Debate Aftermath: Trashing Katherine Fenton

At the debate last night, a young woman asked the presidential candidates a question about work equality, noting that women make less than men. Now, this isn’t news, and hasn’t been for a long time. For decades women have been challenging inequalities in the workplace, with slow and erratic success.

The candidates answered her question with varying degrees of success, depending on your philosophical and political bent. You can decide for yourself whose answer was better; that’s why we have public debates. Their answers, while important in thier own right, are inconsequential compared to the attempt to discredit the young woman who asked the question.

Her name is Katherine Fenton. She’s a 24 year old pre-K teacher, and her question was one that many women (still) want answered. She obviously was proud to be a part of the townhall meeting, telling the Long Island Newsday,

“It was an extraordinary experience at every moment. I felt incredibly lucky to be one of the chosen and to actually get to ask a question live,” she said. “Up until this point, I felt disconnected to politics. For the first time ever, I felt like I was actually connected to the political process.”

That’s what we want, isn’t it, in our citizenry? We encourage our youth to become involved, educated and engaged in the political process. We require civics classes and we often give our students recognition for being ‘good citizens.’ Movements have been devoted to getting out the youth vote. There are Young Republicans and Young Democrats organizations. We decry apathy and celebrate participation.

Until, that is, our younglings do or say something with which we disagree or disapprove. Or, to be more precise, until our young women do something we don’t like.

Then, we crucify them. We call them names. We dig into their personal lives and call them out for any hint of perceived sexual impropriety. Heaven forbid our adult daughters should drink and have sex and, worse, talk about it in public. If they do? Fair game.

Young Miss Fenton is in the early states of learning this lesson. Already, there are snarky stories about her Twitter feed. Apparently, she isn’t ladylike enough for some pundits.

Or quiet enough.

Miss Fenton is learning what woman after woman in our society has painfully learned: Speak out and you will be targeted. You. Personally. Your character. Your morals. Your beliefs. Everything.
I wish I could tell her that it will get better as she gets older. It won’t. It doesn’t. What happens instead is that we stop caring what others say — or we just stop caring.

And that’s the point of the attacks, to shut us up.


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  • I wonder on what basis Ms. Fenton asks her question. If she is employed as a teacher in a district, and has not taken legal action against the district for earning less than a male counterpart, why is she asking a question that to her is moot? She is already enjoying the full protection of the law and the sensibility of her employer to pay her equally for her work.

    However, the flawed study that draws the figure of the "72" percent women pay vs male, compared women and men in completely different occupations, working different hours.

    When apples are compared to apples, women who work in the same position as men in the same organizations, are paid the same. The touted Ledbetter Law has seen only 35 law suits since enacted.

    If discrimination was being practiced at firms across the country, you can bet your ambulance chasing lawyer there would be more suits.

    I think the fury is directed towards the question. If Ms. Fenton was not an plant for the Obama team, then she is harboring many false assumptions.

    As are those who mindlessly mouth the same figures without doing any "fact checking".

    Too bad Candy Crowley -- fairly paid, I am sure-- did not throw down the flag on this one. But then we cannot expect a fair stage when it comes to Democrat slander.

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    In reply to Richard Davis:

    Richard Davis: Your post regarding Katherine Fenton's equitable pay question at the debate is indicative of the paranoia rampant among the perennially malcontent right in this country. It reveals your antisocial, intrinsic "I've got mine" attitude as well asee an entitlement to judge an innocent asking a relevant and innocent question as somehow morally or ethically compromised. It is immaterial what Ms. Fenton's personal status regarding pay equity is as it is the patriotic duty of every citizen to call out discrimination, minimization and marginalization of every other citizen and resident on U.S. soil. It matters not how many women enjoy an equitable work environment as long as even a single woman is not so endowed, whether it be by location, position, social status or employers' caprice. Too many employees are intimidated from acting on their own behalf, and too many employees are restricted by factors such as tradition, social pressure, peer pressure, corporate regulations, state statute and a host of other aspects from learning the nature and extent by which they are discriminated against. In other words, they are prevented from taking action by hook and by crook, so your so-called ambulance chasing lawyers never get near the picture.

    There are many studies which corroborate the 72 cents on the dollar inequity in pay statistics, and declaring that whatever study she based her question on is a straw man argument without merit or substantiation.

    There are too many ad hominem attacks against Ms. Fenton for anybody but the most obtuse or willfully ignorant to consider the vehemence is aimed at the question rather than the messenger. The paranoic suggestion she was a campaign plant is misplaced at best and reveals exactly who is making many false assumptions. It doesn't appear you, Mr. Davis, have affected any fact checking. Or, if you have, there is an overwhelming degree of mendacity in your position. The only reason Candy Crowley could have possibly raised an objection over the issue is is some of it were not based on fact and demonstrably observable proof. But, then, it has become more and more clear exactly why the Republican party rejects fact checking and considers reality based arguments are liberally biased. The only slander I see is your and the radical regressive right's insistence that faith in any narrative is somehow better than reliance on reality, that conviction somehow trumps proof and assertions are preferable to facts.

  • Yep, we all see what the left has done to Sarah Palin.

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    Thank you for calling this out Lucy. This is as un-American as it gets, and such ignorant and hateful behavior on behalf of the Washington Free Beacon is an abuse and an abomination of any interpretation of the word "free." Moreover, it's terrorism. To take an unbiased and relevant political question and make it cause for a juvenile yet fascist witch-hunt into the personal life of Katherine is nauseating. As a social media professional, I know the public facing nature of Twitter, but given the context of conversation, and the general nature of being a normal human being, a person should have the freedom to express him or herself without being humiliated or harassed.
    Now the article doesn't have an attributed author, but the editor of the publication goes by @SonnyBunch on Twitter.
    Perhaps he can answer why Katherine deserved to be harassed to the point of deleting her Twitter account, but still, whether democrat or republican - no one should be terrorized for voicing an honest, unbiased, and logical idea.

  • I'm glad to see you calling out this reprehensible behavior and absolutely agree that, in many cases, the goal of such attacks is to shut up a woman who dares to ask questions or speak her mind. But here's the rub, do we stand for anyone who is abused for speaking out, or only those we support? Most people will go to the mat for someone who thinks the way we do, but not so much for someone with whom they vehemently disagree. It seems to me--and I speak as a someone whose morals, beliefs, character and hard-earned professionally integrity has been repeatedly attacked--that our words mean nothing if they aren't applied fairly. It's possible to disagree and move on without stooping to personal attacks. Political season would be a lot more tolerable if more of us would resolve to do so.

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