#MeToo: We must call out culture of sexual misconduct in NM politics

Print More

ProgressNow NM has been battling the toxic influences of sexism, misogyny, and racism in New Mexico politics for years.

And as you can see below, our new incoming Executive Director, Stephanie Maez, is keeping that important track record alive with a new op-ed in the ABQ Journal, calling out the culture of sexual misconduct in New Mexico politics that has gone ignored for too long (by leadership, by the media, by our larger culture — but certainly not by the woman and men who’ve experienced it).

READ MORE: BernCo Sherriff Dan Houston calls two staff member “a couple of whores” and is fired for it

READ MORE: Perennial NM Republican attorney Pat Rogers uses defamatory language against Native Americans, and was forced to resign for it

READ MORE: Stand With New Mexico Women

From her op-ed:

Sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence and any form of harassment are completely unacceptable and must not be tolerated. And it seems that our society is finally ready to listen to those brave survivors sharing their stories.

But before we claim victory, we must address our own vulnerabilities – our complicity. We must face that our society inherently responds to these types of allegations by standing up for the accused perpetrator instead of supporting the potential victim.

We see these unspeakable acts swept under the rug from college campuses to the halls of Congress to our very own Roundhouse. And it is time that society’s basic instinct to shame the victim ends now.

When Stephanie was a State Representative she was sexually harassed by Rep. Nate Gentry. She uses that experience as a jumping off point to highlight the ways all of us have been complicit – at all levels of our culture – at letting sexual misconduct go unchallenged by the (mostly) men who perpetrate it.

You can find the full op-ed online here.

The recent revelations about the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault nationwide have not gone unnoticed here in New Mexico. We’re not immune from the kinds of predatory behavior that have been the undoing of so many men around the nation already.

In a piece by Steve Terell in the Santa Fe New Mexican today, women who’ve been involved in New Mexico politics for years show just how much #MeToo resonates in our state’s political culture:

“Their stories are different, but one message from every woman who discussed the issue is the same: The problem is common and widespread.”

Voices from across the spectrum – like GOP Rep. Kelly Fajardo, SOS Maggie Toulouse Oliver, our own Stephanie Maez, and others – detailed how prevalent and disheartening the problem is.

From a recent ABQ Journal article by Dan Boyd:

Among the behaviors described to the Journal in interviews with more than a dozen lobbyists, legislators and staffers are:
– Quid pro quo propositions in which legislators offer political support to lobbyists in exchange for sexual favors.
– Inappropriate text messages sent by lawmakers to young female lobbyists.
– A whisper system in which female lobbyists share information about male legislators known to be serial harassers.

Secretary of State Oliver has already developed a sexual harassment training program for lobbyists in Santa Fe. And leadership in the New Mexico Legislature has taken steps to address the concerns presented by legislators, lobbyists, and other women and men in the political sector.

Again, from Dan Boyd:

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, told the Journal all legislators will be asked to attend sexual harassment training from a national group on Jan. 15, the day before next year’s 30-day session officially begins. That would mark the first time since 2004 such training has been offered to lawmakers.

And he and other House and Senate leaders said this week they intend to assemble a group of legislators to work with attorneys to review the harassment policy and suggest changes that could be adopted in January. Recommendations are expected to be presented to legislative leaders later this month.

But if you’re looking for another action you can take to influence this debate and help make real change, get involved by signing our petition below.

We will share your responses with elected and party leaders and let you know as new actions are developed to help stem this very-solvable problem.