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Lashing Back at the Back Lash

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Amidst the threat of hurricane Isaac and a one day delay of the Republican National Convention, I was privileged to moderate Her New View’s Lashing Back at the Back Lash - How Conservative Women Confront Media Bias
which was launched nationally in Tampa, Florida and LIVE-streamed on FOX News. To set the stage, five formidable conservative Republican women panelists congregated to explain how they address the scrutiny and bias that comes with the media spotlight. Best-selling author Katie Pavlich, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Lt. Governor of Wisconsin Rebecca Kleefisch, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and nationally-acclaimed talk show host Dana Loesch served on the panel. Governor Nikki Haley concluded the forum by providing insights from experiences she has faced. Highlights from this panel are now available on the Palladian View website.

The purpose of Lashing Back at the Back Lash - How Conservative Women Confront Media Bias was to inspire the next generation of women by showing them what other conservative women leaders have overcome. The format was three-fold. First, the five panelists and the audience viewed (on two massive screens) media clips selected to demonstrate how words, whether intended or not, might have the effect of deterring women from entering politics. The panelists talked openly about circumstances they faced and conquered. Their comments were not scripted as panelists were not shown the clips in advance. The five panelists’ responses were viscerally candid. Second, over 200 real time tweets were received, viewed on the two big screens from which the five panelists were asked to respond to tweets I chose, (seeing them for the first time LIVE) which were decidedly consistent with the evening’s theme of inspiration and challenge. Finally, Governor Nikki Haley addressed the audience after they watched two media clips clearly demonstrating her iron will and ability to succeed. The point again was to show the next generation of women that they can be anything and do anything, but they should be well informed and prepared for prospective obstacles they may encounter.

The event was not about shrinking in the face of attacks. The purpose was to explain that in politics the higher the position sought, the more intense the spotlight. The methodology of attack is often the same for conservative Republican women:

Young women should be prepared to be called “inexperienced, incompetent, and incapable”.

If attractive or pretty, expect to be called “dumb and/promiscuous”.

If you choose to spend time as a “mom”, and not in the traditional work force, you have “no skills or business understanding”.

If you choose a career you have neglected your family.

If you are assertive or strong you are called a b----. If you manage people (as women often do, by encouraging all input while yielding to one’s own conclusions) you are called a flake.

The list, though exhaustive, follows a distinct pattern, shaming the candidate and breaking her interest and desire to offer up or to continue in public service. “Why would anyone in their right mind subject themselves to politics?” is often the reply encountered when recruiting conservative women. For women just entering or interested in politics, an iron will and thick skin is unnecessarily imperative.

The only way to encourage women into public office is to break the pattern of silence and to call by name those who offend women callously and without regard to impact. Just last week at the Democratic National Convention, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman, Dick Harpootlian alluded to Governor Haley as Eva Braun, a reference to Hitler's mistress. When Harpootlian was asked to apologize, he replied that "This is fake. Nikki Haley is feigning this." Even going as far as to add "So she has some hurt feelings? I didn’t know she had feelings."

Contrast these untoward comments toward Governor Haley with a comment by John Burton, the California Democratic Party Chairman who suggested Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, was Joseph Goebbels, the infamous propaganda minister. The Obama camp was quick to denounce the Goebbels comment, after which he issued an apology. It’s important to note two state party chairmen making similar comments yielded such different reactions.

There is no place for this behavior in politics, particularly with our country’s down-turned economy. Today we read that 368,000 workers have dropped out of the labor force in August; the last time the labor force participation was this low (63.5%) was in 1981. The economy should be our focus not ridiculing women. Until enough people challenge disrespectful and demeaning comments toward conservative women, we will not see change. Challenge Republican women on our thoughts, ideology and plans, but stop the personal attacks.

As of 2012, woman make up 16.8% of Congress (and cumulatively have served less than 2% of all US House and Senate seats) while they comprise 52 percent of the voting electorate. Must one ask why?

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