In Attacking Governor Dalrymple, North Dakota Women’s Network Does The Cause Of Women Harm


“Twice in the past few months, Gov. Jack Dalrymple has failed to follow state law when making appointments to commissions,” writes Renee Stromme and Linda Wurtz of the North Dakota Women’s Network in the Grand Forks Herald. “State statute mandates that appointments should be gender balanced. In September, Dalrymple’s appointments to the Outdoor Heritage Fund failed to meet that requirement in that only two of the 12 appointees were women. Again this week when announcing the newly formed appointments to the Property Tax Task Force, only one woman was in the mix of the 14 appointees. There is no question that there are qualified and interested women available to serve on these committees.”

I wasn’t a fan of the make-up of Dalrymple’s Property Tax Task Force, and the existence of the Outdoor Heritage Fund is a legislative mistake those concerned with property rights and efficient use of tax dollars will one day regret, but this argument from Stromme and Wurtz is downright insulting.

It may well be the case that there were females eager to serve on one or both of these commissions. Whether or not those women were qualified to serve on the commissions is a matter of subjective opinion. We don’t know which, if any, women made it known they wished to serve. And the only opinion of their qualifications that matters is Governor Dalrymlpe’s.

And therein lays the rub with laws that mandate an arbitrary mix of genders or races is appointments. Or hiring. Or admissions. If the outcome of the appointments/hiring/admissions don’t hit some arbitrary mix of genders/races, is it really fair to say that sexism is at play? Which isn’t to say that sexism doesn’t exist. I’m quite sure it does. But it doesn’t exist every time outcomes for women aren’t exactly equal to outcomes for men.

Otherwise, where’s the outrage about gender discrimination on our college campuses, where enrollment and graduation rates for men have been on the decline for years?

Maybe Governor Dalrymple just didn’t like the qualifications of any would-be female members of these conditions (assuming there were any). Does that make him a sexist? I’m a consistently outspoken critic of Dalrymple and his policies, as anyone who reads this blog knows, but he’s no sexist and the insinuation that he is because his commission appointments don’t meet some threshold put in place by certain professional victims discredits those making it.

And it discredits the worthy cause of equal treatment for all regardless of things like race or gender.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a black man who was educated at prestigious institutions like Yale, has railed against affirmative action (which is, essentially, what Stromme and Wurtz want for females) because throughout his career people have assumed that his accomplishments weren’t as substantive because he had a racial advantage.

“Many asked pointed questions, unsubtly suggesting they doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated,” Thomas told ABC News in an interview.

In his memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas suggests that affirmative action is worse than the full-on bigotry or racists.

“At least southerners were up front about their bigotry: You knew exactly where they were coming from,” he wrote. “Not so the paternalistic big-city whites who offered you a helping hand so long as you were careful to agree with them, but slapped you down if you started acting as if you didn’t know your place.”

I am the father to two daughters, and I am enraged even at the possibility that they might one day be passed over for something they deserve because of their gender. But what would be equally enraging is for them to be perceived as unworthy of their accomplishments because of the assumption that they got a leg up thanks to laws or political pressure.

I don’t want my girls to ever feel like they’re entitled to something because of their gender or skin color – I don’t ever want them to see themselves as victims – nor do I want whatever they accomplish in live to be diminished by the perception of an unlevel playing field.

A perception created self righteous condemnations, and expectations of equal outcomes, from groups like the North Dakota Women’s Network.

A truly level playing field, a true meritocracy, does not produce equal outcomes. That groups like the North Dakota Women’s Network – that women like Stromme and Wurtz – want equal outcomes (or outcomes that meet some arbitrary standard) is evidence that a meritocracy and a level playing field isn’t what they want.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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