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AGC

Sexism should not be a political issue

You may have seen my name recently on social media or in the news because of something that occurred on the House floor last week. This wasn’t because of anything I did. Rather, it was because of comments made on the floor – and the reaction to those comments by some conservative commenters – that brought the issue of workplace sexism into the spotlight. At this point, I feel that it’s necessary for me to fully explain my stance on the situation and explain what I hope we can all learn from it going forward.

On February 24, my 31st birthday was highlighted on the floor of the Alaska House Representatives by one of my colleagues, Rep. Zack Fields. His speech started out well. I was happy that Fields brought up my husband and children because they mean the world to me. Next, Fields highlighted my strategic value on the floor in debate and navigating rules. Then the speech took an unexpected turn, when my colleague read, into the record, a Facebook comment that my short skirt caused a traffic hazard in my district. Fields concluded by saying he and unspecified colleagues had decided to gift me a pair of sweatpants.

Was this a little awkward? Absolutely. Was it the first time that women have been made to feel uncomfortable in a work environment? No. Will it be the last time? Unfortunately, no.

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Fields’ remarks were condemned by hundreds of Alaskans, and he promptly apologized. I believe that this was a teachable moment for many in our community, and I accepted the apology.

However, not everyone decided to find positivity in this unfortunate situation. On Sunday, Must Read Alaska published a piece by Louisiana-based talk radio host Dan Fagan titled “Did Rasmussen fake outrage over sexism to make her new ‘woke’ friends happy?” Fagan calls me a “leggy legislator” and repeatedly quotes Anchorage conservative Bernadette Wilson, who says “Get over yourself when someone makes a comment about how pretty you are, or you look nice in that outfit. Quit thinking there is some sexist motive behind it.”

According to Fagan, I was “all giddy and smiling ear to ear when Democrat Rep. Zack Fields complimented her”—my—”body on the House floor.” Apparently, Fagan does not understand that laughing or smiling is a normal human response to feeling uncomfortable, and does not mean that the situation is OK. Any woman could have explained this to Fagan, had he asked.

The message from Fagan and Wilson is clear: women should be flattered by sexualized comments about their appearance at work, shut up, and take it. The import of their arguments was not lost on their readers, one of whom commented “Hay ladies act like a whore you will be treated like one. Get over it.”

So why did Fagan and Wilson come out with such a regressive and inappropriate response against me? Maybe they really do believe what they’re saying. Or maybe—just maybe—they are angry at me for my choice to not to participate in a caucus, but rather be the advocate for Sand Lake that I was elected to be, and are therefore attempting to weaponize a situation of inappropriate workplace conduct. Either way, Fagan and Wilson said what they said, and their words must be taken at face value, as they were intended to be to their readers.

As conservatives, we need to do better. Fagan and Wilson should realize and acknowledge that women are never obligated to tolerate sexualized comments made about them in the workplace. Most women just want to go to work and do their jobs. I have been a Republican since I registered to vote 13 years ago. To me, the Republican party is about respecting people as individuals and promoting equality. The casual sexism promoted by Fagan—who, in 2021, believes it is appropriate to describe me, a female legislator, as “leggy”—and Wilson, who apparently thinks women should be flattered by workplace sexual harassment, has no place in the Republican party. These backwards views are incompatible with party values and will doom the party to electoral failure if those views continue to go unchallenged.

Republicans have an opportunity to promote a healthy, balanced view of workplace interactions. Some people go overboard by claiming that any comments related to appearance at work are inappropriate, even if they are as innocuous as “your hair looks nice today” or “I like that tie.” And too many liberals have argued for unjust treatment of sexual allegations, adopting the defacto belief that women are always right and men are always wrong when reporting incidents. These beliefs are reactionary and harmful too. False accusations make it harder for real victims to come forward and real problems to be addressed.

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Blueprint

As an Alaskan woman and Republican, I believe we need to work hard to encourage respect. Before making a comment at work, ask yourself if your comment will make the person feel comfortable and valued for who they are and the work they do. Telling a woman she stop traffic in an imaginary short skirt is not appropriate because it’s simply a sexualized fantasy of the speaker. Similarly, telling a woman she should shut up and be grateful for sexual harassment reduces women to sexual objects who are acted upon rather than act, and who don’t have the right to speak up or set boundaries.

I do not see myself as victim, either because of Fields’ initial comments or the ugly response by Wilson and Fagan. I will continue to use my position in the Legislature to combat domestic violence, sexism, and other forms of injustice. Two years ago, I worked to remove marriage as a defense for rape in the Alaska statutes. While I am proud of that progress, there is still much to be done. I hope we can all agree that women and girls deserve a healthy environment in their homes, schools, and workplaces, and that we can learn to treat one another with grace and civility, and respect.

Rep. Sara Rasmussen has represented District 22 in Anchorage district since 2019. 

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Anchorage independent
1 month ago

Preach.

Lucy M.
1 month ago

THANK YOU. I am a lifelong conservative R who was beyond disgusted at Bernadette’s attack on your in MRA. If a party leader like Bernadette cannot even bring herself to say “women shouldn’t be sexually harassed at work” then I do not see a healthy future for teh party. Thank you for calling her out. This is not the 1950s anymore. As you say we need to do better.

Maureen Suttman
1 month ago
Reply to  Lucy M.

I hear you and appreciate your reflection, and standing out there.

Why do you consider her a party leader when she clearly is a radio personality doesn’t lead?

1 month ago

Just because your a hot and sexy chick you have these opinions

F Thomlinson
1 month ago
Reply to  Richie romero

Congratulations! You’ve been pre-qualified to be an author at Must Read Alaska. Please contact Suzanne Downing to receive your enrollment packet.

1 month ago
Reply to  Richie romero

Oh come on folks. If it was Harriet Drummond her WAP would be over at Zac s house shooting ping pong balls across the room

F Thomlinson
1 month ago

I had to look the Fagan piece up for myself. It’s actually worse than you said. Far, far worse than Fields’ remarks. Frankly, you went easy on them. Why Dan Fagan, or Bernadette Wilson, or Suzanne Downing would think that publishing that sexist trash is good for the Alaska Republican Party or the Republican brand, is truly beyond me.

Shelby M. T.
1 month ago
Reply to  F Thomlinson

lol Bernadette is Dave Bronson’s campaign manager… weird flex during campaign season.

Alex koplin
1 month ago

Thank you Rep. Rasmussen for your message. It was great to hear from you about the incident. To me the comments made could be handled in a mature, grown up way as your letter does that. However, with the recent problems we’ve had with the two attorney generals and now Andy Turner- it would be nice to see some messaging coming out about these horrific acts. What I find so disturbing is these women couldn’t come out and reveal these situations for fear of retribution. Thanks for your letter and u have a position that can help the people that… Read more »

Lynn Willis
1 month ago

Dan Fagan is like a chameleon lizard who survives by blending into the background where it can “make a living”. Who remembers his former “act” on Channel 2 News when he assumed a totally different persona. And yes, he does not live in Alaska any longer yet he “poses” every morning as an Alaskan who shares the concerns of his listeners. That said, some of the best advice I received in the military to avoid a “Zack Fields” moment: “Don’t ever say or do anything to one soldier that you would not say or do to another soldier”. The other… Read more »

1 month ago

What a distraction from the real work owed the People of Alaska… like talking about the Alaska Land settlement that happened on November 5th of 2020 by the Alaska General Jural Assembly… these bozos are out of work…. all of you, and new local elections for de jure positions in our Counties are coming, including Sheriffs to remove this UN Eurotrash infesting our Nations… BAR Association breaking monopoly law and operating without a valid signed treaty since Trump refused to re-up it… wonder why Dunleavy state of State mentioned sovereignty 3x. Independence, etc… he received his directions from the Assembly… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Christopher-michael