Katherine Fenton an undecided voter who posed the question, “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?” to both presidential candidates during the second presidential debate. Fenton who posed the question that resulted in the binder blunder has now come under harsh criticism from conservatives online and offline. A registered independent, teacher, and daughter of very conservative parents, Fenton claims to have voted for McCain in the 2004 presidential election but cannot decide this time around. What she can make up her mind about is how disgusting the campaign has become this election season in its attacks on individuals for expressing themselves publicly. Like Georgetown Graduate Sandra Fluke, who in February 2012 faced extreme criticism for giving trying to testify about the importance of an insurance contraception mandate; Katherine Fenton is now facing the same criticism for simply posing a question. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh commented on Flukes testimony stating, “[she] says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut right? Makes her a prostitute.” Limbaugh has also been quoted calling debate moderator Candy Crowley a journalistic terrorist. After she posed the legitimate question, Katherine Fenton instantly joined the ranks of Sandra Fluke and Candy Crowley as targets of the right wing conservative media. The Washington Free Beacon instantly painted a negative image of Fenton via her twitter posts, as a drunk, slutty party girl who hates the cops and cant keep it in her pants. Matthew Vadum tweeted “Katherine Fenton, questioner, brings up the feminazi leftist lie that women don’t get paid equally”. Michelle Malkin tweeted in response to Fenton, “SOFTBALL: #ladyparts tool Katherine Fenton asks Obama how he will rectify gender pay disparities. Obama: ‘GREAT QUESTION’ #townhall”. While many other’s have questioned her uncommitted voter status. Both Vadum and Malkin are known conservative media pundits, who have been known to downplay or blatantly deny that the gender pay gap exists.
The problem here is the personal attacks being carried out by conservative media against people (specifically women) who speak up and ask questions. What happened to free speech? I thought conservatives were staunch supporters of the First Amendment? I guess only when its utilized to promote their own interests. But seriously, what happened to promoting a healthy debate on key issues and encouraging youth participation? Attacking young women for participating is not only disgusting, but contradicting to the very fundamentals that our political system was founded upon. If Malkin or Vadum actually had something of substance to contribute to the discussion it would not have included Fenton’s name. The real problem is that conservatives do not want to answer these questions and confront the very real issues that women face today because they are worried of loosing swing voters. It seems though, with all of the media attention on their smear campaign, their plan to dodge the real issue and attach the questioner may have backfired. The conservatives reliance on gender stereotypes to advert key policy issues is nothing new, but is becoming more highly publicized. Women’s sexuality has historically been called into question in order to discredit their speech and position of power. Due to modern technology, when this occurs today you can go from an unknown kindergarden teacher one morning to a globally known internet ‘slut’ within hours. These repeated attacks on women who speak up and ask questions sends the wrong message to our youth and will degrade our political system. We need to stop promoting a culture of “hey shut up you woman slut” to “hey lets all get this debate going”.