Senator Anderson, did you think that it was a compliment when you told the Chairwoman of the Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues that your committee would rather look at her than her slides?

Did you realize that she came to share data about the economic impact of women in Wyoming? Did you know that the presenter was appointed to her role by the Governor?

Why can’t a professional woman invited to give professional testimony to a legislative committee reasonably expect to be treated as a professional woman giving professional testimony?

What should the presenter have said or done when confronted with your “compliment”? Can we blame her for doing what all women have learned how to do: brush off the casual misogyny and move along?

But, do you also wonder if she should have broken protocol and reprimanded the chairman of the committee? Do you think that the tiny pause before she said, “The slides are good,” and started her presentation was because she imagined herself rebuking him? What would have happened if she had?

Why is it acceptable for men to minimize the skills and expertise of women? Why is so much of our time spent paying deference to powerful men?

And what about the other members of the committee?

Why didn’t they say anything at the time? Would it have unfolded differently if more than one of the 14 committee members were women? Would one of the women have spoken up if there was more than one woman? Or would it have been more impactful if one of the men had pointed out the problem?

What does it mean to be an ally? Where do we find the courage to speak?

And while I’m asking questions about casual misogyny, do you ever wonder why an adolescent girl might not come forward to report sexual assault? Could it have something to do with watching men (and sometimes women) discredit adult women, professional women, all women? Do you think that it might have something to do with seeing another adolescent girl mocked on Facebook by law enforcement while bystanders suggest people should just have a better sense of humor?

Do you think that it might be both?

Or could it also be that girls learn at a young age that we’re not really valued for our expertise or considered to be trustworthy even when describing our own personal experiences?

Don’t you think we’re long overdue to change this?

What if we weren’t so quick to dismiss women when we do speak out, speak up, report, have ambition? What if we didn’t use, “Down girl,” as a way to keep women in check, the way the feminist philosopher Kate Manne explains that we do?

What will make us once and for all stop perpetuating casual misogyny with statements like, “I would vote for a woman, just not that woman,” or “I would vote for a woman, but I don’t think my friends and family would,” or “She’s too ambitious,” or “She’s a bitch”? What do we really mean when we say those things? Aren’t we just saying that we wouldn’t vote for a woman?

Do we also mean that we don’t think that women should be in charge?

What if we valued all women for the full range of skills and abilities and creativity we bring to our communities? Can you imagine what your life might be like if 50% of employees and 50% of leaders and 50% of elected officials were women? Can you imagine what it might be like for your daughters and granddaughters?

What are we willing to do find out? What if we all worked together and made it happen?

Jennifer M. Simon founded the Wyoming Women’s Action Network and is a senior policy advisor to the Equality State Policy Center. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School. She can be reached via columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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