The XX Factor

Why Do Conservatives Hate Stephanie Cutter?

Stephanie Cutter gives an interview.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Lest anyone forget for a moment the deeply weird psycho-sexual issues that are the engine that runs the conservative movement, I recommend reading Alex Seitz-Wald’s piece in Salon about how Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter has become an object of unhinged right wing rage.

There’s a plodding predictability to the whole hurricane of outsized anger at Cutter for having the nerve to exist. She’s an attractive woman who looks younger than her 44 years and who appears to believe that none of these attributes mean that she should be taken less seriously than a man in her position. As with Sandra Fluke and the poor woman who asked a question about equal pay at the last debate, it seems that being an attractive female with liberal opinions in your reproductive years who speaks in public makes you a target. 

Seitz-Wald quotes Rush Limbaugh, whose attacks on Cutter are pretty standard issue when it comes to his approach to any nice looking liberal woman with the audacity to flap her lips: assert repeatedly that said woman is only useful as a sex object, and angrily disavow the very idea that she might actually have some intelligence of her own.

Rush Limbaugh, meanwhile, has referred to Cutter with the brash mix of sexism and unrequited lust that only he can administer, alternately referring to her as “Obama’s chief campaign babe” or the “chief spokesbabe for Obama-Biden.” He’s also insulted her intelligence and suggested she’s just a pretty face for the campaign. “Stephanie Cutter is a puppet. The words in her mouth have been put there by Obama,” he said in July. More recently, his opinion of her seems to have soured: “The clueless and blind, lying hack, Stephanie Cutter. I don’t know how smart she is. I really don’t.”

Limbaugh tends to be the blunt instrument of the right, but as Seitz-Wald goes on to demonstrate, other conservative hacks press the same buttons in a slightly more subtle manner, simply by paying more attention to Cutter than her rank on Obama’s staff really justifies. Sean Hannity has been harping on Cutter for months, and ran a full segment on her recently, giving Cutter an implausible amount of credit for controlling the Obama campaign, characterizing her as, “the one person that can be credited for driving the hateful tone that has been spewing from team Obama.”

If conservative pundits don’t cut it out, they’ll soon find out that the era when pretty unmarried women were considered “girls”—expected to be quiet and let the adults do the talking—is waning rapidly. Over time, people are going to start noticing the correlation between the amount of hate aimed at a woman and her single, attractive status, and begin to piece it together. They may even start to notice the correlation between these misogynist feeding frenzies and support for anti-women policies, from restricting abortion rights to opposing equal pay legislation to watering down domestic violence protections. Considering how much of conservative politics is about establishing plausible deniability of prejudice, inviting the public to make these associations could be a serious problem, if it isn’t already.