As Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave her first State of the State address on Tuesday night, social media trolls inevitably went to work. What was more shocking, though, was a story from Fox 2 Detroit focusing on people’s comments about her body. Whitmer didn’t hold back in calling out the sexism at play.
In a tweet on Thursday, the new Democratic governor said the Fox 2 story headlined “Social media focuses on Whitmer’s dress — not her address,” was “way out of line.” She explained that she’s been teased about her curves since grade school, and that her mom always told her to hold her head high.
She went on to encourage people to focus on women leaders’ ideas and accomplishments rather than their appearance. Her message to other women and girls who have to deal with similar “garbage” was simple: “I’ve got your back.”
The news station has defended its story, and Fox 2 news director Kevin Roseborough said in a statement that the article in question examined the “double standard” female politicians often face.
“On Tuesday night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address discussed many issues of importance to our state,” Roseborough’s statement read. “Fox 2 broadcast and streamed the speech live. We were taken aback by the number and nature of many inappropriate Facebook comments on the governor’s physical appearance.
“We chose not to ignore the comments, and to instead examine them through person-on-the-street interviews and an expert’s opinion on the double standard faced by female leaders. This is not a subject that should be turned away from, and we have extended an invitation to the governor to talk to us about this further.”
Fox 2 reporter Erika Erickson also fired back on Twitter when other journalists criticized the network’s story.
Whitmer promised to fight for Michigan women on the campaign trail, and has so far followed through on that promise since taking office in January. One of her first executive actions aimed to close the gender wage gap by prohibiting state agencies from asking about applicants’ pay histories when deciding whether to hire them.
Her response to the comments about her appearance this week signals that she doesn’t plan to let critics get in the way of her agenda.