Naming names doesn’t move us forward

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.


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Cathleen Lewis
Cathleen, the Mayor of Lawrence Township & a full-time Public Affairs professional, counts her best job as being Mommy to Abigail (3 years) and Bridget (6 months ). A New Yorker originally, but Boston raised, Cathleen enjoys the challenge of raising the girls in a mixed household with her Yankee-fan husband Paul. She hopes to make up for the confusion by encouraging the family’s love of Rutgers football. She dreams of sharing her love of beaches, margaritas, music and adventure but is happy to squeeze in a family walk with the dog and a back yard BBQ these days. Formerly an avid reader and writer before work, life and children; Cathleen hopes she hasn’t lost her ability to capture thoughts through the written word but often can’t remember where the grocery list is.

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