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The buried lede on sexism in the Legislature

PDiddie thinks that the real shocker in that Observer story on sexism in the Texas Legislature wasn’t given the prominence it deserved.

Even the most powerful women in the Legislature experience it. When I started interviewing women lawmakers, they all—Republican and Democrat, House and Senate, rural and urban—said that being a woman in the statehouse is more difficult than being a man. Some told of senators ogling women on the Senate floor or watching porn on iPads and on state-owned computers, of legislators hitting on female staffers or using them to help them meet women, and of hundreds of little comments in public and private that women had to brush off to go about their day. Some said they often felt marginalized and not listened to—that the sexism in the Legislature made their jobs harder and, at times, produced public policy hostile to women.

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Emphasis added by PDiddie. My takes on the story were here and here, though I didn’t mention this aspect. PDiddie correctly notes that getting caught surfing porn at work is very high on the list of things that tends to get one fired. That’s especially the case for government employees using government computers to do said surfing. Now, Senators aren’t government employees and they can’t be fired except by the voters, but I’m pretty sure that being caught visiting HotNakedLobbyists.com or whatever while supposedly conducting the people’s business would not be helpful for one’s re-election prospects.

Of course, we don’t know exactly what happened here. The information is presented in passing as an unsourced allegation, which could be exaggerated, mischaracterized, misremembered, or otherwise not quite what it looked or sounded like. The person in the best position to find out the specifics is story author Olivia Messer – and let’s face it, if there really was one or more Senators or their staffers actually surfing porn on the floor of the Senate, it’s news – but even if this turns out to not be what it was cracked up to be, there are some questions to be answered. Do legislators and their staff use a different network than reporters and other visitors? It must be the case that some form of proxy servers are used, so the next question is what sort of filtering is used, and how long are server logs kept? If someone had credible evidence that Legislator X visited Website Y on thus and such a date, what exactly would one need to do to get one’s hands on the details? I certainly don’t have a problem with people surfing to naughty websites – we’re all grownups here – but do it on your own time, and your own computer or tablet or smartphone. This is not anything that people living in the current century should be confused by. If that turns out to be too much to ask of one or more of our august lawmakers, we ought to know about it.sexism

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One Comment

  1. Daniel Williams says:

    “Senators aren’t government employees and they can’t be fired except by the voters”

    There is, of course, another option for firing a Senator: impeachment. Now, getting 76 House members and 21 of the honorable members Senate colleagues to go along with that solution is probably not a practical solution… but it is still another option. The Texas Supreme Court ruled in Ferguson v. Maddox (263 S.W. 888) that it was not necessary for an elected official to have committed a crime, have violated their oath of office or committed other malfeasance to be impeached. Any reason that the House sees fit to bring charges of and the Senate sees fit to convict will suffice.

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