‘The Young Turks’ Ana Kasparian Says Sexism Toward Smart Women Is What Makes Her A Feminist

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We talk a lot about sexism and the unequal treatment of women in film on television and in industries like technology and politics. We don’t necessarily focus on a lot of news media stories, and it’s about time we do that because we can find multiple instances of women being shamed, shut down and mis-characterized simple because of their gender.

Most of us are familiar with Kentucky Senator and 2016 US Presidential hopeful Rand Paul “shushing” CNBC host Kelly Evans during an interview back in February, then laying on the sass with ‘Today’ host Savannah Guthrie in April.

But he is just one person in a string of examples where women in news media, hired for their expertise, experience and intelligence, ridiculed for things such as their appearance and their gender, that male news readers would never be subjected to. Remember Donald Trump accusing Fox host Megyn Kelly of being on her period simply because she asked some tough questions during a presidential debate?

It’s no wonder that a recent study undertaken by the University at Buffalo, California Lutheran University and the University of Texas at Austin found that men may like the idea of a smart woman, but when push comes to shove, they wouldn’t want to date one. While this article isn’t about dating, this study is indicative of a greater problem in society that rears its ugly head when smart women speak up.

You may already be a fan of online millennial political news show ‘The Young Turks‘ which is the largest online news show in the world. They are a multi-channel network with a number of online channels which cover topics such as politics, sports and pop culture. It is essentially a progressive millennial news channel that is what the future of news media is going to look like more and more.

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One of the reporters, Ana Kasparian, has been with the network for many years, long before it had the money and exposure it does today. She is one of the few long-standing female voices on the network, but that position doesn’t come without its own type of scrutiny and criticism. And if you think the criticism is all healthy and above board, you’d be wrong!

Although she has a masters in political science and is an educator at CSU Northridge in California, she sadly fields a lot of sexism in her line of work, especially because she has the intelligence and the guts to talk about controversial topics such as domestic violence, and share her opinions based on fact, which some do not take too kindly to.

In a recent interview with Bustle, she talks openly about some of the major news stories that she has reported on or been a part of reporting, and the reaction to which has solidified why feminism is important to her.

In one instance, she and her co-host (TYT founder Cenk Uygur) interviewed a conservative radio host and right-wing Pastor James David Manning about his views on same sex marriage. After Ana called him ignorant on TYT, James went on a rant about her on his own show, claiming she was a “twit” and that her only contribution to TYT was her boobs, not her brains.

Not one to be shamed for her appearance or gender, Ana decided to record a response on her show ‘The Point’ where she pointed out that she is extremely qualified to be on TYT and it has nothing to do with her chest size. She talked about having a masters degree in political science, being the daughter of two immigrants, and also calling him out on his double standards that he did not make fun of her co-host Cenk at all, but because she is a woman, she was fair game. Watch her epic response:

Ana told Bustle the way she was treated is evident of a wider sexist problem we have in the media and in society, that no matter how smart women are, if they happen to be attractive, it is seen a threatening to some men.

“Even today, a lot of the comments that I get that are well-intentioned usually say something like, ‘Oh my God, she’s so rare. She’s hot and smart’. And I think that’s a ridiculous statement to make, even if they mean well, because there are plenty of attractive, intelligent women out there. I don’t know why those two things are considered to be mutually exclusive,” she said.

It’s this type of treatment that has enabled Ana to develop an argument-oriented feminism over time, in order to show critics and viewers that her opinions come from an informed place. While this should be standard fare for any journalist or commentator, it comes across as women like Ana having to use this as a “defense” for why they are even speaking out, something which we don’t often see men wrestling with.

“There’s this push back against women who get a little too vocal, who get a little too passionate when they’re making their arguments. If I make my arguments passionately, it’s never considered passionate, it’s usually just considered emotional. Whereas, if my co-host Cenk makes his arguments passionately, well then it’s just passion. No one says, ‘Oh, he’s being emotional.’ So, those are the types of weird stereotypes that we need to fight back against, because it didn’t deter me from doing what I’m doing, but I’m sure it’s deterred a lot of other women from doing what they’re doing,” she said.

One of the controversial topics she has discussed on air is domestic violence, specifically the Chris Brown/Rihanna case from 2009, and the NFL domestic violence problem highlighted by the Ray Rice incident from 2014. After sharing her opinions on these incidents as well as the problem of domestic violence, Ana says she was shocked at how many people came to the defense of both Ray Rice and Chris Brown publicly. Some said that because Ray Rice’s wife hit him first, he was “entitled” to hit her back, but she didn’t agree, saying their obvious size difference and physical disparity should come into play. It made her realize the wider problem in society about how these issues are viewed.

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“It’s hard to cover those stories because it kind of reveals that there are people out there who have extreme views on issues like rape and domestic violence, and it’s bothersome — to say the least,” she said. No kidding!

Ana also did not hold back on sharing her views about porn, sexuality and feminism. When she was in college one of her male feminist friends used to get mad at her for wearing heels, s if she was somehow betraying the feminist movement for daring to care about her appearance. She believes this is an indication of big problem within feminism today where some people think there is only one way to be a feminist.

“I was like, it’s none of your freaking business whether I wear heels or not. I do it because it makes me feel powerful and it makes me feel sexy. And he was like, ‘No, you’ve been brainwashed into thinking that it makes you powerful and it makes you sexy.’ So it was this weird situation where a guy who identifies as a feminist is telling me what to do,” she said.

It’s one of the reasons why intersectionality has become such a vital component of the modern day movement, allowing people to realize this isn’t just a one-issue fight, and that there are many different issues that concern feminists which means it is normal to see various versions of what a feminist “looks like”. Cosmopolitan Magazine editor Joanna Coles has spoken  previously about how women CAN like fashion and be a feminist, the two should not be mutually exclusive.

A topic where Ana sees this conundrum come into play quite obviously is the discussion around porn and sexuality, where if someone happens to agree that porn is empowering, people believe ALL feminists think this way.

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“I think it’s ridiculous to say, ‘Oh, this one Duke porn star is really doing a disservice to feminists because she’s representing all women and she’s making us look bad.’ I don’t think that’s the case at all. We’re all different, and we can’t have this uniform policy on the way we live our lives.”

In a recent article for Raw Story, Ana discusses Charlie Sheen’s admission of HIV, and says it should be a “teachable moment” in the way the media talks about sexuality and women.

“Sex sells extremely well, and explicit content is everywhere around us. It’s in advertisements, television shows, and almost every other form of entertainment imaginable. At the same time, education on sex, which would equip young people with the information required to keep themselves safe, is not the norm in the U.S. Unfortunately sex ed is more of a controversial political issue, when it should just be common sense,” she writes.

Her issue with the way the media handled it, is that there is a double standard about being sexually progressive and liberal, but we don’t place as much emphasis on the importance of sexual education that can save lives.

“We can’t keep celebrating sexual content in all forms of media while simultaneously refusing to teach students how to be responsible if and when they’re sexually active,” she concluded.

Going back to the way women are treated simply for being intelligent as well as good-looking we think Ana Kasparian is such an awesome representation of the type of young woman we need to see more of in the media. We also love her brand of smart, argument-oriented feminism, which puts people like the aforementioned conservative radio host & pastor to shame who choose to demean women for their looks.

You can see more of Ana’s work in the video below:

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