Last week’s ouster of Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News ratings juggernaut, over quiet settlements in numerous sexual harassment cases against women, drew attention to the treatment of women in the workplace — a topic also swirling at the Minnesota Legislature.
Melissa “I’m-still-not-sorry” Hortman, the DFL House leader from Brooklyn Park, has refused to step back after calling out some male colleagues for not paying attention to speeches by female DFL legislators.
“It touched a nerve because it’s a real issue with women not always being taken seriously in the workplace,” Hortman said.
When some legislators complained about Republicans’ absence from the House floor on April 3, she went searching for them. She found some in the Retiring Room, where a group of white male legislators was playing cards during a debate on a measure that would legally crack down on certain protests.
“Part of the reason why the card game was so offensive was they had the TV on, not to [the House floor debate]. They were watching a baseball game,” Hortman said of the group, which included at least one DFL lawmaker. “They weren’t even paying half a brain’s attention.”
Hortman’s GOP colleagues demanded an apology. Last week, Hortman told supporters at a rally that an apology would not be forthcoming.
Hortman said she heard from women all over the world after her comments went viral in a video. She said many women, including female legislators, have experienced being minimized or ignored.
Gender parity in the Minnesota Legislature fell after last year’s election. While the number of women elected to the House grew, the Senate lost enough women members that overall there are fewer women in the 201-member Legislature.
How does this all relate to lawmaking? An academic recently argued in the New York Times that women legislators are effective and responsible for drawing attention to women’s issues, pointing to Nevada as an example. There, nearly 40 percent of state legislators are women.
“The state Legislature is a testimony to what many who study gender inequity in politics theorize to be true: Increased gender representation directly translates into better consideration of women in the drafting of law and policy,” wrote Brittany Bronson, a UNLV English professor.