stooping to their level. Besides, the real explanation is much simpler than that: the sexism of Joe Scarborough and Donny Deutsch.