Friday, January 27, 2017

When a Woman Dares to Speak......

Recently, I responded to a Loudoun Times Mirror article that was posted on Twitter.  The article was a criticism of one of my local female elected leaders for attending the Women’s March. I too participated in that March. I even brought my three children.  

Problem is. I dared to express an opinion on my personal Twitter account with regards to that article.  

That one Tweet was followed by a concerted attack on me, which I chose at first to fight but it is true, you can’t reason with the unreasonable. I was called "radical." Individuals sent me vulgar pictures.  I was told that my statements were “bizarre," “an attack” and "unprofessional" simply because I am Vice-mayor of the Town that Patrick Henry College (PHC) and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) are located in. It was evident; these folks feel that because I am elected, I am not entitled to free speech.

But back to the article…..

I felt the need to point out who Will Estrada and the ideology of his employer because he is not just the Chairman of the Loudoun GOP. His employer is the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is closely connected to Patrick Henry College, a fundamentalist Christian school which has very conservative, religious beliefs. His statement condemning Phyllis Randall, the Chair of the County Board of Supervisors, was nothing more than an attack on a woman for having the audacity to attend a March. 

It is his right to disagree with millions of women marching, but here is why I find that letter so despicable…….

It was a form of punishment.  

It is the epitome of patriarchy.

It is a man dictating to a woman what she can and cannot do.

Attacking a woman who attended the March was an attempt to limit her free speech. It acts to discourage her, and me, and all women, especially those who have high profile positions, from ever stepping out and being vocal.

But let’s get some background…..

PHC is made up mostly of students who were homeschooled. Their parents generally prefer to keep their distance from secular culture. The school was founded so that those students could have a school that could continue that type of education. During my tenure on council, I have been respectful toward PHC. Many of their students and faculty contribute to the betterment of our local community.

With that said, the founder of PHC and the HSLDA, Michael Farris, is known to be outspoken against the “radical feminist proposals” and “homosexual agenda.”  His college promotes a “courtship culture” and they tout themselves as a “training ground for the religious right and a pipeline to conservative jobs in Washington.” Mr. Farris even called public schools “godless monstrosities.”

Ninety-five percent of children in the United States attend public school.  The majority of people in this country identify as Christian. A vast majority of people who consider themselves moral and upright participate in society much like my family and my children who attend public school. It is an insult to that ninety-five percent to refer to our schools and our culture in such a demeaning manner.  However, that is his right. 

Will Estrada injected a woman, who worked on a campaign against my husband’s campaign for Supervisor in 2015 and is a graduate of PHC, into the conversation. Mr. Estrada and others were quick to misinterpret and twist my statements.

I apologize for stating in one tweet that Ms. Chambers participated in throwing my husband’s campaign signs into the woods. It was an unnecessary jab. However, I will clarify that back in 2015 this information was pointed out via campaign media and I posted about it publically on social media at the time. I have since deleted my recent comment on Twitter because it is unnecessary to this week’s conversation. Ms. Chambers seems to perform her job as an aide to our Supervisor well and seems like an amiable person and since that time I have had a cordial and professional relationship with her. 

Now, back to PHC……

I read recently an article where a writer stated, “Religious fundamentalism always involves deep sexual dysfunctionality and a compulsion to suppress and control women.” I certainly hit a nerve when referred to their suppression of women. 

So yes, I used the terms “radical, brainwashed, puppet, isolated and programmed” when describing a woman at PHC. To the women who attend PHC, they may feel it may not apply to them. We can agree to disagree.

I received a message from a female PHC graduate who read the Twitter exchange and the subsequent private Facebook conversation on a PHC Facebook page.  She wrote, “I just hope that after graduation, those students will finally be able to see what the wide world is really like and will realize that women are human beings too and they have value and choice. 

She also wrote, “I am impressed with how you didn’t back down and how you were even-handed. You didn’t vilify the college, but you did point out things that are absolutely, absolutely wrong about that place. Thank you for that.”

I have received numerous messages from PHC alumni this week. Their messages solidify my position. 

I received a rather thoughtful message from a recent male graduate to explain his experience at the school, which included this statement, “at no point during my PHC education was it ever suggested that women's only role in the political or professional arena is to serve men. In fact, I would say I received the opposite impression from the many successful alumnae who frequented campus and from the female students held up as examples of excellence in forensic competitions. In particular, I can name several friends and fellow Literature majors who are female, who identify strongly and vocally as feminists, and who see no conflict between these things and a strong Christian faith.

My husband is a white, Christian male. His view of the world and the way the world treats him is entirely different from the way an average woman experiences the world on a daily basis. Just because my husband doesn’t experience the everyday misogyny that women deal with doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If I didn’t tell him of my many experiences, he simply wouldn’t be fully aware of them. This young male graduate of PHC has an entirely different perspective and view based on his upbringing and experiences. His ignorance of the female experience just means he is unaware. 

Those who have written and been critical of my personal statements on Twitter have been brought up in a culture that believes in male sovereignty. I recognize that not all homeschoolers believe in strict gender roles. However, those who attend PHC tend to believe in a culture that promotes biblical patriarchy and the idea that a wife must submit to and obey her husband, which includes the idea that daughters are under their father’s authority. 

