This commentary ran in the editorial section of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette on March 26, 2016. Connie and I couldn’t be prouder of our daughter. She is a free spirit, an articulate writer, and wise beyond her years.
Commentary: Rude is rude, politically correct or not.
Allendorf speaks for herself
Greta Allendorf is a better writer than I am.
A Fayetteville City Council member disrespected her at a local coffee shop where she works. His remarks were overheard and made public. Allendorf wrote about both the insult and the unwelcome publicity it brought, posting a letter to the alderman on the Internet last week. That letter was gracious while making strong, uncompromising points. That’s a difficult balance to strike, as any writer knows. Allendorf consented to reprinting her letter here.
First, some context. Councilman John La Tour asked her to join him in an impromptu dance a week ago Friday but wanted her to confirm her gender first. She objected. He went on, saying at some point, “I am a man and I can prove it.”
La Tour was trying to say something about the city’s civil rights ordinance at Allendorf’s expense. La Tour’s disdain for the voter-approved ordinance and the standard of civility it sets is no secret. But consider his conduct even by traditional standards.
No gentleman would ask a lady in public if she is a man. If he was unsure, a gentleman would keep quiet rather than risk giving offense. There was no need for La Tour to know. If he had doubts, he didn’t have to ask for a dance. And a gentleman also wouldn’t tell a lady in a public place he’s “a man and can prove it,” whatever the context.
La Tour’s comments are no reflection upon the femininity of Allendorf’s appearance. He admitted his inability to judge such differences by offering proof of his own gender, his own appearance notwithstanding.
Here’s the letter:
“John La Tour,
“Hi. You may remember me from Friday. I’m the ‘waitress’ you had the unfortunate encounter with. I am not actually a ‘waitress.’ I am a barista, and more importantly, a human being. I acknowledge that you are also a human being and not the complete monster you are currently being portrayed as on social media. I am also not the victim I see described in these posts.
“On the morning of our incident, I didn’t know who you were and just thought you were a jerk being a jerk to someone in the service industry. It happens everyday. When you apologized, you said it wasn’t your intention to offend me, but what was your intention? It seems now that whether you realized it or not, your intention was to bully someone who obviously didn’t share your political notions. Whether that’s true or not, you should know that your insensitivity to the plight of others can be very hurtful. Your behavior was unacceptable regardless.
“You said to me that it’s not hard to declare gender, that there are only two choices, male or female. I, like you, am not well versed in gender politics. We just can’t possibly understand what it means to be transgender. But in my lack of understanding, there’s a well of compassion. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to just exist in a world of those who don’t understand and hate you merely for existing. In your lack of understanding, there is fear. I get that. That’s very human of you. But how does that fear serve you? How does it serve your children?
“It certainly didn’t do much for you this weekend. It was no fun for me either. Our little encounter has blown up in a way neither us of would have expected. I don’t revel in this kind of attention and chose to lay low, but that felt more victimizing, and irresponsible. The things you said to me on Friday were wildly inappropriate and even though I personally didn’t feel assaulted or sexually harassed, I have to speak up for those your bullying was intended for.
“I hope this weekend has shown you that you are governing a community that doesn’t share your oppressive belief system and doesn’t tolerate this kind of treatment of its citizens, regardless of the gender they identify with. We no longer see you fit for duty. I hope you choose to resign your post, but if not, maybe you can choose to move forward, regardless of your beliefs, with an attitude of respect, compassion, and humanness towards your constituents. We’re all in this together.
“And for the record, I declare myself woman. And I love to dance. If you can put aside the fear and hate, I’d love to take you up on that dance, regardless of how you identify.
“Love & Guts,