“What do 500,000 battered women all have in common … ???”

That was the first part of an offensive joke told by Stewart Mills III on his Facebook page. It was unearthed more than a week ago, along with many other sexist and offensive posts he has made over the years.

When a friend pointed me to Mills’ posts, I became upset. It is deeply concerning that someone who is seeking to represent us in Congress — Mills is the Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District — would say things like this about women. These weren’t the musings of a high schooler or the “mistakes” of unenlightened youth. Mills was an adult and, according to him, had important responsibilities at his family’s company.

In another post (from just four years ago), Mills links to a tabloid article about the supposed health benefits of women performing oral sex. Purporting to prove that drinking ejaculate improves mood and has a calming effect, Mills later responded to someone unhappy with the article by commenting, “I spent a lot of money funding [this] research, please don’t try to debunk it or otherwise question our findings. We all want to make the world a better place, this is just the way I choose to contribute.”

I’ll tell you how you can “contribute,” Stewart — you can apologize. When you say demeaning things about women, you’re not qualified to represent us.

Shortly after the posts became public, a group of women — survivors of abuse among them — gathered in Duluth to ask for an explanation and an apology from the candidate.

Mills refused to apologize.

Instead, he compounded the abuse by being dismissive and changing the subject. He won’t even acknowledge the existence of the posts.

Elected leaders are people we should want our children to admire and aspire to emulate. Stewart Mills is not such a leader. He is not worthy of elected office and is certainly no role model for our kids — not for boys and not for girls. Jokes about battered women are never OK.

Kids today have to learn about social media and what it means to post things in a public forum. They are already becoming more savvy than many adults about posting on Facebook or Snapchat. If a teenager knows that posting on social media is like printing something in a newspaper or writing a note to Grandma, then surely Mills can figure it out.

So, Stewart, would you start a note to your grandmother with these words: “What do 500,000 battered women all have in common … ???”? A better “contribution” you can make is to put your political ambitions on hold while you spend time learning about the devastating effects of domestic abuse and gender inequality.

In the meantime, women throughout our state are waiting for an apology.

 

Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, is a member of the Minnesota House.