Mr. Farris wrote that wives must submit to their husbands, even warned against “attempting to do your husband’s job of leading the home” and to do so was “interfering with God’s pressure on your husband to urge him to do the right thing.” Inferring such things about the student body when their leadership espouses such things is simple logic. 

Mr. Farris boasts that his college accepts women and has sent female graduates on to law school, which he touts as evidence of their gender equality.  This same man also believes women’s primary role is in the home and that wives are commanded by God to submit to their husbands in all things. Many of the organizations to which he belongs to and host at his college for speaking engagements actively work to restore the legitimacy of misogynistic laws that in my view keep women from fully participating in public life.

So then, why educate women and send them off to law school? 

Simple. Create a foot soldier for their culture war. They aren’t educating these women to fight for equal pay, health care, to end domestic violence, for clean air, eradicate discrimination of all kinds, and the right to protest and speak out. They are using them as tools after years of religious indoctrination. Mr. Farris doesn’t intend them to use that acumen against the culture war they were raised to believe so fervently in. 

I believe in fundamental rights. I think that those who attend, support, and believe in the values of PHC are entitled to those beliefs. That is what freedom of religion and thought is all about and what makes America so great. The fundamentalist movement at PHC believes that government is not allowed to meddle in their faith, but that their faith should intervene in our government. I don’t agree.

There are hundreds of religions and various denominations in the United States.
Christians often hold different views on political issues. The Bible doesn’t endorse any particular political system although it does provide a basis for political philosophy. 

As an elected official, I swore to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” It wasn’t to uphold the Bible or any specific religion. I must operate in my elected capacity in a manner that provides equality to all who present to our local government. And I have and will continue to, even toward PHC.   

Those who attend and support PHC must learn to speak reasonably with those whose religious convictions differ from them. The reaction from my statements on Twitter, which I do not use as an elected official and is my personal account, was focused on protecting a dominion rather than engaging me.

Demanding that I be stripped of my position and that it was “unprofessional” for me to “attack” an institution that is located in my Town is contrary to the Constitutional values that they claim to fight for. 

One email to my Council email went so far as to insinuate that I shouldn’t be allowed to criticize an institution that pays taxes that pay my salary. (PHC does not pay taxes since they are tax exempt). President Trump has demeaned women, companies, and institutions on Twitter now and before his election. My taxes pay to house him, feed him, protect him and pay his salary. Does that mean I have the authority to demand that he be stripped of his free speech? 

Or, is he allowed to operate on Twitter with impulse because he is a man?

If I was a man, it is doubtful the President of PHC would have written to the Mayor of Purcellville to “make you aware of a troubling development with Ms. Jimmerson who has been using social media to attack PHC, and PHC’s grads……Her inferences about PHC being involved in radical ideology and suppression of women are troubling to say the least.  We work to prepare all of our students to achieve their goals in life.  As a major employer, we also strive to be a good citizen of our community.

Here was my response to their President: 

Mr. Haye, 

Thank you for communicating with Mayor Fraser your disdain at my personal social media presence on Twitter.  The irony that you chose to bring this up to someone who you feel is or view as my superior is not lost on me.  

While you may see my thoughts as an attack, I was expressing opposing views to the ideology that is publicly well known to come from your institution. A member of your staff and others made inaccurate statements and insinuations about the meaning of my tweets stemming from my criticism of Mr. Will Estrada’s misguided attack, via the Loudoun GOP, on Loudoun Chair Phyllis Randall’s attendance at the Women’s March, which I too attended with my three daughters. 

In my capacity as a member of Town Council, I am not prohibited from having free expression or thought, even though such thought may not be aligned with yours or an institution, which resides within the Town in which I serve.  My views can in no way be viewed as those of my colleagues, staff, or anyone else in this town. Your email and Mr. Estrada’s subsequent email serve as nothing more than attempts to silence and control me, and I find your method representative of the worst elements of patriarchy that persist in our society. Silencing alternate points of view may be your method to counter opposing views, and your attempt to intimidate me is extremely disappointing and shameful. Mr. Estrada’s letter condemning Chair Randall’s attendance of the March, in my view, is no different than you emailing others in an attempt to admonish me; to control and punish any women who dare to speak up, speak out, and oppose your view. 

It is as if you view me as someone else's child or property and no doubt you took this tactic simply because I am a woman. Shall I ask my husband if he too received an email?  Should I assume the habit is so ingrained that you may not even be aware of how your behavior is perceived or how insulting to women your action is? 

We live in the age of opinion, sometimes instantly and in strident ways. Some may claim it to be criticism, and in the most superficial sense, it is.  Although your institutions counter many of my core beliefs, I have rarely if ever expressed opposition to PHC and HSLDA and feel that the two have been good neighbors to residents of Purcellville. Our Town Council recently recognized your institution and its Moot Court Accomplishment, something which I could have voted against and used my position to publicly oppose PHC. However, I did not. Actions speak louder than words and although you may dislike the discourse which has taken place recently on social media, during my tenure I have not used my position or my voice to oppose your institution.  

In the future, should you have an issue, please feel free to contact me directly so that we can have a more thoughtful dialogue. 



Karen Jimmerson
Vice-Mayor Purcellville