Can Men In Congress Start Treating Their Female Colleagues With Respect?

Photo: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson.
It's the year of our Lord 2017 and congressmen still think it's okay to disrespect their female colleagues. The latest example came courtesy of GOP Rep. Don Young of Alaska. His target? Washington Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
Here's what happened: On Thursday evening, the House was debating a government spending package for 2018 and Jayapal spoke against one of Young's amendments. When it was his turn to speak again, Young went after Jayapal with a level of condescension only old white men in power can gather. The sole Alaska representative could have called the female freshman "congresswoman," "my colleague," or anything similar. However, he treated Jayapal like she was an insolent child instead of the grown woman she is.
"I'm deeply disappointed in my good lady. She doesn’t know a damn thing what she’s talking about," he said, disregarding Jayapal's opposition as the result of ignorance or her involvement with "special interests." And then came the more degrading blow: "You may not know me, young lady. But I’m deeply disturbed,” Young said of the 51-year-old congresswoman.
Jayapal didn't even bat an eye at his disrespectful behavior. She replied, "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,’ and Mr. Chairman, I ask that he take down his words."
Young apologized to her, but only after she called him out. (He did the same after he used the slur "wetbacks" when referring to migrant workers in 2013.)
Jayapal, an immigrant who is the first Indian-American woman to be elected to Congress, later tweeted, "A message to women of color out there: Stand strong. Refuse to be patronized or minimized. Let the small guys out there be intimated by you."
The moment was so familiar that every woman who saw the exchange probably collectively rolled their eyes. What is it with dudes who feel they're superior and, therefore, can be condescending to women who hold their exact same title?
This isn't even the first time this year we've seen female politicians disrespected in Congress. Remember when Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris was chastised in early June for doing what some of her male colleagues did during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing? Or how Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were treated for opposing the Obamacare repeal?
Holding only 20% of seats in Congress, women are a minority, even though they make up half of the country's population. It seems like Young, who is on his 23rd term in the House, hasn't gotten used to having female colleagues. It's time to learn how to act decently towards your fellow congresswomen, sir.

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