During an exchange on the House floor, a Republican congressman demeaned a Democratic woman's intelligence and maturity in yet another prime example of overwhelming misogyny in American government.
Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman to serve as a congresswoman, was voicing her concerns with an Alaskan preserve wildlife management amendment to the 2018 government spending package when Rep. Don Young, an Alaskan Republican, lashed out at her.
“You know, I rarely do this, but I'm deeply disappointed in my good lady from Washington, who doesn't know a damn thing what she's talking about," Young said.
After defending the amendment, he then referred to Jayapal again, saying, "You may not know me, young lady, but I am deeply disturbed."
After feeling belittled by her colleague, Jayapal shot back, interrupting the conservative who then raised his voice and said, “I’m still talking.”
“The gentleman has already impugned my motives by saying that I don't know a damn thing about what I'm talking about," Jayapal promptly fired back as Young tried to silence her. "He's now called me 'young lady,' and, Mr. Chairman, I ask that he take down his words.”
After the House presiding officer halted proceedings, Young asked to withdraw his remarks.
“To the lady, I do apologize. I get very defensive about my state,” Young spoke before the chamber. “I recognize it was out of order, so I hope you accept my apology.”
Jayapal then replied, saying she accepted his apology.
“I thank you for it. We have obviously some work to get to know each other, but I can tell you that I care about my state as deeply as you do, and I look forward to getting to know you.”
On Twitter, Japayal used the incident to encourage women of all backgrounds to “stand strong,” saying no to anyone trying to patronize or minimize them.
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.— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) September 8, 2017
I say that as I fight back myself right here in Congress. RT for solidarity! https://t.co/K8hKOAuGKc— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) September 8, 2017
Pro-choice political organization NARAL stood by the congresswoman, calling Young’s remarks and behavior sexist.
Many on Twitter agreed.
Right. @SenWarren is censured from reading Coretta Scott King's letter stating facts about Jeff Sessions, but this man is allowed to speak.— PennyPotterPhD (@pennypotter) September 9, 2017
It’s simply disheartening to see that in 2017, women in Congress still have to fight their colleagues for just an ounce of respect.
Yet Jayapal's candid attitude toward Young is reassuring that no matter the struggle, women leaders refuse to back down.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein