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Another brick in the wall

Campaigning While Female

Photo: Taelar Pollmann ⋅ The Sentry

A press conference last week organized by Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman (who are full-time conservative activists, I guess?) revealed that Kelvin Ty Whelly, a 24-year-old ex-Marine, supposedly had an affair with U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. Wohl and Burkman are notably best-known for falsely accusing fellow candidate Pete Buttigieg of sexual assault earlier this year.

Whelly’s account is dubious for a number of reasons. Firstly, the U.S. Marine Corps has confirmed Whelly misrepresented his service record. Secondly, though Whelly claimed he received a scar on his back from a sexual encounter with Warren, on an old Instagram post he writes that he received the scar from trying to put up a swing, prompting a flurry of “sex swing” jokes on Twitter.

Other than being blatantly false, what’s weird about these claims is Wohl and Burkman weren’t accusing Warren of assault, an actual crime, like they did with Buttigieg. They were trying to shame her for supposedly having a consensual relationship with another adult. Other than the fact that Warren is married, why would anyone care?

Presumably, the subtext is that women, especially older women, aren’t supposed to enjoy sex. Wohl and Burkman were likely counting on the idea of a woman running for president having a sex life being considered too obscene by the general public. Meanwhile, when men running for president are accused of infidelity, like Donald Trump, the general public seems to mostly shrug it off.

But what’s more revealing about Warren’s treatment as a female candidate is the controversy surrounding her claim that she was fired from a teaching position in 1971 for being pregnant. The Washington Free Beacon Press published a report supposedly discrediting this claim, essentially because there was no mention of Warren’s pregnancy in the minutes from a school board meeting discussing her employment.

As many women on social media pointed out, employers aren’t likely to keep “fired for pregnancy” in their personnel files. But the incident demonstrates another obstacle female candidates face—their experiences being questioned and dismissed.

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