My friend Dan Choi uttered a truly despicable analogy of Harry Reid, Majority Leader of the Senate, last week by likening him to a “pussy” that “will bleed once a month,” because of Reid’s “weak” leadership in failure to pass a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal measure in September.
The statement Dan made had nothing to do with sexual orientation, or DADT. Rather, his words reveal deeply-held beliefs that are predicated upon sexism that equates women with weakness. His rationale: Women bleed, women are wounded, thus unable to wield power effectively.
Inside the LGBTQ community, the issues of sexism, racism and classism are continually at play, as we all struggle to unshackle ourselves from a myriad of oppressions. Yet, it remains true and unspoken, that sexism is an undercurrent in all forms of oppression.
Dan’s ugly insult to all women evoked righteous anger from the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network, who released a joint letter addressed to Dan late yesterday condemning his words and wrote ”there is no room for misogyny, racism or other forms of hate speech among people who are working to end discrimination and bring about equality in the military”.
The signatories have demanded an authentic apology from Dan that indicates that he truly understands–really gets, just how insulting his utterances were. SWAN has also offered to meet personally with Dan to discuss the issues raised by his comment.
For many of us, this incident is an ugly reminder of having been hazed and sexually harassed by men in the military, These painful experiences are searing to one’s soul. I can remember being called a “dyke,” a “whore,” and a “bitch.” I was so frequently objectified, that when someone would refer to “females” I just knew and understood that I was less than, less worthy and less important than men in my unit as an enlisted woman (my situation improved considerably after becoming a commissioned officer, although I did experience sexual harassment later in my career which led to my decision to leave the Army.)
Dan Choi’s comments were indeed unbecoming. Nonetheless, the LGBTQ community is now presented with an opportunity–a unique moment to explore how the specter of sexism remains an unacknowledged barrier to achieving equality.
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Captain Domi served for fifteen years in the U.S. Army as an enlisted soldier and commissioned officer.
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