“F*cking b*tch” are words that ring loud and strong for me as an opinionated woman.

I’ve had the phrase spewed at me many times. It usually comes up when you reject a man’s advances or dare to question their opinions. I especially remember those words flying at me during a heated debate in a college class. He was one of those guys that wears a suit to class, but I digress…

This week, the phrase was allegedly used by Rep. Ted Yoho (FL), a veterinarian and AVMA member. His colleague, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (NY), claims he called her a “f*cking b*tch” after attacking her on a position. (It generally dealt with her calling out the connection between poverty and crime).

Why am I addressing this on a website about empowering womxn to build veterinary businesses & brands?

Rep. Ted Yoho’s behavior represents larger issues that womxn face not only in our world, but in veterinary medicine.

Abusive, derogatory language has no place in the workplace or any part of womxn’s lives.

Womxn make up the majority of veterinary students, support staff, and – according to the AVMA’s own data – veterinarians. Yet somehow, as evidenced by their silence on this matter, leadership feels uncomfortable standing up for them.

Who do they support? The AVMA, as well as Florida VMA, endorsed Dr. Ted Yoho’s candidacy.

What has Yoho done with that AVMA-endorsed time in Congress?

To his credit, he was instrumental in passing legislation surrounding controlled substances.

But beyond that, the AVMA gave their support to a representative who:

  • Is co-sponsor of the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 (H.R. 3134)
  • Has a 0 rating from the Human Rights Campaign
  • Was 1 of 4 reps who voted against making lynching a federal hate crime

(You can view more legislative history on his Wiki page).

Does that sound like a leader that will help veterinary medicine become more supportive of diversity?

There are many diversity & inclusion groups in vet med, and the AVMA does “support” them. (They do things like allocate funds to WVLDI.) Is this enough? Not exactly, and that’s why I call it “support.”

I fear the AVMA’s type of “support” implies that the underrepresented group is the cause of the problems they experience. Womxn, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ aren’t at the root of the issues in veterinary medicine, but men like Dr. Ted Yoho are.

If the AVMA wants to “Protect. Promote. Advance.”, as their Facebook reads, supporting diversity & inclusion groups isn’t enough. They need to actively denounce those with racist, sexist, and otherwise oppressive beliefs. This especially applies when the person is in a leadership role, as all leaders bear the responsibility of supporting their people.

Yoho is representative of a larger cultural issue. He is representative of the micro aggressions and outdated belief systems that prevent womxn, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other under-represented groups from succeeding.

Maybe you think they’re “just words” and people are overreacting. But it is more than words for marginalized groups.

“All oppression is interconnected,” Dr. Lisa Greenhill noted in a Facebook post about Yoho’s actions. As Senior Director for Institutional Research and Diversity at AAVMC, Greenhill has extensive knowledge in this area.

Essentially, we must address all forms of oppressive behavior if we want to eradicate them. Maybe the term “f*cking b*tch” doesn’t bother you, but consider empathy toward those it does affect.

Why should the AVMA speak up?

The AVMA won’t have another chance to endorse another Rep. Yoho campaign. He is retiring and isn’t seeking re-election.

But they do have the chance to respond to his actions.

I’m not an AVMA member, as I am not a veterinarian. I’ve chosen to speak up because I want our industry to become truly supportive, and that demands leadership that is more in line with the needs of veterinarians in 2020.

If you are an AVMA member, Dr. Cyndie Courtney explains why Yoho’s alleged behavior requires AVMA response: “(Yoho) has clearly violated our veterinary code of ethics. It is part of our AVMA code of ethics that:

  • ‘Complaints about behavior that may violate the Principles should be addressed in an appropriate and timely manner.’
  • ‘Veterinarians should strive to confront and reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination…These forms of prejudice and discrimination include, but are not limited to, race; ethnicity; physical and mental abilities; gender; sexual orientation; gender identity; parental status; religious beliefs; military or veteran status; political beliefs; geographic, socioeconomic, and educational background; and any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law.’

We hold this standard to make sure that our team members and clients continue to feel safe delivering and getting the veterinary care their animals need.”

Here’s how you can reach out to the AVMA and Florida VMA:

Sharing this post and story is a great start, but we need to ensure these groups hear all their members.