Not Acting Like “A Lady” Will Get You Dissed In Congress

Today from the “Seriously, Is Everyone In Congress Trapped In The 1950s?” file: a Congressman and a Congresswoman from Florida are unhappy with each other and he decided the best way to deal with this was to email her to tell her she is “not a lady.” Not a lady? Oh my stars!

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat, was apparently stepping on some toes while talking about Medicare. Eh, it happens. But Rep. Allen West, a Tea Partier/Republican, pitched a fit. Naturally, as you do in situations like this, he fired off an email with the subject line “Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman-Schultz” to former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a whole bunch of other people. Let’s see what he had to say!The bold emphasis is mine:

“From: Z112 West, Allen
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 04:48 PM
To: Wasserman Schultz, Debbie
Cc: McCarthy, Kevin; Blyth, Jonathan; Pelosi, Nancy; Cantor, Eric
Subject: Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman-Schultz

Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district!

I am bringing your actions today to our Majority Leader and Majority Whip and from this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous characterless behavior……which dates back to the disgusting protest you ordered at my campaign hqs, October 2010 in Deerfield Beach.

You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!

Steadfast and Loyal
Congressman Allen B West (R-FL)

From a hissy-fit standpoint, this is hilarious. I would like to think all the Congressional drones who answer their boss’s emails had a good laugh when they read this one. Rep. West only made matters worse when he went on Fox News, refused (refused!) to apologize and called himself a “military man” who “hasn’t learned D.C. insider talk.”

But it’s also scary that we have an elected representative who thinks attacking his colleague’s womanhood as a way of insinuating she’s impolite is an appropriate course of action. Besides, it’s just not particularly logical. Such disparate women as Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin are prime examples that success in politics for women means not necessarily conforming to gender roles: no one claws their way into power by acting like “a lady.” It’s a job for the thick-skinned and ambitious and, yes, maybe even the ruthless. One can still be polite while doing all those things, though. It seems that in Rep. West’s world — and likely in his district, you lucky Floridians! — only a woman who acts like a traditionally complacent, deferential and nice “lady” is afforded his respect.

To be fair, Rep. West isn’t the first male politician to invoke “acting like a lady,” and all the gender connotations that come with it, in a place where it’s just not appropriate. Last year, Rep. Arlen Spector (D) told Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) to “act like a lady” when she kept interrupting him on a TV show. He was roundly criticized for his comments; the liberal blog Care2 notes that he was called “disrespectful” and “patronizing.” And there have always been politicians who go after a male politician’s manhood. (Ahem, Sarah Palin.) Alas, that only proves this problem isn’t specific to one political party.

Really, Congress. Get some better insults!


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