Idaho senator to Boise State professor Scott Yenor: The clock will not be turned back

·3 min read

Dear Mr. Yenor,

Words matter.

Your recent divisive words mattered, but in a way you may not have expected — they actually united the very group of “medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome” women you hoped to segregate and diminish. People across Idaho are raising their voices on social media to celebrate women for the very achievements you condemn, from being a first-generation college student to a medical doctor or civil engineer.

Melissa Wintrow
Melissa Wintrow

These successes were championed, not criticized as you would’ve liked. You yearn to return to the dark ages, but it’s clear the clock will not be turned back. Thankfully, that dystopian worldview is fading, and thousands of people will ensure we keep moving forward; I’m one of them.

Higher education changed my life and allowed me to look beyond my once-limited perspective. I’ve seen it do the same for so many students while working at different universities, including Boise State, where I was hired as the first full-time Women’s Center director and taught gender studies classes. And I know you have also seen the liberating effect of education, especially for women, which is why you’re so fearful.

As women become the majority of college graduates, pursue fields previously dominated by men, like medicine or engineering, and fight for equal pay, the patriarchal ideals you hold dear are being challenged, resulting in a loss of power and control.

This is why you’ve aligned yourself with radical conservative activists — like extremist special interest groups, the lieutenant governor’s task force, and choice GOP legislators — trying to dismantle public education and deny women and other marginalized groups opportunities to succeed. These attitudes materialized in a vote to block funding for child care and pre-K because it would enable women to “come out of the home,” a prime example of institutionalized sexism based on fear of what you perceive you will lose.

There is no reason to fear an equitable society when there is so much to gain, allowing everyone to fulfill their god-given right to pursue happiness and live the life they have chosen. People who experience social advantages are being asked right now to recognize the benefits society affords them based solely on their race and sex. Although success isn’t guaranteed, these immutable traits — like being white and male — don’t work against them. Women and people from historically marginalized groups have not always been valued by society in that way and must work harder to gain access to those same rights and opportunities. This can be uncomfortable to reconcile, but this pales in comparison to discrimination.

Your words are insidious and dangerous, but there are enough educated, community-minded, and caring Idahoans who see through your misaligned tactics. The next step is to elect them.

In the meantime, Mr. Yenor, I invite you to take off your blinders and join us as we create a world in which everyone is free to pursue their dreams, care for themselves and their families and live a fulfilling life without fear of being locked into a one-size-fits-all role predetermined by whomever is in power.

A world where transgender people can express their true selves without fear of harm and exclusion from sports or public spaces; where Black parents don’t have to experience the pain of teaching their kids how to respond to authorities or combat racism; where women can walk freely at night without using their keys as makeshift brass knuckles; and where universities don’t lose funding for trying to create a safe and inclusive environment.

Words matter. I hope you listen to mine and the many Idahoans condemning yours.

Idaho Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, who represents District 19, is serving her first term in the Idaho Senate after three terms in the House. Wintrow previously taught gender studies courses at Boise State University, where she helped establish the Women’s Center, now the Gender Equity Center.

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