It's Not Sexist To Be Critical Of Women

Earlier this week I wrote a post about a woman named Amy Walker who is being presented in pro-Measure 5 advertising as a current teacher in Mandan. I noted in my post that not only is she not a current teacher, not only was the classroom she was shown sitting in a prop, but she’s actually married to a Ducks Unlimited employee and thus stands to benefit financially from the passage of Measure 5.

A lot of people were angry about that post, noting that Walker is still a licensed teacher, and that whether or not she’s currently working as a teacher is irrelevant. I disagree – I think Walker should have disclosed the fact that she’s not actively teaching and that her husband works for Ducks Unlimited – but whatever. For what it’s worth, Walker resigned her position in 2013 leaving her school district to scramble to find a replacement part way through the school year. She had to pay $2000 to the school district in “liquidated damages” for not completing her teaching contract, according to these meeting minutes from the Mandan school board.

But we can debate about that. I want to make a point about something else. In the news today, Walker accuses me of sexism for exposing these facts about her:

Walker also took offense at the suggestion that she was only appearing in the ad because her husband works for Ducks Unlimited, “as if I do not have an autonomous voice and opinion of my own.

“I found those comments to be very sexist,” she said.

The North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks (the pro-Measure 5 group) also criticized me for the post in a press release today. “We can’t believe that these types of attacks are being used in our state,” said Ducks Unlimited spokeswoman Carmen Miller. “Amy’s dedication to educating our children and serving her community should be respected, regardless of any difference of opinion one might have on this particular issue. These attacks by Mr. Richardson, Mr. Port and other opponents should be not be tolerated in our political discourse.”

Kyle Richardson is a PR guy working for one of the groups opposing Measure 5.

I should point out that of course Walker has an “autonomous voice” and an opinion of her own. But I also think it’s important that Measure 5 represents a possible financial boon to her household. It’s perfectly relevant, when people campaign for public office or ballot measures, to point out what may be motivating them. Such as the fact that a given ballot measure might benefit a spouse.

I ran into this same charge of “sexism” from critics when I wrote about Miller being married to anti-oil U.S. Prosecutor Tim Purdon. Some accused me of “attacking” Miller and being sexist by suggesting that her husband’s use of prosecutorial power to attack the energy industry might be influencing her own politics.

Frankly, these charges are ridiculous.

It would be one thing to be critical of these women if they were merely private citizens. But they injected themselves into the public debate over Measure 5. They chose to engage the political process in support of something they believe in, and that’s fine, but they don’t get to play the victim card when their motivations and arguments are called into question.

Feminism is much in the news these days. We are often told that women should get an equal footing in the professional and political world.

I agree, and would point out that an “equal footing” means not crying “sexism” when a female in the public light is criticized.

Let’s face it: What’s really happening is the pro-Measure 5 folks have been caught being deceitful, yet again, and they’re using bluster and wild accusations of sexism to muddy the waters.

Update: According to the official Measure 5 Twitter account, I’m a sexist and a cyberbully, and boy are these people desperate.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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