Community Opinion: “Equality State?”

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By Rachel Bennett
I have become more and more perplexed, the older I become, about what women should do when they encounter mistreatment in a professional environment. In recent weeks, State Senator Jim Anderson has faced scrutiny over his comments to a woman speaking (ironically) on behalf of the Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues, and again for supposedly commenting to women lobbyists using degrading verbiage and/or tone.

The women that have encountered Senator Anderson appear to convey the same type of dilemma: they would rather brush it off than to address it head-on for several reasons, mostly a fear of retaliation. But a host of reasons are listed, to include wishing not to cause a scene, preferring not to have a formal confrontation, etc. Nonetheless, these incidents are being noted in publications across the state of Wyoming, and yet, there is never a portion of any article which includes what is being DONE to address the inappropriate behavior of Senator Anderson.

To be more specific, I am perplexed to continuously read articles which describe behavior exhibited by men toward women and it is witnessed and tolerated to continue. Anderson appeared to be oblivious. It is inappropriate. Perhaps this is because women routinely fear to address it. News articles simply state it occurred and that is the end of it.

Is this what the “news” has become? Simply stating an incident occurred? As a woman that has worked for the Wyoming government, there appears to be almost no way to hold anyone accountable for mistreating employees. And while there may be discussion about mistreatment existing, it doesn’t appear anyone is willing to address it. Doesn’t this seem odd to anyone in the “Equality State?”

I have attempted to seek out agencies and other female elected officials that have taken a stand to support women and women’s issues, but I’ve had a very difficult time finding any that have done such a thing. When I say this, I should clarify my stance to mean women’s reproductive rights and their sexual orientation may be protected by certain agencies, but are there any agencies helping women when someone calls them degrading names at work? I cannot find any.

We, as citizens of Wyoming, might hear campaign slogans suggesting we “need more women on the legislature.” I disagree, and I am a woman. There are a host of women on the legislature currently, and I implore anyone to direct my attention to the ways in which this has proven to be beneficial to women overall. I do not believe one’s gender should be a deciding factor when choosing the best candidate. The best person is simply the best person, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. But women appear to share a common fear when they consider addressing issues such as mistreatment in the workplace, and this extends to our legislature, as well.

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When are the good citizens of Wyoming going to address this massive issue that exists in Wyoming? When will they address the fact that their mothers, sisters and daughters might routinely be treated in a disparaging manner in their place of employment and are routinely told not to “cause a problem?” This type of willful blindness leads people to think that calling employees “blondie” every single day is totally fine, and it’s not. It leads to some people believing they can openly tell a woman that nobody wishes to hear their presentation but rather to look at them instead. Only a person that has been PERMITTED to act a fool would continue to do so.

The women of Wyoming need to stop being treated like door mats and use their voices. They may face adversity, but if they continue to remain silent, nothing will change. Ever.

 

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