Women running for political office beware -- your "steamy" reading habits might be scrutinized on the national political stage.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican candidate Wendy Long had their only debate for one of New York's two Senate seats on October 17th. During the "yes" or "no" lightning round, in the midst of questions about prostitution, guns and Senate majority leader aspirations, the two female candidates were asked whether or not they had read "50 Shades of Grey." Um... say what?
Yes, that's right, when you get two powerful women together for their one and only political debate, they're forced to discuss S&M erotica. At the time, both candidates laughed it off and quickly answered "no" to the question, as did the female moderator, the moderator, YNN anchor Liz Benjamin, for reasons unknown. The male moderator didn't comment. But on Thursday, Long told the NY Daily News that the question was "out of left field, out of touch and outlandishly sexist." Gillibrand's spokesman Glen Caplin told the media outlet that Gillibrand didn't mind the "50 Shades" question. "The only thing she found offensive ... was her opponent's views that women shouldn't have the freedom to make medical choices for themselves," he said.
The Atlantic's David Graham called it an "awful debate question" and wondered whether two male candidates would ever be asked an equivalent:
Can anyone imagine this being asked in a race with any male candidates? (For that matter, would anyone two male candidates if they had subscriptions to Playboy?) We're not talking about a laugh-line about underwear at an MTV candidate forum; it's an actual question, delivered in a real debate by an accomplished journalist. There are just 17 women in the Senate today; can you blame a prospective candidate who would rather sit it out than face this sort of questioning?
It's unclear what Benjamin hoped voters would glean from Gillibrand and Long's responses to the question. Regardless, I think we can all agree that moderators should skip the erotica questions from here on out.