Lt. Dan Choi’s Teachable Moment

By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President

With sexist, misogynist slurs continuing to permeate political discourse, the joke floating around the NOW Action Center yesterday was that we needed to create a template press release that said Outraged! We rebuke X for saying Y.

It’s incredibly distressing to hear slurs coming from those who speak for equality, such as when Lt. Dan Choi recently called Sen. Harry Reid a “pussy” for failing to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act during an interview for the Village Voice.

Disgusting? Yes. Do we expect more from a principled leader in the equality movement (even if you disagree with his aggressive tactics, including fasting, chaining himself to the White House fence and proclaiming that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell “isn’t a joke” at an HRC rally featuring Kathy Griffin, it seems next to impossible to argue that Lt. Choi isn’t unwavering in his dedication)? Absolutely.

As was correct, women’s advocates jumped on Lt. Choi for using a misogynist slur. I found his response to be breathtakingly beautiful:

He not only apologized, he committed to “educate others in any capacity I’m afforded in the future.”

In its purest form, this is exactly why feminists call out bad statements. Our role isn’t to play gotcha, give ourselves a high-five and declare someone a Sexist Jerk for Life — our role is to educate, foster and demand a culture where no woman or person is denigrated or discriminated against on the basis of sex, race or sexual orientation.

Thank you, Lt. Choi, for being receptive to criticism, and for moving beyond apologies — for resolving to learn from a mistake and help others do the same. I am very proud to hear you call yourself a feminist. You have set an excellent example for others who repeat the widespread misogyny that continues to permeate our society.

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