The Republican Party of Florida wants you to know that I curse.
So much so, that they’ve created television ads and sent three mailers into my district stating that I am “vulgar,” and that I am “everything wrong with politics today.” The mailer includes quotes from me at rallies and public events, where I spoke truth to power, and occasionally integrated words like “shit” and “damn” into my remarks for emphasis. Once at a public storytelling event I proclaimed “fuck the patriarchy” and at the 2017 Women’s March I said, “P*ssy Power” as I was reading it off an attendee’s sign.
Apparently, all of this is just too much for the Republican Party to handle, as the mailer reads: “Ask yourself, is this the example our leaders should be setting for our children?”, concluding, “Anna Eskamani: Extremely Partisan. Extremely Vulgar. Extremely Wrong for Central Florida.”
The irony is palpable, and the cognitive dissonance clear. The Party of Trump thinks I am vulgar? President Trump can grab women by the p*ssy, and use language that is demeaning towards women, people of color, immigrants, and the disabled. But when I reclaim terms that have historically been used to belittle women, than I am the one who is being vulgar?
Let’s be real: the Republican Party could care less about cursing. Party leaders only care because I’m a woman who curses, and they think that can be weaponized against me.
Despite achievements made by women in our country, we still face deep double standards in government, business, tech, sports, academics, and entertainment. Double standards are defined as a rule or principle that is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups. In the case of women, we are often evaluated against different harsher standards when compared to male counterparts. Examples exist in all fields, and especially in politics.
Recently I had my first ever debate with my Republican opponent. So far, it’s the only debate he has agreed to, and chances are since it was hosted by our local Chamber of Commerce, he assumed that this young woman of color and Democrat would not perform well in a business-focused space.
The attack mail calling me vulgar had begun that same week, and I knew it was an intentional effort to damage my character before I even walked into the room.
I was up till 6:00 a.m. preparing for this debate, crafting a thirty-page binder of policy notes, reviewing statistics, theories, and budget allocations. One double standard that women face — and especially women of color — is that you only get one chance to get it right. I knew this moment mattered, and refused to take it for granted.
With one hour of sleep, I walked into the debate and demonstrated a grasp of the issues, had the courage to hold my opponent accountable to his lies, and relayed a message of hope for our state that leaves no one behind.
Many had said I won the debate, and when the forum ended I felt like we had done our job in painting a brighter future for Florida. Later, when I looked at the Facebook live stream, and read the comments left by those watching, I could not help but notice people who oppose me comment on my “valley girl” voice, speak to my opponents lack of detailed responses as being his “strength”, and continue to call me “too vulgar” to support.
Later in the week, a former elected official would troll me on my personal Facebook page and say that he “observed me” at the debate, thought that I was “charming” but that I was “insincere, just playing to the audience.”
Tossing aside women you disagree with, commenting on superficial elements, and labeling them as liars is another double standard. Just ask President Trump and Brett Kavanaugh. They’re both very good at it.
Running for office takes being yourself. It takes remembering where you come from and who you are. It takes grit and grace. It takes asking for guidance, but also trusting your gut. The recent attacks that I have faced are insignificant when compared to the attacks faced by hardworking Florida families each and every day. These personal attacks mean nothing when I reflect upon the importance of protecting public education and our environment. In fact, it’s hard not to swear when I think about Florida politicians never expanding Medicaid, a decision that has left nearly 800,000 people in our state without access to health care.
I know all too well that more attacks by my opponent and Republican leadership are yet to come. Next will be my traffic citations plastered on mail, my past work at Planned Parenthood, and no doubt efforts to tie my cultural identity as an Iranian-American to terrorism. Each will be seen across our district, designed to hurt me and the movement we are building.
It won’t work. Our voters are too smart, our team too committed, and my track record too strong.
Because we are authentic to the members of our district we have inspired Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike to stand with us in demanding a collaborative and ethical approach to problem solving, one that celebrates diversity and operates free of special interests. Our campaign is less about winning an election and more about setting a new tone for the America we love, and fight for.
Yes, I am a woman who curses. But no, I am not what’s wrong with politics today. I am the sum of those around me, a facilitator for change, a challenger of the status quo, and someone who is damn ready to serve the great people of Florida State House District 47.
Anna V. Eskamani is an Orlando native and daughter of working class immigrants from Iran. She is pursuing a PhD at the University of Central Florida and is a first time candidate, running for Florida State House District 47.