Sexism in the City

I was fortunate to grow up in a society that is relatively progressive when it comes to women -- the only time I've felt discriminated because of my sex was in tenth grade when I tried to join my high school's extracurricular ice hockey team. I was told by one of the school counselors, who was also the mother of the best player on the team and the person who had pushed the team being formed, that it was for boys only -- after all, I wouldn't want to knock out a tooth would I? After thinking about it, I decided that no, I didn't. I also had never shot a hockey puck. But that also didn't stop me from writing a (no surprise here) angry letter, carbon-copied to the principal, demanding that I have the option to knock out a tooth if I wanted to. They changed their minds.

This morning, as I do most every day, I logged on to Burnt Orange Report to read a few headlines. And I felt the same seething rage as I did back in high school when I read an article entitled "Chris Riley for Austin City Council - Place 1," by local community activist Eugene Sepulveda.

"Perla - beautiful, committed and a compelling life story. Obviously, would represent an addition to the council's diversity (woman and Hispanic). Though, there is NOT a single mutual friend with whom I've spoken who doesn't agree there is NO comparison between the intellectual fire power between the two. Chris is very smart, experienced and knows the city's intricacies."

As most readers know, my friend Perla Cavazos is running against Chris Riley. I've never met Chris, but frankly, I like what I've heard. I also like what I've heard about Perla -- I'm supporting her primarily because of her longstanding commitment to affordable housing in Austin, the fact she cared enough to walk around Elgin to get out the vote for Larry Joe Doherty and Donnie Dippel, and her desire to help make the Council more active instead of reactive. With that said, I think both of them are great candidates and will do great things for Austin -- which is in part why this race has become such a close one.

But since when did it become appropriate to endorse someone based off of their looks, and discredit their "intellectual firepower" by chalking them up as just another pretty face?

As one commenter said, "I'm glad we get to vote for the candidates and not the supporters." And it would be easy for me to overlook Sepulveda's comments as some unexplored psychology and attitude to women that this one supporter of Chris Riley happens to have, not that this ignorance lessens the damage it does to females everywhere. But I then noticed in the comments section another item that stood out, written by Chris Riley's campaign manager Katherine Haenschen:

"Thanks Eugene! Chris really values your support. I read your post to our field director, Mike, from the coordinated campaign, and he said 'This may be the best endorsement I've heard yet!'"

The best endorsement he's heard yet is a 153 word summary of Chris Riley's resume, without a single mention of what Riley intends to do as City Councilman? The best endorsement he's heard yet is a sexist remark about someone's physical qualities? Really?

I can't help but feel as though this statement, and the Riley campaign's support of it, reflects poorly on the values of not only the campaign but the candidate. Austin is a progressive city that respects equality. We need our leaders to be, too.

Sidenote: I will a panelist at the Women's Caucus at the 77th Texas Young Democrats Convention tomorrow, Saturday, at 11 AM. I'll be joined by Karen Brooks from KXAN and Robert Jones from Annie's List. A full schedule of the festivities, which begin tonight, can be found here.

3 Response to "Sexism in the City"

  • Howard Says:

    Just a tip from a former Alaskan, Rach: You'll get a lot more cred from your northern cousins if you say "hockey" and not "ice hockey." Just sayin'.

  • Mean Rachel Says:

    mea culpa! we don't actually have any ice, so that word rarely gets tossed around here. :)

  • Eugene Sepulveda Says:

    MeanRachel, my apologies. In hindsight, my comment does sound sexist. That wasn't my intent and was sloppy of me.

    I think Perla may well make a good candidate in the future. In our current state, I think Chris offers the most experience and knowledge needed by a Council that will be dealing with a horrific budget for 2010.