Sen. Kamala Harris went into the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on June 13 with a list of hard-hitting questions for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Though Time did what he could to evade them, Harris was bird-dog in her pursuit of the truth.
Anyone who tuned in to CNN afterward that night for coverage of the hearing examined a somewhat different analysis, including one word including with regard to that stood out: hysterical .
USA Today’s Kirsten Powers took issue with onetime Trump advisor Jason Miller’s description of Harris’s behavior and asked him to explain why he remembered Harris was being any more “hysterical” than her male counterparts.
“I think calling her frantic is probably a little gendered, ” Powers told him, when he couldn’t give an explanation.
Before Powers had even finished her announcement, panelist Jeffrey Lord interrupted to contend “hysteria is a neutral quality.”
“It’s exactly women who are usually announced frantic, ” Powers reacted.
And she’s right.
As a hypothesi, “hysteria” can be traced back to an ancient Greek notion that connects excessive emotion to the uterus. Seriously.
British intellectual Helen King traces the word back to Hippocrates. While that usage faded, “hysteria” reverted during the Victorian period and has been used as an excuse to dismiss maids as being uncontrollable, mindless packets of passion ever since. And although associated with witch trials and the anti-suffragist campaign, hysteria likewise facilitated lead to the ability of the vibrator so, silver linings, I suppose.
And while it’s no longer solely used to describe women, a simple keyword pursuit on Google Books of all English journals produced between 1800 and 2000 indicate the descriptor is applied to women on a something much regular basis than humanities.
Add in the fact that there’s no conclusive evidence that brides are any more “emotional” than gentlemen, and you recognize where the problem is with singling Harris out specifically as being the “hysterical” one in that hearing.
In the context of the hearing, if you were to description anyone “hysterical, ” the most appropriate recipient would probably be a visibly flustered Sessions, who at one point talked about how Harris’ cross-examines did him appear hesitant.
Too often, “hysteria” is still used to reject strong women around minds and drive.
In Miller’s case, whatever level he had in an attempt to dismiss Harris’ questioning was yielded moot by a sloppy pick of words that manifested his own sexism. He might claim that his attitude was “objective” in ways that Kirsten Powers’ analysis wasn’t( the suggest being that Powers isn’t capable of watching happens rationally ), but the moment he announced Harris “hysterical, ” he exposed his own subconscious panic of and slant against strong and opinionated women.