Former Governor Ed Rendell made a statement to the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel that he probably wishes he could rephrase or just retract. Speaking of Donald Trump’s appeal in suburban Pennsylvania, Rendell made a rather awkward point about Trump’s lack of appeal to women:
“Will he have some appeal to working-class Dems in Levittown or Bristol? Sure,” said Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor and Philadelphia mayor, who won landslides in the suburbs. “For every one he’ll lose 1½ , two Republican women. Trump’s comments like ‘You can’t be a 10 if you’re flat-chested,’ that’ll come back to haunt him. There are probably more ugly women in America than attractive women. People take that stuff personally.”
There are a few different ways to look at this. Dave Weigel, who had the conversation with Rendell last Friday, said it was obviously intended as snark:
Rendell was being snarky. He quoted one of Trump’s remarks on female hotness then made that joke. https://t.co/ica6Bf8rCG
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) May 18, 2016
I’ll take Dave’s word for that but it doesn’t change the fact that the joke is arguably as bad as the thing it was meant to mock. Granted, “you can’t be a 10 if you’re flat-chested” is the kind of thing you might hear in a high school locker room. It’s understandably offensive to a lot of women who don’t appreciate being reduced to a number based on secondary sexual characteristics. Even the crass teen boy who might say something like this in private with his male friends is savvy enough to understand it would not go over well in a discussion with members of the opposite sex.
But keep in mind Trump made his comment on the Howard Stern show where immature locker room talk is the coin of the realm. One can certainly argue that Trump was a fool to participate in such talk or to go on the show at all, but Howard Stern has been milking this shtick for a long time. Apparently there is a (fairly profitable) place for it on America’s airwaves, in bookstores and in theaters.
In contrast, Rendell’s comment about “ugly women” was made to a newspaper reporter in a setting that wasn’t part of a broad comedy show. And while it may have been a joke but it’s a joke whose premise still divides women into the same two camps as Trump’s comments, attractive and ugly.
Maybe the real problem here is that snark and off-color humor are increasingly off limits in our safe-space, microagression-sensitive society. Isn’t that one of the things that people like about Trump? For good and ill, he often doesn’t seem to care. After this offhand joke about “ugly women” becomes national news, maybe even Ed Rendell will feel a bit differently about people taking offense at everything whether or not any genuine offense was intended.