Sunday, March 02, 2008

Crybaby feminism

"Be nice, wait your turn, pay your dues, your time will come. This is the 'guidance' given to women in politics, and many of us have bided our time and paid our share of dues. But what happens when our time comes, and we speak out for what we believe in? We are called pushy, mean, controlling, or cold. And worse---we are stripped of our positions."
 
Even though it reads like it's from a 1970 time capsule, the above is in an op-ed (below in italics) by three feminists in the current issue of the SF Bay Guardian.

The writers are complaining about four women recently given the boot from his administration by Mayor Newsom, implying that he did so just because they were women. But the little information we have on Susan Leal's dismissal indicates that she was fired not because she's a woman but because she ran afoul of both the Mayor's office and members of the PUC Commission. As the writers note, the Mayor accused Leal of not being "a team player." Sounds like politics-as-usual, not sexism.
 
And Leah Shahum publicly insulted Mayor Newsom shortly after he appointed her to the MTA Board of Directors. As I advocated at the time, the mayor would have been justified in dismissing her then instead of waiting until after his re-election.

Again, sexism seems to have played no role in Shahum's dismissal. In fact the writers themselves claim that Shahum was dumped "for being an outspoken critic of the city's inaction on promoting alternative forms of transportation." That happens to be complete bullshit, but where's the sexism?
 
The writers tell us that Debra Walker "was targeted by the mayor's office for openly disagreeing with his positions." That's enough reason to be dismissed by a mayor in any city in the country. What the writers are really doing is promoting gender chauvinism:

Even though women comprise 51 percent of the voting population, we hold only 16 percent of the seats in Congress, 23 percent of state legislative seats nationwide, and 27 percent of the seats on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Only one elected executive office in San Francisco---district attorney---is held by a woman. San Francisco must do more to promote women to leadership positions. We must also call on the mayor to appoint women to positions of influence in city government and demand an explanation when he removes qualified women from their posts without good cause. The time for patience and waiting our turn has passed.

We---and the mayor---are supposed "to do more to promote women to leadership positions" just because they are women? Why don't more women run for public office, and whose fault is it when they don't? There are now three women on the Board of Supervisors, and Mayor Newsom recently appointed one of them to fill Ed Jew's seat. How exactly do those women bring anything different to the party than the men on the board? Do women per se have a unique perspective on city political issues? If so it's news to me.

One of the writers, Alix Rosenthal, ran against Supervisor Dufty last time around, but she was buried by the incumbent supervisor. Was that due to sexism? Does anyone remember a single issue Rosenthal emphasized during the campaign? She came out boldly for allowing the Halloween Party in the Castro but nothing else comes to mind.
 
These feminists are playing the gender card when there's no justification for doing so, since reasons other than sexism adequately explain these dismissals. Playing the gender card gratuitously---like playing the race card---does nothing but perpetuate irrelevant identity politics and poison the waters of an already contentious political environment in San Francisco.

Newsom's woman problem

We can't afford to lose more good women in power, or let the few that remain be silenced into inaction
By Alix Rosenthal, Amy Moy and Micha Liberty

Be nice, wait your turn, pay your dues, your time will come.

This is the "guidance" given to women in politics, and many of us have bided our time and paid our share of dues. But what happens when our time comes, and we speak out for what we believe in? We are called pushy, mean, controlling, or cold. And worse — we are stripped of our positions.

In the last month, four of the most respected women in city government have been removed from their posts:

•Susan Leal is considered one of city government's best managers and was leading the city toward a future of sustainable energy usage. According to the Chronicle, she was fired from her position as director of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission because the Mayor did not consider her to be a "team player," and because it appeared that Leal was readying herself for another run for Mayor in 2011.

•Leah Shahum is a fearless bike advocate and Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. She was removed from the city's Municipal Transportation Agency for being an outspoken critic of the city's inaction on promoting alternative forms of transportation.

•Roma Guy is a fierce advocate for women's health, a former lecturer in San Francisco State University's health education department and a longtime progressive activist. She was removed from the city's Health Commission without explanation.

•Debra Walker is the only woman on the city's powerful Building Inspection Commission, a longtime affordable housing activist, and a fighter for reform and transparency in the Department of Building Inspection (a male-dominated department in a male-dominated field). Walker lost her leadership position on the commission after she was targeted by the mayor's office for openly disagreeing with his positions.

We can't allow these affronts to go unnoticed and we can't afford to lose more good women in power — or let the few that remain be silenced into inaction. It is time for women to stand behind our sisters who work hard every day to represent us in government, many on a volunteer basis, while also pursuing full time careers and caring for their families.

The National Women's Political Caucus and the San Francisco Women's Political Committee are working to increase the number of women in positions of influence in city government. In September of last year, 47 elected officials and other community leaders from the San Francisco women's community came together for a Women's Policy Summit where the participants agreed that our top priority is to promote more women to positions of influence in government.

Even though women comprise 51 percent of the voting population, we hold only 16 percent of the seats in Congress, 23 percent of state legislative seats nationwide, and 27 percent of the seats on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Only one elected executive office in San Francisco — district attorney — is held by a woman.

San Francisco must do more to promote women to leadership positions. We must also call on the mayor to appoint women to positions of influence in city government and demand an explanation when he removes qualified women from their posts without good cause. The time for patience and waiting our turn has passed.

Alix Rosenthal, Amy Moy and Micha Liberty

Alix Rosenthal is the founder of the San Francisco Women's Policy Summit. Amy Moy is president of the San Francisco Women's Political Committee. Micha Liberty is president of the National Women's Political Caucus (SF chapter).
http://www.sfbg.com/printable_entry.php?entry_id=5774

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