If anyone asks, this is what true sisterhood looks like.
On Monday, State Representative Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American woman elected to office, argued against a public safety bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives. According to the Minneapolis City Pages, Omar said that the legislation, which would increase penalties for protesters who are arrested for blocking freeways, is a strike against civil rights and would have blocked historical demonstrations such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march in Selma, AL.
But there was a problem: Most of Omar's colleagues weren't in the chamber while she was giving her speech. In fact, many of them weren't there when other women presented their arguments against the bill either. So, House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman moved to a "call to the House" to force the absent lawmakers to come back to the chamber.
And then she delivered a jab: “I hate to break up the 100% white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate."
According to the the Minneapolis City Pages, 56 out of the 77 Republicans in the House are white men. That amounts to 72% of the majority caucus and over 40% of the entire House of Representatives.
Understandably, Hortman's Republican colleagues weren't happy about this comment at all. In fact, House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin said that Hortman's comment was "racist," according to the Minneapolis City Pages. Meanwhile, State Representative Bob Dettmer asked for a chance to speak.
"I’m a white male," he said. "I respect everybody. But I really believe the comments that were made by the minority leader were really not appropriate. Minority leader, would you apologize to the body?"
But Hortman held her ground and called out her male colleagues for disrespecting the women in the chamber, particularly women of color.
"Representative Dettmer, I'm glad you asked me to yield. I have no intention of apologizing. I am so tired of watching Representative Susan Allen give an amazing speech, Representative Peggy Flanagan give an amazing speech, watching Representative Jamie Becker-Finn give an amazing speech, Representative Rena Moran give the most heartfelt, incredible speech I've heard on this House floor, as long as I can remember, watching Representative Ilhan Omar give an amazing speech... And looking around, to see, where are my colleagues?" she said. "And I went in the retiring room, and I saw where a bunch of my colleagues were. And I'm really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I'm not sorry."
Let's emphasize that: "And I'm really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I'm not sorry."
If we had been there, we would have been thrown out of the chamber for giving Hortman a standing ovation.
Recently, white women in particular have been heavily criticized for displaying a brand of feminism that isn't intersectional — that ignores the plight of their sisters of color, and that's highly superficial. There's even a term for that: white feminism. (Before you come for us with pitchforks, know that "white feminist" doesn't mean that all white women who consider themselves feminists believe in this type of philosophy.)
So if you think about it, it's not really surprising that 52% of white women ended up voting for President Trump. Gender aside, white women are still privileged by default because of their skin color. And often that means they forget that women of color are even more disadvantaged.
Therefore, it's fucking refreshing to see that Hortman didn't limit herself to calling out the implied sexism in her male colleagues' behaviors. She went the extra mile to let them know they were being even more disrespectful and dismissive towards the women of color in the chamber.
And for that we applaud her. All of us could learn a little bit about sisterhood, solidarity, and intersectional feminism from this.
Watch the amazing takedown in the video below.
It’s 2017, and yet women are still fighting for equality. Data suggests it will take until 2152 to close the gender wage gap, but it shouldn’t take a century to get what we want. We want more, and Refinery29 is here to help — because 135 years is too long to wait for what we deserve today.