Two separate incidents involving a black congresswoman and a black White House reporter sparked outrage on social media, leading to the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

Only a few hours apart on Tuesday, two black women were confronted by white, male public figures in exchanges that many viewed as demeaning and disparaging.

First, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday seemed to criticize Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) because of her appearance — comparing her hair to a “James Brown wig,” for which he later apologized.

And in a press briefing later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told veteran reporter April Ryan to “Please, stop shaking your head again.”

Their words provoked angry reactions on Twitter and made headlines on cable news shows. But to many women, the comments were not all that surprising.

Hillary Clinton said reporter April Ryan was "patronized" and cut off while asking a question during the White House press briefing March 28. Clinton was speaking about sexism and invisible structural barriers during an appearance at a Professional Businesswomen of California event. (Professional Businesswomen of California)

One of these women was Hillary Clinton. In a speech Tuesday afternoon, Clinton spoke of everyday sexism and structural barriers that are sometimes hard to spot but unmistakably present.

“Just look at all that’s happened in the last two days to women who were simply doing their jobs,” she said in her remarks at the Professional BusinessWomen of California conference in downtown San Francisco. She spoke of Ryan being “patronized” and cut off while asking a question. And she mentioned Waters, who “was taunted with a racist joke about her hair.”

“Too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride,” Clinton said. “But why should we have to. And any woman who thinks this couldn’t be directed at her is living in a dream world.”

Ryan arrived home later that day to hear the news from her daughters: “Did you see Hillary Clinton?” they asked.


Press secretary Sean Spicer and journalist April Ryan. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“And I was like ‘no,’ and I saw it and I couldn’t believe it,” Ryan said, speaking on CNN. “I was shocked.” She later tweeted: “Preach @HillaryClinton!!!”

Black women across social media sounded off in support of Ryan and Waters, sharing their own experiences in the workplace. Brittany Packnett urged women to use the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork

“This happens to black women everyday at work,” Packnett tweeted. “Share your Maxine and April moments, so people don’t think this is rare.”

“Today, we were told a Black woman’s hair matters more than her voice, and our choices are under the control of others,” she added on Twitter.

One of the most popular tweets came from Waters herself, who shared the same words she spoke on MSNBC: “I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated.”

“I’d like to say to women out there everywhere,” she added on MSNBC. “Be who you are, do what you do and let us get on with discussing the real issues of this country.”

As for Ryan, “This is just par for the course, unfortunately,” she told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. “But I’ll be back. I’ll be back.”

More from Morning Mix

A lawyer named Amal Clooney gave a powerful speech at the U.N. Some only saw her baby bump.

Her daughter was taught to think her Afro wasn’t ‘normal.’ So she created a billboard to change that.

‘Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women’: Emma Watson tells off critics of revealing photo