Our Female Lawmakers are Not Getting the Respect They Deserve

Last Thursday, Representative Don Young continued the pattern of congressmen belittling their female colleagues with his sexist, patronizing remarks toward Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

In a House floor debate, 84-year-old Young thought it was appropriate to personally attack Jayapal after she opposed his amendment regarding wildlife management in his state of Alaska. Rather than behaving like a mature, professional adult with a difference of opinion, Young called 51-year-old Jayapal a “young lady” who “doesn’t know a damn thing about what she’s talking about.”

He also claimed that Jayapal’s criticisms were “nonsense” and were not her own opinions but were written by special interest groups.

Finally, Jayapal had had enough.

“The gentleman has already impugned my motives by saying that I don’t ‘know a damn thing’ about what I’m talking about and he’s now called me ‘young lady,’” said Jayapal, asking that Young’s comments be taken down.

Shortly after, Young apologized to Jayapal and asked to withdraw his comments, claiming that while he gets very defensive about his state, he recognizes that his statements were “out of order.”

“Some male colleagues may think that it’s a compliment to say that somebody’s a young lady, but it’s not,” Jayapal told Broadly. “There are lots of ways to compliment women of intelligence and substance, and calling them young lady is not one of them.”

This is not the first time Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman in the House, has been disrespected by male colleagues. Once, in a judiciary committee, one told her she needed to learn how to read. That’s how she knew the proper procedure to follow in the incident with Young.

“We have a job to do here, we want to be respected for who we are, and Don Young may have just said some of the things that some people think but don’t say,” said Jayapal. “I think it’s important that we challenge that graciously, always from the high ground. But we do not have to accept that that’s the way it is just because it always has been that way.”

Jayapal is far from the only female lawmaker to face sexism at work and, like her, many are refusing to tolerate such behavior.

In February, Elizabeth Warren spoke out on the Senate floor against the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. During her speech, she was interrupted by two male colleagues, including Mitch McConnell, and eventually silenced altogether for reading the words of Coretta Scott King.

Interrupting Warren in the first place would have earned McConnell some criticism, but his biggest mistake was the quote he gave to Politico afterward which cemented Warren’s place once more as a liberal hero.

“Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech,” said McConnell. “She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

“Nevertheless, she persisted,” instantly became meme-worthy.

A few months later, in July, Rep. Maxine Waters gave us all a new rallying cry when she showed us all how to shut down nonsense at work. In a committee hearing, Waters asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin why his office did not respond to the letter her office sent regarding Trump’s financial ties to Russia. Instead of answering her questions, Mnuchin kept stalling and wasting Waters’ limited time.

So Waters did what anyone with limited time and extensive procedural knowledge would do: She reclaimed her time. Repeatedly.

Waters used House floor procedure to reclaim her time and prohibit Mnuchin from wasting it, which, honestly, is something we probably all wish we could do.

Senator Kamala Harris has been interrupted by male colleagues numerous times, and it’s hard to believe it’s not because she’s a woman of color in a white male dominated setting. Senators Richard M. Burr and John McCain have a habit of interrupting Senator Harris and admonishing her for doing her job. In two separate hearings, the senators interrupted Harris’ questioning because, like Waters, she actually wanted answers. Like Waters, she was doing her job.

Our female lawmakers are tough, inspiring women who will continue to persist, but it would be a little easier to do that without being dismissed and interrupted all the time.

Photo Credit: Joe Mabel

67 comments

Mike R
Mike Rabout a month ago

Thanks

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Amanda M
Amanda Mabout a month ago

Wesley S, I found one of those "She Persisted" T-shirts at the local Goodwill this spring. Needless to say, I snagged it and wear it with pride!

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Aaron F
Aaron F1 months ago

Some women politicians get richly reserved respect...they earn it.

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s2 months ago

Likely to be a wait for eternity.

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I2 months ago

Case in point: Maxine Waters and Kamala Harris, just for starters!!! Republicans MUST GO!!!

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Cruel Justice
Cruel J2 months ago

Vote these republican, women hating, gas bags OUT!!!

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Angela K
Angela K2 months ago

noted

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Danuta W
Danuta W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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heather g
heather g2 months ago

It's an on-going battle - only speaking out in response will help.

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