On Kim Davis

Dear Dad,

I’m sure you’ve heard of Kim Davis, the county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. It seems lately my Facebook feed has been nothing but Kim Davis, memes of her, memes about how many men she’s married, angry statuses about how she should suck it up and do her job, videos of her crying after she was released from jail, Mike Huckabee proudly at her side.

And I need to say up front that I think what Davis has done is deplorable. As a county clerk, her job is to serve her constituents and uphold the constitution. Our interpretation of the constitution has changed (that happens occasionally), but that doesn’t mean that she gets to refuse to uphold it. On a moral level, she’s homophobic and hateful. I’m happy that we finally have marriage equality, and that the country is moving toward giving all people equal rights regardless of sexual orientations. People like Davis stand in the way of that, but it’s clear that she’s part of a shrinking (if vocal) minority.

Meme of Kim Davis with jerk meme hat on. Text:

BUT—and it’s a big but—I am sick to death of the way Davis’ personal life is being treated by progressives. I can’t scroll through my Facebook feed without seeing something about how many men Davis has been married to, Dad, or how many kids she’s had out of wedlock. This isn’t kind, understanding, or progressive, and I can’t stand it.

As a feminist, I don’t believe women should be judged for their sexual history, and that includes women I don’t like. I don’t suddenly get to make fun of a woman for being divorced multiple times because I disagree with her politics. The wider progressive movement pushes for more compassion and consideration of marginalized voices, which is why I am attracted to it. We support gay rights, women’s rights, transgender rights, the rights of people of color. But when a movement about compassion starts deriding its opponents based on their personal lives, I can’t stand by silently.

Several people have told me that this is about pointing out hypocrisy: Someone fighting for “biblical marriage” doesn’t live by those ideals herself. They’re cutting this woman down with her own weapons.

Maybe I’m an idealist. But I don’t think that’s okay. If we’re going to hold people and society to a higher standard of compassion and acceptance, we have to hold ourselves to it too. We can’t just throw that aside the first chance we get to mock a brazen woman.

Furthermore, attacking Davis’ marriage history doesn’t really stop her from being a hero to the religious right. I was raised in a church, Dad. I know that Davis can say she repents and she’ll still get to keep her new spouse. Maybe some of the church members will gossip about her behind her back, but grace means she can ask for forgiveness and move on with her life. An LGBT person doesn’t have that luxury, because the “sin” is their sexual orientation. For an LGBT person to repent, according to Davis and her ilk, they’d have to stop being gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender, or at least suppress it forever. Look no further than Mike Huckabee proudly standing beside Davis as she was cheered by her supporters: To them, she’s a born-again woman standing up for God.

I believe that Kim Davis is wrong. As a county clerk, she must abide by the law and do her job or step down. I believe that she’s homophobic and that gay people should have all the same rights as straight people. But I will continue to defend Davis’ right to marry any damn person she pleases without progressives butting in.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, Dad. How has the rest of the family been talking about Kim Davis? What is your church’s reaction? What is your reaction, to both Davis and progressive attacks?

Talk to you soon. Love,

Victoria

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What it means to support all women, and what that means for Joni Ernst

Dear Dad,

Read your latest post. So good to see you back!

You make an interesting point with the lack of feminist support for Joni Ernst. “Instead of being celebrated for her accomplishments (Ernst) is demonize (sic) for her political viewpoints,” you write in your post. It seems hypocritical that feminism would advocate for women in leadership, and yet not support all women who seek leadership positions, you say. Unfortunately, the link to the Washington Post article you included didn’t work, so I had to do some of my own research. I can only assume you linked to the George Will opinion piece which has since been taken down?

Ernst is, as you admit, pro-life. She, in fact, has been a staunch advocate of a “personhood amendment” in Iowa, which would assert the personhood of “any person at any stage of development,” according to this article on Ernst’s pro-life views. She also supports a ban on gay marriage at the state or federal level.

A photo of Joni Ernst, a woman with short brown hair in a plaid shirt and a vest. She stands smiling next to some stalls for livestock.

Joni Ernst. Photo by Gina Whang.

I think there’s an important distinction to be made here between supporting women and supporting equality. For instance, most feminists aren’t staunch supporters of Sarah Palin. But we are critical of the way she’s been sexualized by the media.

I remember the media coverage when she wore a jacket with zippers over her breasts, and the way the male news anchors focused not on her message, but her “nipple zippers.” As a body-conscious teenager, I found it extremely disturbing to see a woman who was nominated to be vice president reduced to a sex object. I don’t have to agree with Sarah Palin to be critical of the way she is treated by the media.

Check out this trailer of “Miss Representation” for some perspective:

(P.S. Condoleezza Rice is in this documentary, Dad, and she says some really amazing, powerful things. If you haven’t made the time to watch it, do! It’s on Netflix.)

If I saw Ernst being derided for being feminine, or weak, or if I saw her being treated as a sex object, like Sarah Palin, or if I saw people saying she’d be unstable while menstruating (like the media said about Hillary Clinton), I would speak out against that. That is never appropriate.

But part of equality is also being allowed to disagree with people.

After my research on Joni Ernst, I don’t support her as a politician. I disagree with her views on gun control, reproductive rights and gay marriage. She has been called out by liberal media for these stances. That is fair and an important part of American politics.

It also should be noted that she seeks to limit women’s access to health care, which is anti-woman, and her stance on gay marriage limits LGBT individuals’ access to equal rights as well. These are both unfeminist stances.

It is okay for feminists to disagree with women, Dad. Hell, there are feminists I disagree with. It is okay to advocate for more women in leadership but still say, as a woman, “I don’t want Joni Ernst to lead me.” That’s fine. And it’s good. It’s good to have options and variety and more women entering politics. And in politics, people disagree. In this case, I disagree with Joni Ernst’s beliefs. But if I discovered people attacking her for being a woman, you can bet I’d be there to defend her.

Love,

Victoria