My Point of View: Republicans are not listening to women about many things

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Are you the pilot of your own body?

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

A couple weeks ago, a Delta Airlines pilot testified on behalf of the pilot’s union to the State Senate Labor Committee as it considered modifications to earned sick and safe time legislation.

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It turned into an embarrassing moment for our district because our state Sen. Gene Dornink asked the pilot, “Can you tell me what a typical work week looks like for you as a stewardess?”

The pilot, Laura Haynor, had to explain to Dornink that she is a pilot, even though she had already identified herself as a pilot several times.
Dornink, the ranking minority member of the committee, hadn’t been listening to her.

Dornink hastily apologized when the pilot corrected him, and he added, “I don’t know why I said that.”

The gaffe hit many women in the gut, and the outpouring of social media responses caught the attention of a number of news and media organizations, including the Star Tribune, CBS News and Glamour magazine.

The sad truth is that women with advanced degrees and professional titles are still sometimes assumed to be support staff. Lawyers mistaken as paralegals, doctors mistaken as nurses, etc. My parents were farmers, and I frequently added, “So is my mom,” when people referred to my dad as a farmer.

Women know exactly why Dornink said what he said. It’s an example of unconscious bias. Haynor didn’t fit Dornink’s image of a pilot because she’s a woman, and he missed cue after cue that she is, indeed, a commercial airline pilot.

It is prime Psychology 101 material, and Dornink may have immortalized himself for his textbook demonstration of unconscious bias. Haynor’s pained, annoyed facial expression at being belittled was visceral.

The icing on the shame cake is that “stewardess” is a long outdated term. Dornink failed to remember that flight attendant, which is gender neutral, has been the favored term for decades.

Dornink’s blunder made it all the more ironic when a couple days later, Alabama Sen. Katie Britt gave the Republican rebuttal to Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, and said in an unnaturally soft, high-pitched voice, “We see you. We hear you.”

Britt was speaking to the camera from one of the most sterile, uninviting kitchens to ever appear on TV. The setting was an overt appeal to conservative ideology in which the ideal place a woman belongs is in the kitchen.

It’s not clear at all that Republicans see or hear working women. They do, though, think Republicans should be in the pilot’s seat when it comes to what women do with their uteruses.

Democrats want to help women get in the door at the health clinic or the doctor’s office and then leave them alone to make their own private decisions. Vice President Kamala Harris visited an abortion clinic in Minnesota last week to highlight that Democrats are digging in to defend women’s reproductive rights.
Republicans, on the other hand, want to be in the doctor’s office and dictate a woman’s options to her.

Not only that, Dornink has stated, “I believe life begins at conception.” This signals he would likely support passage of legislation that bans IVF treatment and some forms of contraception if he is ever in the majority.

It’s fine for Dornink that he had 12 kids, but exceedingly few women are interested in giving birth to as many babies as they possibly can. Some women may need IVF treatments in order to fulfill their wish to have a baby, and each successful treatment is nothing short of a miracle to them.

Dornink previously said in a debate that abortion rights are protected by the Minnesota Supreme Court case Doe vs Gomez (1995), so he doesn’t think it matters what abortion ban bills he supports because it’s a constitutional right. He dismissed them as just “message bills.”

Does Dornink think women in Minnesota are stupid enough to believe that Doe vs. Gomez is untouchable after Trump’s conservative supermajority on the U.S. Supreme Court used Dobbs to throw out Roe in 2022? Even with the DFL passing a new law protecting abortion rights in our state last year, these rights must always be defended.

If you vote for Republicans, or you don’t vote at all, you are willing to hand the keys to your uterus, your daughter’s uterus or your granddaughter’s uterus to Republicans.

The only way to keep Republicans out of girls’ and women’s uteruses is to vote them all out. Like Dornink, they’re not listening to women. They will only put their ears on when they lose.

Trust women to make their own reproductive decisions. It’s Women’s History Month, and women have an amazing track record of protecting life, whether it’s in the home, in the skies or in our institutions.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.