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.