Commentary

Susan J. Demas: You can really just stop with your creepy fashion critiques of Whitmer

February 14, 2019 1:01 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gets ready to begin her first State of the State address with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist standing by | Casey Hull

A Detroit TV station decided that an insightful story to throw together on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first State of the State address was a roundup of social media randos commenting on the dress she wore — and even explicit assessments of her body parts.

The story features a dude on Facebook who lewdly congratulated the governor — who served 14 years in the Legislature, holds a law degree, and taught at the University of Michigan Ford School for Public Policy — for her “nice rack.”

Stay classy, guys.

Naturally, the FOX-2 story pretends to be somewhat high-minded with this lede: “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emphasized infrastructure, education and water in her first State of the State speech.” That’s a popular technique for outlets writing about sleazy subjects for clicks while still trying to maintain journalistic credibility.

The second sentence of the story gives away the game: “But the reaction to Whitmer’s address online, was more so, on her actual dress.” This is … not true. You had to really want to find those comments, which don’t pop up in a top search.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

And just about every journalist and politics nerd in the state (many with verified accounts) were furiously posting on social media about the policy and politics of the governor’s first speech to the Legislature.

This is par for the course for women in politics, of course. The endless, often creepy fascination, especially from conservative men, with freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — on everything from her outfits to her college dance moves — is just the latest example.

In case you’re wondering, nobody ever did stories about how nicely former Gov. Rick Snyder filled out his suit during his State of the State speeches.

I mean, in 2014, I wrote a column spoofing a 2014 campaign ad comparing Snyder to the perfect, no-frills wedding gown as sexist — which a reporter for the Daily Mail amusingly mistook for a serious critique (and later updated her story).

But nope, no one ever wrote a story about Rick Snyder’s pecs or abs, as far as I can recall.

Rick Snyder | Susan J. Demas

The Whitmer fashion story dutifully includes people who think it’s sexist and stupid. There’s even an expert opinion from a doctor for some reason. But that’s just a cover for the clickbait extravaganza complete with a guy who admiringly declares the governor was “showing off her cans.”

It’s about as transparent as can be.

This piece managed to be even more cringeworthy than the deeply researched story last summer by a former Metro Times reporter who catalogued random Twitter accounts upset that Whitmer cursed with her slogan, “Fix the damn roads.”

Truly, this is journalism at its finest.

And with a record number of women running for president next year, buckle up. It’s only gonna get worse.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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