You’ve Got to Watch Lisa Kudrow’s Epic Speech About Sexism in Politics from ‘Scandal’

In addition to the usual red wine-drinking and pantsuit-wearing on last night’s Scandal, Lisa Kudrow delivered a scathing take-down of sexism in modern politics and the semantics with which men subtly put female politicians down. Sure, Kudrow’s playing a fictional congresswoman running for president, but the points she’s making are the real deal.

“I know what prejudice looks like,” Kudrow’s character, Congresswoman Josie Marcus tells interviewer James Novak. “It’s not about experience, James. It’s about gender. Reston’s saying I don’t have the balls to be President, and he means that literally. It’s offensive. It’s offensive to me, and to all the women whose votes he’s asking for.”

In the episode, Marcus had just seen an attack ad from her opponent Sam Reston. The ad shows a woman’s trembling hand reaching for a doorknob as the voiceover says, “On the other side of this door sit the leaders of Syria, China, and Iran. On the other side of this door is America’s future — success and failure, life and death. Does America really want an inexperienced hand opening this door?” The ad doesn’t say it outright, but it’s saying that a woman isn’t confident enough to lead the country. Fresh off seeing the ad, Marcus is fired up and delivers this scathing speech about sexism. (It should be noted that later in the episode it was revealed that the ad was a fake cooked up by Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope to motivate Marcus.)

It’s not just Gov. Reston speaking in code about gender, it’s everyone, yourself included. The only reason we’re doing this interview in my house is because you requested it. This was your idea and here you are, thanking me for inviting you into my “lovely home.” That’s what you say to the neighbor lady who baked you chocolate chip cookies. This pitcher of iced tea isn’t even mine, it’s what your producers set here. Why? Same reason you called me a “real life Cinderella story.” It reminds people that I’m a woman without using the word. For you it’s an angle, I get that, and I’m sure you think it’s innocuous, but guess what, it’s not.

Strong words, but Kudrow’s character goes on:

You’re promoting stereotypes, James. You’re advancing this idea that women are weaker than men. You’re playing right into the hands of Reston and into the hands of every other imbecile who thinks a woman isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief.

Marcus further explains why the way she’s introduced as a “military widow” is also a tool to belittle her, forgetting that she, too, served in the military. Sure, it’s a fictional character in a fictional universe saying these things, but it’s based in truth. Every day we see politicians and pundits belittling women in incredibly subtle ways that we don’t even think twice about. In three years it’s likely we’ll be watching a woman run for president, in real life, once more. The points made here are something to keep in mind.