How a Fight Against Sexism Restored My Hope For a Political Revolution
A month ago, I saw little hope for the political future of this country. Trump was president, the Democrats were blaming their failure to connect to the working class on Russia, and closest to home, I watched my wife, Masha Mendieta, struggle with to get the media and progressive groups to expose the sexism of Arturo Carmona, who is running to be our representative in CA district 34. Arturo was Masha’s supervisor for a time while she worked on the Bernie campaign and experienced firsthand his sexism and mistreatment of women and men.
While on the campaign, Masha and her colleagues did what they could to have Arturo removed, but Rich Pelletier kept it quiet and simply removed Arturo from supervisor responsibilities — for a time. While Masha hated knowing that Arturo was still involved and would likely terrorize someone else eventually, she bit her tongue because of her love for the movement. More so, Masha would talk about how she met some of the most amazing feminists (women and men) on the campaign and she didn’t want that overshadowed by a few outliers. While Arturo’s behavior tarnished Masha’s overall experience on the campaign, it did not define it as she made lifelong friends and saw a glimpse of a far better world. Despite the problems, the way she talked about her time on the Bernie campaign still gave me hope for a better world. Then Arturo announced he was running for congress in our district and that hope faded.
Arturo running for congress was nothing exceptional. He wasn’t the first sexist to run for office, nor will he be the last, but what shocked me was how difficult it was for Masha to expose someone who had mistreated so many. For months she tried the LA Times, nothing. She tried other news outlets, still nothing. As the election approached, she called every local political contact she had, yet this stopped few from making endorsements even though they were aware of his behavior. Winning was paramount.
I didn’t understand this. What is the point of “winning” if the candidate doesn’t represent the movement? It was at this point that I lost what little hope remained for a better political future. If winning was more important than our ideals, the Bernie movement was dead. By and large, the media and some of the so-called movement “leaders” didn’t want to hear that “one of their own” was not qualified to represent them.
As all of this was happening, I struggled trying to understand how sexism was so acceptable. It was almost as if there was an underlying belief that sexism was only a serious problem when it manifests itself in the form of a sexual assault (and even then it’s still not always seen as that serious). Is xenophobia okay as long as you don’t commit a hate crime? I’m not trying to be dramatic, but it amazes me the amount of sexism that is acceptable in society, usually just excused away by men and women with something like “oh, he is just a bit old fashioned” or “he’s only like this when he drinks” or “well, it isn’t like he raped her.”
When Suzanne Venker recently wrote a book about how women will never be happy unless they play the Beta to their man’s Alpha (a natural state according to her), I found the criticism of her viewpoints to be shockingly mild. She was featured on Fox News to promote her book and major retailers had no problem carrying her book. Where was the boycott, the cancelled book deal, the protests, the condemnation from public figures? Would the reaction have been so mild if she had written that people of color are inherently inferior and should be submissive to whites in order to be happy? I highly doubt it and simply don’t understand why so much of our society is willing to temper their outrage over sexism by chalking it up to “culture” or “tradition.” I’m all for including a diversity of viewpoints in the political discourse, but not when it comes to having a basic understanding of equality.
Before Masha even joined the Bernie campaign she had to face sexism on a daily basis trying to make it as an artist in Los Angeles. This whole experience with Arturo was just another instance in a long line of shit that Masha had to wade through in her career. I honestly have no idea how she or other women deal with it on a daily basis. I certainly didn’t deal with this situation well. I can’t remember how many times over the past few months that I said “I’m done with politics and people” and then put on my headphones to listen to Nirvana rail against the system. Yet, somehow, while I was moping and retreating, Masha kept fighting and believing in positive change. After months of frustration and the election date fast approaching, Masha finally decided her only option would be to go public and publish her own story on Medium. Only then did something amazing happen that restored my faith in this world.
When Masha told me at midnight that she had to write something, I asked if it could wait for the morning. In a true testament to why Masha being the Alpha in our relationship is better for the world (that should piss off Suzanne Venker), she said no, and I went to bed having no idea what was about to happen. When she did finally go to bed, she largely assumed little would come of it. She knew, like all women who come forward, she would face trolls and victim-blamers. While this did happen, she also woke up to something wonderfully unexpected.
Upon reading her story, a number of prominent women made public posts not just supporting Masha, but corroborating what she said. Comments, mostly positive, came flooding in via public and private posts. Soon, an open letter signed by prominent surrogates and former staffers asked for progressives to withdraw their endorsements of Arturo — and they did. Groups like Veterans for Bernie told Masha that they “had her 6.”
Only then did I realize that this movement wasn’t about the media or some of the disconnected leaders; it was about the people. This wasn’t what we saw on the right when Trump’s sexism was excused as “locker room talk.” Masha’s fellow Berners were different. They still had their ideals and weren’t about to give Arturo a pass simply because he worked for Bernie’s campaign. It was a beautiful thing to see and restored my belief that we really can create a political revolution when everyone comes together.
And, hopefully, the next time my lazy ass wants to go to sleep, I won’t be stupid enough to suggest Masha do the same.