How To Tell A Woman From A Cow

A handy guide for Idaho’s Republican legislators

Jan M Flynn


(Hint: cow to left, woman to right. Photo courtesy cotonbro studios on pexels

January is a bleak month in Idaho. The holidays are over and most days are gloomy. Commuters, like vampires, emerge from their homes before sunrise and return after sunset. Schoolchildren stand shivering in the dark at their morning bus stops.

Thankfully, the January tedium is disrupted every year by the opening of the Idaho Legislature’s session. With a Republican supermajority in both houses — the ratio of Rs to Ds in the Senate is 28 to 7 and 59 to 11 in the House — one might expect few surprises from such an overwhelmingly crimson tide.

One would be wrong. Whatever else occurs in an Idaho legislative session, it’s guaranteed at some point to be entertaining, if not startling. This year is no exception: in fact, it may have set a new standard.

Of women and dairy animals

A former dairy farmer and freshman House representative from Idaho’s District 26, Jack Nelson (R, Jerome) was clearly enthusiastic about his appointment to the Agricultural Affairs Committee. Here’s the exact quote from his self-introduction at the first committee meeting:

“‘I’m a lifelong dairy farmer, retired, still own part of the dairy, grew up on the farm. I’ve milked a few cows, spent most of my time walking behind lines of cows, so if you want some ideas on repro and the women’s health thing, I have some definite opinions.”

Rep. Jack Nelson, R-Jerome, Idaho

The remark was followed by wan chuckles, after which Rep. Nelson went on to say that he was “tickled pink” to be serving on the committee.

The reaction in the press? Not tickled pink

The outcry was swift, from the Idaho State Journal to Newsweek, MSN, Huffpost, and the UK’s Daily Mail, among others. The Idaho Democratic Party, definitely not amused, tweeted “Let us be clear: politicians like Jack Nelsen have no business mandating our reproductive health care decisions. Period.”

Rep. Nelson, who seemed genuinely taken aback at the response — after all, who could have anticipated that women would object to being compared to livestock — issued an apology. To be fair…



Jan M Flynn

Writer & educator. The Startup, Writing Cooperative, P.S. I Love You, The Ascent, more. Award-winning short fiction. Visit me at