Friday, July 22, 2011

A Woman's Place Is In The House (and Senate)

by Mara Schmid

Representative Allen West (R-FL) was kind enough this week to remind us why the NWPC's mission is so absolutely vital.  Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Representative (D-FL) Debbie Wasserman Schultz made a speech on the House floor Tuesday criticizing West's opposition to raising the debt ceiling.  Apparently angry that she referred to him in a speech when he was not present, West fired off an email saying she was "the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the US House of Representatives" and that, having "proven repeatedly" that she is "not a Lady", he will not "afford" her "due respect".  Full text of the email is below.

It's one thing to disagree with someone politically.  It's quite another to send a personal attack via email implying that opinionated political speech by a woman is somehow at odds with "acceptable" female behavior.  Ms. Magazine has a very thorough exploration of the implications of 'lady':
[W]hat Rep. West was likely getting at was that Rep. Wasserman Schultz should be acting more “lady-like,” i.e. following the standards of behavior for fine and proper high-class women of the 19th century. According to West, unless she “shuts the heck up,” as many ladies of old undoubtedly had to, a modern woman does not deserve a man’s respect.Politics, however, is a place where women should (and must) speak their minds. Link
West's behavior also begs the question: if Wasserman Schultz's speech, which you can view here, makes her 'not a Lady', what on earth does West's email make him?

With many accusations being flung at the GOP and conservatives in general regarding West's statements, I think it's important to note that not only women on the left have to deal with this sort of sexism.  In January, Democratic Senator Arlen Specter told Republican Representative Michele Bachmann that she, too, should "act like a lady."  Bachmann, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, like all women—all people—in politics and otherwise, deserves to be judged on her own merits, or lack thereof, and not her willingness to conform to an outdated gender stereotype.  

From: Z112 West, Allen
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 04:48 PM
To: Wasserman Schultz, DebbieCc: McCarthy, Kevin; Blyth, Jonathan; Pelosi, Nancy; Cantor, Eric 
Subject: Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman-Schultz
Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional ,and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district! 
I am bringing your actions today to our Majority Leader and Majority Whip and from this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous characterless behavior……which dates back to the disgusting protest you ordered at my campaign hqs, October 2010 in Deerfield Beach.
You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me! 
Steadfast and LoyalCongressman Allen B West (R-FL) 

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that elected Rep. Allen West had to default to the basis of gender. Makes you wonder why he couldn't come up with anything else. If Rep Wasserman Schultz were a man, would Rep West then have called for a duel because he didn't like what was said? (Probably so, as a comment like he made seems like he's living in the past.) He's no more a "gentleman" than she is a "lady" - they're both in politics, and are therefore both politicians. In the "business" of politics, you sign up for finger pointing, name calling, criticizing, etc. And here, yet again, in the forum of politics, players deem it key to "skirt" the issue than address it.

    It doesn't matter if you're female or male or black or white or gay or straight or old or young or whatever - bottom line is, there are serious issues that need to be dealt with that are being sidelined because politicians get too caught up doing everything they can by putting down other politicians. Wouldn't it be great if politicians could collectively use their brain power to come up with solutions that effectively work for everyone???

    - Sophia Lee
    NWPC Caucus Member


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