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Jun 6, 2012
. ”..all the Lilly Ledbetter hypocrites who claim to be fighting the War on Women? Let’s hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector."
Hurling acid? Acid? Hurling acid in women’s faces. As if advocating an all-to-real threat of violence against women is an acceptable thing for a spokesman of a U.S. Representative to do.
This hideous quote came from Jay Townsend, a campaign spokesman for Congresswoman Nan Hayworth (R-NY). It appeared in a discussion (about gas prices!) on a Facebook page dedicated to dialogue within the district about local issues. There is so much in Townsend‘s quote, but I think we have to start with the acid; and that’s hard to do because I’m having a tough time conceptualizing how that quote could be said in this country and about some of our most powerful women. Actually, maybe that’s where I need to start. This did just happen in the United States. Our female political leaders were threatened with horrific violence. And worse, the Congresswoman he works for didn’t fired him. How is this true in 21st century America?
That question could be asked about a lot of things happening today, especially about women. How is access to birth control being threatened? How is getting an abortion today harder than it was 25 years ago? How are the bombings of Planned Parenthood clinics not considered domestic violence? The list continues: abstinence-only programs, filibustering the Paycheck Fairness Act and the DREAM Act, the serious lack of adequate parental leave, funding being cut for rape crisis centers and services for survivors of domestic violence, state constitutional bans on marriage equality, the ongoing 30+ year fight for an Equal Rights Amendment, mental health centers being closed, employment discrimination; it never ends. The reality is that this is the kind of environment that allows misogynists to threaten to throw acid into the faces of accomplished women.
This cannot be where our progress has led us, and yet this really happened. This is what happens under the ideology of wanting to put women “in their place.” Now this is where the other parts of the quote come in. Jay Townsend threatened these 12 women while accusing some of them of not paying their female staffers as much as they pay the men in their offices. That’s what he means by “Lilly Ledbetter hypocrites.” I have to note, though, that this claim is a bit sketchy.
While I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if the national wage gap was just as true in the halls of Congress as it is anywhere else, the report that he is pulling this information from isn’t exactly…visible. In his Facebook comment, Townsend linked to an article from a conservative newspaper called the Washington Free Beacon (note: that’s beacon, not bacon; I read it wrong the first time and was pretty confused) which claims that they analyzed information on how much Senate staffers are paid, and concluded that 37 of the 50 Senators in the Democratic caucus pay their female employees less than their male employees.
I was curious about this, and searched the article for a link to the study. It wasn’t there. So I tried to track it down myself, but every website that came up just linked back to the WFB article. Suspicious. Next, I tried to contact the writer through Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail, asking to be sent the report. Haven’t heard back yet. I then tried looking up the information myself, but each Senator has between 50 and 80 staffers working for them, and it would be impractical for me to nose dive into such a huge project. Which, of course, also made me wonder why the Washington Free Beacon felt it was necessary to take the time right now to do such a laborious analysis. Curious.
Townsend, though, tries to use this claim as proof of the Democrats being the ones waging a war on women. He gets very confused, though, as he appears to say that the democratic women are hurting women by not following the Lilly Letter Act or the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act, and that that’s a bad thing, yet hates that they are trying to pass the PFA because it would force employers to pay their employees fairly, which is also apparently a bad thing. And then of course he also seems to be under the impression that the LLA and PFA only apply to private sector workers, which of course means that it wouldn’t apply to Senate staffers, but this, of course, is not true either.
Now, I mentioned earlier that Townsend had not been fired. The following is what has been happening since his statement. Townsend posted his comment on Facebook on May 26th. Six days later, Congresswoman Hayworth put out a statement, also on Facebook, calling the resulting outcry a “manufactured controversy.”
This is a manufactured controversy by a campaign operation that has, for months, hurled offensive rhetoric and imagery at Nan Hayworth on various Facebook pages, including the one mentioned today. It is a matter of public record that the moderator of the page in question, while purporting to represent an objective point of view, is on the payroll of the Becker campaign.
Wait, wait, wait. Stop. Hold up. So, you’re blaming your opponent’s campaign for your spokesperson threatening to burn women’s faces with acid and you’re wondering why people are upset? You really don’t see that they had an incredibly valid reason for being pissed; that all the evidence was there, and didn’t need any ginning up to seem outrageous? Is that what you thought? You’re a United States Congresswoman. Really?!?!
Two days after that, Townsend chose to resign. Note: He was NOT fired. He resigned. To be clear- he threatened to throw acid at women, and the woman he worked for chose not to fire him. Just to be clear. His announcement of his resignation, (say it with me!) over Facebook, still managed to make the whole thing worse.
It was stupid because my words were easily misconstrued; thoughtless because my choice of words obscured a point I was trying to make, and insensitive because some have interpreted the comment as advocating a violent act.
I’m sorry; your words were “misconstrued”?!? “Obscured”?!? Wrongly “interpreted” by “some” to be “advocating a violent act”?!?
Please! Tell me what is it exactly about “Let’s hurl some acid at those female Democratic Senators,” that I misinterpreted as advocating violence.
Please. Really. I’d love to see you try.