Last week, Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell spoke on the House floor in favor of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which has encountered opposition from Republicans and NRA due to a provision that would prevent convicted stalkers and abusers from buying guns. She delivered a passionate defense of the reform and asked Republicans not to let the NRA bully them into voting no—and they responded by shouting her down.
Shouting down a colleague is rude in the best of circumstances, but this incident is especially cruel. Not only was this group of Republicans (mostly men) shouting over a woman instead of actually responding to her arguments; they were speaking over a survivor of domestic violence in a debate about a bill designed to prevent domestic violence.
Their willingness to drown out Dingell’s lived experiences and fact-based arguments perfectly encapsulates the entire controversy over VAWA—one where most of the GOP is willing to tank a popular, common-sense reform aimed at protecting women just to preserve their hyper-masculine, gun-promoting image.
Unfortunately, discounting women’s voices is nothing new in politics. Just last week, Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield deployed a popular sexist trope about women being too emotional in a response to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and AG Dana Nessel’s very valid concerns about Line 5.
Much like the Republicans who shouted at Debbie Dingell instead of responding to her arguments in a thoughtful way, Chatfield’s reaction to science-based concerns about an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac—concerns shared by most Michiganders—is an attempt to discount Whitmer and Nessel’s arguments to avoid having to meaningfully engage with them.
Using the “too emotional” trope isn’t just problematic because it implies women are inherently less reasonable than men—it also turns women’s passion and empathy into a taboo. Gretchen Whitmer and Dana Nessel are passionate about Line 5 because they care about communities and the Great Lakes that would be affected by an oil spill. Debbie Dingell is emotionally invested in preventing domestic violence because she’s experienced it firsthand. They’re not good leaders on these issues in spite of their emotions, but because of them.
All this is just to say that women’s voices matter. Our arguments, positions, and lived experiences—and yes, even our emotions—deserve space in political conversations. Of course, no one is asking men to sit back and agree with everything a woman ever says—just that you listen, genuinely consider our perspectives, and respond to our arguments with the respect they deserve.