Social media has revealed politicians in a way we couldn’t have imagined before.
A few months ago, I reached out to Jean Evans, executive director of the Missouri GOP, because I was working on a story about harassment faced by women in public office. I had talked to several Democratic elected women, and wanted to include an equal number of Republican women. I didn’t hear back from Evans at first, but she eventually said she was very busy two weeks before an election.
I had contacted 10 different Republican elected women, but none replied. After the story ran, Rep. Chrissy Sommer of the Missouri House said she had left me a voicemail. When I checked, I found her missed voicemail. I apologized, and offered to write a follow-up column with her perspective, since no Republicans had replied. She said she had not experienced any intimidation or harassment in office, and politely declined.
Weeks later, however, Evans shared on Twitter the real reason for their silence.
“You have openly expressed disdain with everyone on the right without an ounce of objectivity,” tweeted Evans. “Every single female with whom I shared your request said ‘No Way’. #ZeroCredibility”
It’s Evans’ prerogative not to want to talk to me because she disagrees with my views. I have, however, repeatedly applauded those on the right who have pushed back against the worst actions of the current administration. Perhaps those conservatives don’t count as “on the right” to the executive director of Missouri’s GOP.
I was surprised a few weeks later to see another tweet directed at me, this time from the official Missouri GOP account. (The account’s bio doesn’t reveal who runs it.)
The tweet read: “What happens when the beauty editor attempts to do politics? Hint: It ain’t pretty.”
It included an emoji of a fingernail being polished and referenced this tweet I had posted: “That the President of the United States keeps trying to illegally overturn an election to stay in power ought to be the lead story in every paper, every newscast and the main topic of conversation on every news program. That it isn’t shows just how low he’s dragged us.”
If Missouri’s GOP had a problem with this point, I wonder why didn’t they respond to that instead of dragging beauty editors. Maybe they thought calling me a beauty editor was a snarky way of diminishing my work or opinion. Unfortunately, they misjudged how much I value the work of beauty editors.
I have an amateur interest in all manner of beauty. I have written about mascaras, red lipsticks and questionable skin treatments. In a future story, I plan to share the travails of lightening my hair for the first time during the pandemic.
Beauty, in all its forms, enriches our lives. Social commentaries on what and whom we consider beautiful, and how we strive for beauty, are also political observations. Who and what we choose to diminish reveals who and what we consider worthy of public discourse.
Interestingly, the Missouri GOP tweeted its swipe at beauty editors around the same time a man wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal advising incoming first lady Jill Biden to drop the title “Dr.” He wrote that it felt “fraudulent and a touch comic” since she only had a doctorate in education. (The writer has never earned a doctorate in any field of study.)
It would, in fact, be fraudulent and a touch comic to describe me as a beauty editor. A Google search, or even a glance at my Twitter bio, would reveal that it’s not my job. I tend to write more often about the ways in which the political is personal: how education, health care, racial injustice, gun violence and immigration affect ordinary people’s everyday lives.
If someone wants to talk about these issues, I’m interested in what they have to say -- whether the person is a stay-at-home mom, bartender, farmer or beauty editor.
In fact, I’d love to hear beauty editors’ thoughts on the Missouri GOP’s attempt to “do politics” by using their profession as a smear.
If you ask me, it ain’t pretty.