Senator Kirsten Gillibrand refuses to name names when it comes to colleagues that offered up sexism veiled as compliments. And I say, “Good for her.”
In her new book, “Off the Sidelines,” she talks about how male colleagues told her she was “pretty even when … fat,” and other such gems. As expected, pundits clamored for names while plenty of female reporters nodded their heads in silent acknowledgement of similar encounters. But no names have been forth coming.
She is part of what I’ll call the second wave of female elected officials and I’ll count myself among them. We didn’t blaze trails, we appreciate the work done by incredible women who went before us. We realize how hard it must be to be a caucus of one but we realize the rules have changed.
Today, feminsim is no longer about weeding out the the lurking sexist, but about changing the culture by doing. Today is about proving, not that women should be allowed in, but that we are a permanent part of every aspect of life.
i would venture to guess that these men wouldn’t tell a sitting senator to go back to the kitchen and, if that was the case his name, should be disclosed now. But rather, these are men who think the exchanges discussed were part of a cordial relationship. Today, when they see their comments in black and white, they may realize how horrible they sound and be grateful for Gillibrand’s discretion.
Her day-to-day responses to such silly comments were appropriate and admirable – she had more important things to deal with than teaching grown men how to be polite. And her mention of it in her book was also appropriate – often times just because we can rise above, the daily obstacles are overlooked. It can appear that the fight is over or that there isn’t a need for feminism, as some pop stars have recently said.
Today’s battles are more subtle. They are often quieter and need a lighter touch. The point of Senator Gillibrand’s revelation wasn’t to shame her colleagues, it was to shine a light on a culture that hasn’t fully changed yet.
The good thing is that more and more of us aren’t just doing, but speaking out. The more we get involved, the easiest it is to change. For now, instead of focusing on who said it, let’s focus on changing that culture.