(UPDATED WITH VIDEO) Testimony of Rachel Sukeforth Against Dirigo Health Board Nominee Jon McKane (TEXT; PIX)

Posted on March 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

UPDATED: Here is a video of Ms. Sukeforth’s testimony.

Rachel Sukeforth of Litchfield testified yesterday in strong opposition against the nomination of former Rep. Jonathan McKane (R-Newcastle) to the Dirigo Health board. Below is her written testimony.

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    Good afternoon Senator Gratwick, Representative Treat and members of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. My name is Rachel Sukeforth and I’d like to raise some concerns about the nomination of Jonathan McKane to the Dirigo Health Board.

    This committee has heard about some of the derrogative and generally offensive language that nominee Jon McKane has used to describe his political opponents and the program he now seeks to represent. I’d like to offer testimony today on a specific and particularly troubling aspect of this behavior, the language Mr. McKane has used to describe women involved in health care policy in Maine.

    Mr. McKane has, many times over a period of several years, referred to the administrators and supporters of the Dirigo Health program as “Dirigirls.” A Google search of the AsMaineGoes.com domain for the term along with Mr. McKane’s name returns 67 results, most of them linking to posts he has made or discussions he has engaged in featuring the term.

    By using the term at all, Mr. McKane was engaging in sexism by marking the gender of and subtly infantilizing the women involved in Dirigo. That would be bad enough, but Mr. McKane actually makes it clear in his posts that he intends for the word to be a genderbased insult.

    On two occasions he calls male Consumers for Affordable Health Care executive director Joe Ditre (whom he refers to as Joey Dirte) a Dirigirl and makes it clear that the remark is meant to be derogatory.

    As a scientist, I know how hard women must sometimes work to make progress in a male dominated field. As a graduate of Emerge Maine and a woman involved in politics and advocacy, I am acutely aware of the long struggle for respect and equality for women in government and public policy. For Mr. McKane to use his position of authority to spread this kind of sexism is an insult to this legislature and the State of Maine. It should certainly disqualify him from serving on a government board.

    Lest one think that Mr. McKane has outgrown these kinds of unfortunate statements, I’d point the members of this committee to a post he made on the As Maine Goes website just a few months ago.

    That thread was begun with a post lamenting the role of women voters in reelecting President Barack Obama. Here is the text of the first post, from user “john w k”:
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      “It is so sad that America has been destroyed from within because our federal government has been allowed to buy votes with “free stuff”. Unfortunately, our nation’s majority voting block are women and most of them want free stuff and they have sold out our country to get it.”

    Mr. McKane responded by posting a historical pamphlet from a group called National Association OPPOSED to Woman Suffrage, listing a number of reasons why women should not be allowed to vote.

    (NOTE: I have seen the AMG thread and pamphlet image that Ms. Sukeforth describes for myself. Below is the image Rep. McKane shared. ~AP)

    no suffrage

    I’m sure Mr. McKane would say this, like his many other misogynistic comments, is “just a joke and we should get over it”.

    Well, I’m sorry, but the right of women not to be attacked for their gender when they vote, when they work in government and when they speak out for what they believe in is not a joke. It should be their fundamental right.

    These concerns are especially important when it comes to the board being considered here.

    Women are vitally important consumers of health care in Maine.

    They’re often responsible for the health care and insurance decisions of their whole family in addition to themselves. Women are more vulnerable to losing their insurance compared to men, as they are more likely to be covered as dependents. If they are divorced or widowed or if family health care costs increase to an unaffordable level, they are often the first to lose coverage. Women, statistically, have greater rates of health problems and longer life spans than men and are also more likely to be low income. (http://www.kff.org/womenshealth/)

    As a young women, working full time, uninsured and grappling with my own recurring reproductive health issues, I am particularly concerned for the future of access of women to preventative health screenings.

    To select someone, such as Mr. McKane, to a board with such a broad mandate who has said these things and holds these views would be unfair to Maine women and to all Maine people who expect to be treated fairly by their government institutions.

    Thank you for your time.

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