When Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, in a single tweet, equated the fight for reproductive freedom with “over-educated, under-loved millennials who sadly return from protests to a lonely microwave dinner with their cats, and no bumble matches” on Wednesday, I was far from insulted.
Instead, I laughed all the way upstairs to my husband, who’d been working in his home office. He’d been blissfully unaware of Gaetz’s latest round of nonsense and rolled his eyes (apparently he’s not as easily amused as I am). We openly wondered how it was possible for a sitting member of Congress to behave in ways so unbecoming of — so disrespectful to — such an important and public-facing position. After my husband went back to work, I reread Gaetz’s tweet, treated myself to some of the responses he received and laughed some more.
While Gaetz specifically called out millennials, it felt like an attempted attack on “over-educated” women of any generation.
There is so little about his perspective that makes actual sense. For instance, what does it mean to be “over-educated”? What’s wrong with microwaved meals and cats? And why is the dating app Bumble caught in the crossfire — unless, of course, it’s because it’s the first so-called feminist dating startup touted as empowering women by allowing them to make the first move, an antidote to the nightmares inspired by other matchmaking apps? What does Gaetz have against any of these things, other than that they give women more agency than he seems personally comfortable with?
Notwithstanding these unanswerable questions, many reactions to Gaetz’s statement are — perhaps rightfully and predictably — angry and pointing to the sexism and misogyny that has come to define today’s Republican Party.
But I’d like to present another perspective: Rather than viscerally responding to his attempt at mocking women, does it not require less psychic energy — less work — to simply treat him like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum in a crowded supermarket? Sure, it’s annoying, but smart adults do not feed into such behavior. Nor do they take it personally. I see the latest Gaetz drama as no different.
What’s wrong with microwaved meals and cats? And why is the dating app Bumble caught in the crossfire?
While Gaetz specifically called out millennials, it felt like an attempted attack on “over-educated” women of any generation. It’s clear that the congressman represents men who are absolutely terrified of educated women, perhaps because there’s strength and power in numbers. Statistically, there are more college-educated women than men in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, women comprised 50.2 percent of the college-educated labor force as of 2019, a figure that was up from 45.1 percent in 2000.
Statista, a provider of market and consumer data, found that 38.3 percent of all women had completed four or more years of college in 2020. Was Gaetz really thinking straight when he saw fit to try to insult nearly 40 percent of women in the U.S.?
In his own state of Florida, about 26.7 percent of women had a bachelor’s degree or higher as of 2015, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. That represented an increase of about 7 percentage points since 2000. It doesn’t seem like a wise political strategy to insult and dismiss such a large base. But psychology has taught us that fear can inspire some pretty irrational behavior.
Many women, like myself, have carefully crafted a life replete with advanced degrees and educational pursuits that would put us in a position to call our own shots. Perhaps that makes us “over-educated.” Despite my abundant credentials, my spouse adores me, and I enjoy the occasional microwaved meal with my recently adopted rescue cat. This is why I’m able to laugh at the Florida congressman and even pity him. After all, that’s what education affords women: the ability to see such misogynistic and outdated perspectives as the foolish and fear-based drivel that they are.
To be sure, I understand the anger with Gaetz’s viral tweet. His perspective is misogynistic, and his view of women (and cats) is nothing short of vile and putrid. That the nation’s women continue to do battle with privileged white men while some of these same men are embroiled in their own ongoing legal troubles is a farce. These are understatements.
But Gaetz perhaps offered the lone comedic moment since the nation learned just how close the Supreme Court is to overturning Roe v. Wade. For women to be on the precipice — again — of losing their basic human right to bodily autonomy is to inspire a gut-clenching rage. I, like so many, have felt this fury with the fire of a thousand suns. But I think it’s wise, in between the fighting and the raging that lies ahead, to seize every opportunity to laugh. In this way, Gaetz will never disappoint. His words, far from clever, struck me as a pathetic, last-ditch effort to whine about that which he and men like him seem to fear most: educated and powerful women with agency.