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Was Omar Torres’ verbal attack on Dev Davis misogynistic?

Unpacking the sexist undertones of D3 candidate’s bizarre social media outburst. Do men get to determine for women what acceptable political beliefs are?

“Evil” is a pretty rough insult to throw at anybody–it suggests that they’re depraved, outside normal ethical boundaries, and that they mean big trouble for the community. Generally, “evil” is something we look to punish or expel or eradicate.

And it’s even more loaded when men throw that term around at women, as it clearly marginalizes them, otherizes them, and reinforces a systemic, patriarchal worldview in which men in power pass judgment on women vying for power.

I bring this up because Omar Torres–then chief of staff for CM Magdalena Carrasco, now a leading Labor candidate for District 3 Council–accused CM Dev Davis of being “evil”–in fact “as evil as Donald Trump” when Davis was running for council. Ramona Giwargis–then a Merc reporter, now founder and EIC at Spotlight–covered the story for the Merc (9.28.16) https://www.mercurynews.com/2016/09/28/san-jose-council-aide-calls-candidate-as-evil-as-donald-trump/

Maybe there was further coverage that Google can’t direct me to, but I found it surprising that Torres’ comments didn’t get more notice–and make me wonder why progressive women would choose to line up behind Torres with nary a peep about his questionable outburst. 

Here’s why:

* Torres is verbally punishing Davis for being a transgressive woman. 

Torres and Davis are on opposite sides of the local political spectrum. Though Davis is now an independent and a Cindy Chavez supporter, back when Torres lobbed the insult, she was a Republican, though a Critical of Trump Republican. Torres, by calling her “evil” because of her political affiliation, was clearly putting a Scarlet R on Davis’ shirt. 

Put more simply, Torres’ message is kind of shocking: if a woman breaks political orthodoxy (which is determined and enforced by men), we should consider her to be something outside accepted norms, and we must publicly shame and banish her from our ethical community. Torres is implicitly acting like he has the moral authority to decide, for women, which political values are acceptable in our city.  That’s a pretty harsh world for independently-minded political women to live in

{Case study on how men try to undermine women’s political agency: file:///Users/ii/Downloads/titusland,+7+P81+101+RFR+VOL34+nos+3&4+WENDT+SEC.pdf}

* For a man to describe a woman as Evil unleashes a cavalcade of misogynistic and sexist conventions. It goes back to Genesis in the Bible–remember it’s The Woman, Eve, who brings sin unto humankind, and gets us banished from Eden:. “Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die” (Eccles. 25:22). Kirsten Sollée outlines this well in her book Witches, Sluts, Feminists. She notes that  women who “dare to take up space and live their lives outside their … socially prescribed roles” are often referred to with loaded ethical language like “evil” and “witches.”  Using these types of terms pejoratively is just another way to perpetuate misogyny, a way to call out women “who don’t submit to patriarchal power,” she says.

A good review of the book can be found here:

https://www.domesticshelters.org/articles/in-the-news/why-we-still-call-rebellious-women-witches

It’s hard not to read Torres’ slapping the “evil” term on Davis–and any other woman who disagrees with him politically–as a means to silence, intimidate, and bully them away from any position outside his progressive orthodoxy. 

{For more on the religious background of men punishing transgressive women look here:

https://bu.digication.com/WR150P1_EnzoM/Are_Women_the_Root_of_All_Evil

* A non apology apology.

It’s easy–too easy, I would suggest–to give Torres a pass on this misogyny-stained insult. He did offer a qualified statement to Davis and the Merc: 

“I don’t know Dev Davis personally,” Torres continued. “She is not evil and happy to hear she has distanced herself from Donald Trump.”

But isn’t this apology just extending the undercurrent of misogyny and patriarchy in Torres’ initial comments? He links his apology to his realization that Davis’ politics are less transgressive than he originally understood (she’s anti-Trump), thereby reinforcing his authority to pass judgment on her. And most importantly, he completely whiffs on apologizing to all women in San Jose who have every right to voice their opinions on political issues without some man judging their ethical worth based on those opinions.

We’ve all posted stuff on Facebook that we regret> But to me, Torres went way too far and his apology came up way short. Our local political community should demand better. 

–SM

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