Biden announces all-female communications team

One positive ray of news for feminists around the country has pierced through the tumultuous clouds surrounding the weeks of Thanksgiving and the end of the semester for many college students. On Sunday, Nov. 29, president-elect Joe Biden announced his lineup for an all-female senior communications team in a press release. 

Although a claim made by the Washington Post that this would be the “first time all of the top aides tasked with speaking on behalf of an administration and shaping its message will be female” caused controversy across social media and the press, feminists and people of color all over the country celebrated being a step closer to equality in their fight for civil rights this weekend.

The first communications team was set up by President Nixon in 1969, according to Director of the White House Transition Project Martha Joynt Kumar. This team became responsible for sending information from the White House, often directly from the president, to the press and new organizations that may not have been in close proximity to Washington, D.C. 

Often dealing with major editors and publishers of the press, the Office of Communications is, in essence, responsible for how citizens view the executive government through the news. By communicating the ideas and decisions of the president to the people, the Office of Communications is extremely crucial in a social-media ridden world. 

Though this office occupies the most visible roles in any administration, there has never been an all-female communications team before the Biden-Harris administration. Historically, women of color have also been excluded in many government offices, including the Office of Communications.

This lack of visibility is the reason why so many women were delighted to hear about an ethnically diverse, all-female group of communications directors. According to CNN, Jen Psaki was established as the White House press secretary, and holds not only two years of experience in office as the White House Communications Director from 2015 to 2017, but also was the spokesperson for the Department of State and a CNN contributor. 

Representing upcoming First Lady of the United States Jill Biden is Elizabeth Alexander, who spent the first years of the Obama-Biden administration as press secretary to Joe Biden (who was vice president at the time), according to the Biden-Harris Transition Team website. 

Holding another essential position in the Office of Communications is Communications Director Kate Bedingfield. Previously named as one of Fortune’s 40 under 40 in the government and politics department, Bedingfield is also another veteran of the Obama administration.

This team is not only all-female, but is also the most racially diverse team in history, according to the Washington Post. Including women of color Ashley Etienne, communications director for vice president-elect Kamala Harris;  Symone Sanders, chief spokesperson for the vice president; and Karine Jean-Pierre, who will serve as principal deputy press secretary, this team brings hope to people of color, especially women of color, across the country. 

Following the announcement of the new communications team, White House press secretary of the Trump administration, Kayleigh McEnany, took to Twitter to comment on The Washington Post’s claim that this would be the first all-female communications team. 

“President @realDonaldTrump already has an ALL FEMALE Senior White House Press Team,” she tweeted. “So does @VP…So does @FLOTUS…So does @SecondLady…”

However, these tweets were quickly shut down by Twitter users as they began to name many male members of the current Office of Communications. Under the Trump administration, Judd Deere is the deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, as well as the White House deputy press secretary, and Devin O’Malley is the press secretary representing Mike Pence.

Before the announcement of the new Office of Communications, many found Trump’s communications team, including both members mentioned above, to be problematic. Frequently during his presidency, Trump commented on how the press featured “fake news,” attacking media outlets such as the Washington Post and CNN for their reports on his executive decisions. The Trump administration’s press team was known to hold very few press briefings, and those that were held were frequently challenged for the political and scientific inaccuracies presented in them.

Trump was also known to heavily rely on his use of racial slurs and bigoted comments to refer to racial minorities. Some of his most well-known phrases were the “Chinese virus”, referring to COVID-19; “Pocahontas”, referring to part-Native American political candidate Elizabeth Warren; “thugs”, referring to African-American Black Lives Matter protesters and constant references to Muslims as people who hate America. Frequently cited as making comments that objectified and sexualized women, some of his most severe insults are too explicit to mention here.

Morris Johnson, AP United States History Teacher at the Early College at Guilford, shared his insight for the future in American politics for women. 

“The 19th Amendment was a victory for women’s rights, but it was not the end of discrimination.,” Johnson said. “We still have a long way to go as a society, because half of America was already happy with the way things were before the 19th (Amendment). It seems to me that we should use our creativity and imagination and try to address the structural problems instead of just celebrating firsts.”

Under the Biden-Harris administration, there is no way to tell what this new all-female communications team will be able to achieve. Only time will be able to tell the effectiveness of the healing which many are anticipating from the Biden-Harris administration.