The House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing on Tuesday was more akin to a WWE Raw fight than a federal hearing. Under the façade of answering the question: “does PP really need a federal subsidy?”, GOP Congressmen attempted to beat up on women’s rights and access to healthcare using poorly calculated, false blows to excite their fan base. PP President Cecile Richards deserves a title belt for her strength and grace under incredibly sexist pressure.
Among the most vexing moments of the testimony were Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) interrogating Richards about her salary, Chaffetz attempting to pass off skewed data from an antiabortion group as data from Planned Parenthood’s corporate reports, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) likening Richards to a criminal over her apology video, and Rep. Jordan accusing Richards and Planned Parenthood with being too closely tied to the Obama administration. In the midst of this barrage, Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) asked Richards, “Surely you don’t expect us to be easier on you because you’re a woman?”
And not only was the content of the Republican committee members’ questions highly gendered, but the delivery was similarly biased, with questioners interrupting Richards at almost every turn.
Rep. Carol Maloney (D-NY) summarized the misogyny nicely, declaring, “In my entire time I’ve been in Congress, I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary. I find it totally inappropriate and discriminatory.” Maloney’s colleague, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), jumped in as well saying that he hoped every woman in America was watching these proceedings. (And not that it is in any way relevant, but Richards’ salary is completely and comparably average for the caliber of work she does.)
Sexism and partisanship wasn’t the subtext of this hearing – it was the only text. In their attempts to marginalize women’s rights and turn women’s bodies into a political battleground, the men running the hearing sought to belittle Richards as a female professional.
Context, content, and delivery matter in any sort of discourse; the congressmen’s lack of ability to facilitate a factual, civil hearing, treat Richards as an equal, and respect the issue of women’s access to healthcare is incredibly disheartening. Would the conversation have been different with more women asking the questions? You can bet a heavyweight belt on it.