Kellyanne Conway Loves To Play The Woman Card

Yael Kohen is a writer, editor, and author of We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy. The views expressed here are her own.

Donald Trump’s campaign manager is probably the last woman you’d expect to see calling a person out for sexist talk. But Kellyanne Conway has been doing just that — when she’s not defending her boss against his own allegations of misogyny, that is. Conway, the master of deflection, was at it again on Monday, going after The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor Bret Stephens on Twitter. It’s a rich accusation for a person who works for Trump, whose own track record in this regard lands him somewhere between Don Draper and Andrew Dice Clay on the misogyny spectrum. But even more ridiculous is the fact that Trump ran his campaign on the notion that we, as a nation, are too politically correct; that women and minorities who flag others for racist or sexist behavior are handmaidens of an overbearing, tyrannical PC culture that has subsumed our society. You can’t open your mouth without risking your jobs and livelihood because of political correctness, he railed. “I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either,” he said at a debate earlier this year. But Conway, it seems, has all the time in the world for it, liberally wielding allegations of sexism against those who might challenge her boss. She’s managed to appropriate the language of the left in defense of a boss who, in any other rational conversation, would prove indefensible. (If that’s not brilliant, what is?) The Stephens tweet isn’t the first time she’s accused her critics of gender bias. But given Conway’s laser-sharp smarts, alongside her boss’s now notorious statements about women — correction: about our parts — it’s obvious her accusations are part of her successful political jujitsu, a clever spin from an expert who knows how to throw her critics into a tizzy. Here are five astonishing examples of Conway’s almost surgical use of sexism as a way to neuter her foes. Gotta hand it to her — the lady has got some skills. 1. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor, Bret Stephens, published a tweet mocking Carly Fiorina for taking a meeting with Trump (“He called me ugly. He won. I kissed up. Carly Fiorina, setting a fine example for young women everywhere.”) Conway retweeted his message with a response: “This tweet is sexist & lacks the self-reflection of a NeverTrumper. But is it appropriate for an editorial writer at @WSJ?” In the tweet, she also mentioned Stephens' boss, Rupert Murdoch, founder of Fox News, which is currently embroiled in its own sexual harassment scandal. Was this her subtle way of reminding Stephens and his bosses that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? 2. In November, when Conway hit the cable news circuit in an effort to thwart Mitt Romney’s chances at becoming secretary of state, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe — surrounded by three male pundits and co-host Mika Brzezinski — reported that sources inside Trump’s team said the president-elect was “furious” that Conway had gone rogue. Not so, Conway texted him while the segment was on air. The report is “sexist,” she told Scarborough in the text. The put-down worked: The men stumbled while they tried to determine whether it, in fact, was. Jezebel took the bait in a post that declared “Panel of Men Rejects Kellyanne Conway’s Accusation of Sexism.” 3. When that infamous Access Hollywood tape was released in October, Conway hit the cable nets with an intriguing defense. She said to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, “I would talk to some of the members of Congress there when I was younger and prettier, them rubbing against girls, sticking their tongues down women’s throats who were uninvited.” Conway added, “And some of them, by the way, are on the list of people who won’t support Donald Trump because they all ride around on their high horse.” This was Conway’s way of brushing off the tape as the “locker-room” talk that the Trump campaign claimed it was, pointing out that the real Republicans condemning him are men who have behaved way worse. Who on the left wouldn’t eat that accusation up? 4. During the vice presidential debate in October, Conway took to Twitter to criticize Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick, Tim Kaine, for his aggressive performance against moderator Elaine Quijano. “How many times has @TimKaine ignored and interrupted the female moderator tonight? #sexist,” Conway tweeted. And she kept up that line of attack the next day when she made the cable news rounds to recap the debate: “I love using that word. It's the word that the left and the Democrats and Hillary Clinton folks love to employ against everyone who doesn't support her. If you don't support Hillary Clinton, you're a sexist,” she said on Fox & Friends, the Fox News show. “So, why in the world was her running mate interrupting and ignoring the female moderator, Asian-American female moderator by the way, completely? It was almost like it was a strategy. It was almost like he didn't hear her. And it came off terribly on TV.” In retrospect, this was a brilliant tack; her foes on the left were stymied. Meanwhile, the right had the ammo it needed to level what it argued was Clinton’s favorite weapon — the “woman card” — against her.
5. In September, BuzzFeed published an article poking holes into the popular opinion among political pundits at the time that Conway was some sort of “Trump-whisperer,” positing instead that she was there to make cable news rounds and put a female face on the woman-challenged campaign. Conway told The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, “I thought it was really sexist, and I’m not one to run around screaming about sexism,” she said. In the same New Yorker piece, Lizza asked Conway to comment on a tweet made by Mitt Romney strategist Stuart Stevens that said, “Saw last night why campaign managers focus on helping their candidates prepare for debates & don’t live on tv talking about debates.” Conway’s response? “For Stuart Stevens to say I, quote, live on TV? You know where I live? I live with four kids who need their mother, in a household that I run…This smacks of misogyny and sexism, to suggest that I can’t do the job of a campaign manager — I can only go on TV. How about if I could do all of the above?”

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