Michelle Wolf’s caustic speech saw some members of the audience boo and walk out.
If you haven’t yet seen comedian Michelle Wolf’s blistering set at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, then get thee to a quiet corner and settle in for twenty minutes of brilliance.
In what can only be described as an epic display of chutzpah, Wolf eviscerated members of the Trump administration, some of whom were sitting mere feet away from her. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump didn’t show up for the second year running, because the leader of the free world can't properly come to terms with people making jokes about him. Or, as Wolf put it, “I would drag him here myself, but it turns out that the President of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab.”
It was the first in a long line of brazen jokes at the expense of those complicit in the trash fire that is the Trump administration. Wolf revealed she was 32 years old, and observed she was “10 years too young to host this event, and 20 years too old for Roy Moore.”
She went right to the very edge with a joke about abortion, and then gloated that “it’s 2018 and I’m a woman, so you cannot shut me up – unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.”
She criticised Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump but strangely, the most controversial joke of the night seems to have been one about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ “perfect smoky eye”. Wolf set it up brilliantly, telling Sanders (who remained sitting next to her on the head table for the duration), “I loved you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.”
She then quipped, “I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
Sarah Sanders Huckabee was stony-faced as she was mocked by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents\’ dinner.
The fallout since has not been about whether or not Wolf made light of abortion or unashamedly called the President a pussy, both of which would normally peak the ire of conservatives. No, instead she’s facing the ludicrous accusation that she disparaged Sanders’ appearance.
Conservative journalist Mika Brzezinski tweeted, “Watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable.”
Maggie Haberman from the New York Times tweeted, “That [Sanders] sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.”
Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, called it a “disgrace”.
This revisionism is frustrating. The Trump administration (and its legion of frothing supporters) love to scream FAKE NEWS and SNOWFLAKE, but when it suits them to retcon facts to indulge their own naked oversensitivity, they grab it with all the enthusiasm of a…well, you know what.
Wolf didn’t comment negatively on Sanders’ looks at that dinner. That’s a fact. The reference to The Handmaid’s Tale has nothing to do with aesthetics and everything to do with how the terrifying Aunt Lydia represents the female enforcers of male rule in order to carve out some small corner of power within it. (Also, Ann Dowd – the actor who portrays Aunt Lydia in the TV series – isn’t ugly. I will grant that she’s old, and conservatives often confuse those things for being the same.)
In fact, what really grates here is the abject hypocrisy once again shown when people (but especially women) behave in ways that conservatives reserve as only acceptable for them. As New Yorker writer Emily Nussbaum tweeted, “The more I think about it, the more impressed I am that Michelle Wolf did such a harsh act WITHOUT insulting any woman's looks. She aimed straight at the white female enforcers & never once suggested that anyone was a bimbo or a dog—like the man they work for surely would have.”
It’s enraging to see the same people who otherwise gleefully reduce women to their looks or have even cheered on as Trump and his ilk routinely degrade and sexualise women suddenly pretend that they find such things deplorable. It calls to mind the false outrage directed at mouthy feminists by people who otherwise scream about free speech and ‘political correctness’.
In the last week, the comedian Catherine Deveny has fielded thousands of death and rape threats online simply because she said some things about ANZAC day that people found offensive. After her address was posted online, white nationalists turned up at her house with the intention of harassing her on film. Their supporters jeered that “it’s not illegal to knock on someone's door!” When they discovered she was in the process of reporting the harassment to police, they called her a “typical feminazi” and a “pussy” – because apparently women are supposed to just take it when strange men turn up to their house with the intention of abusing them.
Can you imagine the reaction if I were to turn up to some bloke’s house armed with a camera, harass his teenage child and release his address to the public? I'm called a bully when I post screenshots of the comments men have said to me.
This extends beyond the public though. News Ltd has run headlines such as ‘It’s Hard to Tell What’s Real and What’s Satire on Feminist Websites’, and 'Roseanne Returns and Snooty Feminists Should Be Scared', even as they continue to publish the views of “controversial” men like Milo Yiannopoulos (who had a book contract terminated because he defended paedophilia).
When women (and especially women of colour – see Yassmin Abdel Magied and Tarneen Onus-Williams) challenge the status quo, the public is unrelenting in their quest to destroy every last avenue for their livelihoods, not to mention bombarding them with thousands and thousands of personally abusive comments and threats. But when men and their female footsoldiers use misogyny to enforce the status quo, it's all Voltaire this and Voltaire that and “they have a right to speak their opinion!”
Wolf delivered a brilliant performance, but the biggest joke of the night was undoubtedly the pearl clutching that came afterwards from people otherwise committed to excusing sexism at every turn. The comedian Dana Goldman nailed it when she tweeted, “People who supported a pedophile in Alabama, a sexual predator in the White House, a VP who jokes about hanging gays, apparently draw the line when Michelle Wolf jokes about eye shadow. And they call us snowflakes. #WHCD”
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