On Thursday, March 19, during the NM Senate floor session, the entire chamber, members of the media, and the public were witness to a disturbing display of a male Senator verbally abusing the Senator Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, sponsor of the bill up for debate. Read the Political Report article which covers the incident in more detail.
While media sources focus on the “turmoil” between senators during last night’s debate, it is imperative that we recognize what was really happening: a culmination of not just weeks of abuse of women by their male colleagues, but years of systematic misogyny that is built into the systems of power that the New Mexico Legislature was designed to protect and uphold. And, it must be noted, these systems do not exist alone in a vacuum, but are joined inherently by racism, heterosexism, classism and ableism.
The incident last night may have been a tipping point, but the issue is much larger than a single moment. This is about the culture of the Legislature that has fostered and even encouraged this type of behavior for years.
This is also not partisan. This happens from both sides of the aisle, in both chambers, during floor debates, and in the committee rooms. It comes from electeds and it is directed at anyone in their path. Whether fellow Legislators, community advocates, or community members testifying for bills, women, people of color and queer communities specifically have experienced this abuse at multiple points over the past 60 days.
A coalition of community organizations came together at the beginning of the session to call out some of these abusive actions by legislators. The call to censure abusive legislators was met mostly with silence. Meanwhile, each unchecked action built upon the next until we all witnessed the public display that happened last night. The legislature is a breeding ground for “bad behavior” practiced on every level.
It’s not a coincidence that more women and queer folk are in office this year. The abuse that women and other marginalized groups have suffered over the years has led directly to more women, more people of color, more queer folks, stepping up to run for office and demanding that the communities they represent be recognized and respected. They were elected and joined the ranks of the supposed “hallowed” or “sacred” halls of the Legislature, only for the abuse they’ve faced their whole lives to be on public display, driven by the actions of their peers.
It’s become quite obvious as the legislature becomes more reflective of the demographics of our state that the power the “good ol’ boys’ club” once had is feeling threatened by this monumental shift. Their response has been out-lash in the form of abuse toward their female and queer colleagues and it must stop.
To the women and queer folk of the legislature: we see you and we stand beside you. We recognize and honor the violence you face because we too, as advocates, have had parallel experiences in the legislature.
Last night was a pivotal moment for femmes in the legislature. It was a tipping point that must be recognized and validated with action.
We’re ready to rise up and we hope you are, too.
#riseupnmleg #nmleg #nmpol