When did it become sexist for a man to ask a woman to do something she did not want to do, or for a man to refuse to do something a woman wanted him to do?
No, don’t bother to answer; it was a rhetorical question. Clearly, it became sexist when Donald Trump was elected to office, because on that day the clouds rained locusts down upon the fair heads of the ladies in their pink hats.
I initially watched with bemusement — and then with increasing anger — as many of my sisters have decided to use the election of the admittedly boorish Donald to plot their way to power. That would be fine, if they did it in a principled way.
But they don’t. In fact, as we got closer to primary day, it became obvious that some of the female candidates were not riding a blue wave, or a brave wave, but a whiny wave.
Here is one example: Greg Vitali, Pennsylvania state representative from the 166th District (full disclosure: mine) was accused by Molly Sheehan of being sexist because he asked her to drop out of the Democratic primary for the newly-drawn Fifth Congressional District. Both Vitali and Sheehan have a strong history in environmental advocacy, and Vitali did what many other candidates have done: Ask their opponents to drop out of the race and endorse them. It’s not always effective, but it’s also not rare.
Unfortunately, in this “Year of the Woman,” it is now deemed sexist to ask a female candidate to leave the race, even if you have also asked male candidates to do the same thing.
I had Vitali on my radio show Sunday night, and asked him about the incident. He admitted he’d asked Sheehan to leave the race, but he said he’d also asked Thaddeus Kirkland to do the same thing.
Sheehan, between sniffs of Victorian smelling salts, was quoted as saying Vitali was “asking a strong woman candidate to drop out to support him so he can defeat another woman candidate.” She then wrote a piece for Medium that recounted the story of the phone call designed to silence a woman.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Molly Sheehan’s being annoyed that a competitor asked her to wave the white flag and live to fight another day. She had every right to tell him in no uncertain terms that she was in it to win it, and no one would blame her for throwing in a few salty adjectives to boot.
But she didn’t do that. She ran to the media and whined about how the big bad man was trying to keep the “strong woman” from fulfilling her destiny in the Year of the Women Who Must Save the Country From Trump. It is exactly the type of thing that a strong woman does not do.
Another thing a strong woman does not do is tell other women that they must vote for her because otherwise they will become extras in The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m exaggerating, but I can’t be the only person annoyed by all of the ads from Mary Gay Scanlon touting her support for Planned Parenthood. I was particularly outraged by the TV ad her campaign ran on CNN during its documentary about Pope John Paul II. How dare she, I thought? I suppose pro-life Catholic women don’t deserve to be able to watch a show about a famously pro-life champion in peace.
Scanlon, by the way, won her primary. I’m sure Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, will send flowers.
And then there was Madeleine Dean, who ran ads that practically begged Pennsylvania voters to send a woman to Congress, because there were too many candidates with penises in D.C. We all got the idea when one of her campaign ads featured what looked like mug shots of all the men in Congress from Pennsylvania and she implored us to, as Abigail Adams once famously wrote, “remember the ladies.”
It’s not hard to “remember the ladies” these days. They’re all over the place, demanding a place at the table.
And that’s fine, as long as we focus on substance.
But to me, Sheehan, Scanlon, Dean, and the other females who threw their pink hats in the primary ring this year were, um, primarily just vagina demagogues.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at [email protected].