The conservative noise complaint against women

White House press secretary Sean Spicer holds up a document concerning a Washington Post story on Sally Yates as he talks to the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Spicer discussed the Supreme Court nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch, jobs, healthcare, and other topics. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Five days ago, Vice President Mike Pence posted a photo on Twitter of 25 men, namely the Trump administration and the Freedom Caucus (a collection of far-right congressmen), deciding the future of women’s health care. The men in the room had agreed to “stripping out requirements for insurance companies to cover maternity, newborn and pregnancy care,” according to the New York Times. Similar photos have been taken in the past, like when Trump instituted the global gag rule, removing funding from international organizations that say anything about abortion. Look farther back and you’ll find another all-male photo, this time with George W. Bush after agreeing to prohibit an uncommon abortion practice.

These pictures scream at the viewer to pay attention to the continued stifling of female voices by the Republican Party.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was blocked from testifying in front of Congress to aid their investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. The hearing, set for last Friday, March 24, was abruptly cancelled once Yates admitted her “testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made,” the Washington Post writes.

For those counting, that makes twice now that Yates has stood up to the White House over matters of the law (she refused to enforce Trump’s travel ban), which she is an expert in, only to be cut off. Even though Yates has been temporarily denied, she’s exposed the White House, especially on Russia. Empowered male conservative leaders don’t like being exposed by women.

Case in point: Elizabeth Warren was quite literally silenced during a Senate floor debate on Trump’s Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. She had been reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986 denouncing Jeff Sessions’ racist voter suppression tactics. The letter went a long way in denying Sessions a federal judgeship that year. Republican senators argued that Warren had “impugned another senator” in her reading of the letter, as Sessions was a senator at the time, resulting in said Republicans taking advantage of an obscure procedural law that effectively banned Warren from recognition on the floor and kept her from taking part in the debate surrounding Sessions. This spawned Mitch McConnell’s infamous quote: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Supporters of Warren rightly pointed out that male senators Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were able to read the letter without interruption.

Warren was not the only woman quieted. Coretta Scott King’s words were an affront to conservatives that day, so they attempted to stop them from coming to fruition. Still, Republican efforts to hush Warren and King only amplified the concerns of these brave women, as the stunt motivated liberals and led to a media blitz on the matter. This isn’t the 1950s, or earlier. Women don’t do what they’re told anymore.

Speaking of this, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took the time out yesterday to order experienced White House correspondent April Ryan to, “Stop shaking your head again.” This is no accident. In asking about Trump’s links to Russia, why the White House had said nothing about a New York City hate crime and if Trump would be meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Ryan has been on the Republican radar. Trump, being racist, asked Ryan to set up a meeting between him and the CBC.

The conservative sexism train chugs on with Bill O’Reilly’s comments yesterday regarding Rep. Maxine Waters. He even threw in a healthy dose of racism for effect.

O’Reilly said that he couldn’t hear what Waters was saying on the floor because of her “James Brown wig.” This is not a surprise, just another bigoted incident in O’Reilly’s expansive collection.

As if any more proof of conservative sexism and Republican fear of vocal women is necessary, outspoken right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren was recently fired from her job at The Blaze. Could this be because of her lack of journalistic credentials? Her outlandish claims, like when she equated the Black Lives Matter movement with the Ku Klux Klan? Her naked racism? No. It was because she voiced pro-choice opinions. None other than Glenn Beck runs The Blaze.

Sally, Elizabeth, Coretta, April, Maxine, Tomi. Donald, Mike, Mitch, Bill, Glenn. Conservatives have been indiscriminate in clamping down on women speaking out (although they’ve saved their harshest reprimands for women of color), but they’ve been homogenous in terms of the perpetrators of this disturbing brand of misogyny: white men. Again, this is on purpose, as Trump benefitted from a gender gap in voting, not to mention the infuriating fact that 53 percent of white women voted for him. So how can we combat this?

First off, make sure to recognize the intersections of gender and race in this discussion. Move the needle with your conservative, white female friends – help them realize that the white, male Republicans in power today do not see women as equal citizens. Unfortunately, most of the white men who subscribe to the Trump movement are too far gone to bring back, and an argument concerning sexism, misogyny or feminism will not land (in fact, it will likely trigger them).

My best piece of advice sounds lame, but it’s true – men and women of all backgrounds must band together in revealing this surge in conservative sexism. Sally, Elizabeth, Coretta, April and Maxine won’t stop fighting. Why should we?


Sten Spinella is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.