Thursday, October 26, 2017

It’s no lie that women face harassing environment at Ill. Statehouse; Or, is “Miss America” a sexist slur?

It is with some interest that I’ve read the reports about the letter bopping about Springfield these days, pointing out the sexist behavior that women working as part of the Statehouse Scene have to put up with.
Illinois Capitol; long the scene of sexist (not sexy) behavior
From my own days as a reporter-type person at the Illinois Capitol, I know full well it is true. From one former colleague whom I remember telling me I had never been belittled due to my gender the way she was by would-be news sources who’d trivialize her very presence. To another who said she’d be told to “Go to Hell!” any time she tried asserting herself.

I ALSO REMEMBER one spring session when I had a reporter/intern working with me who could accurately be described as a voluptuous blonde. I still recall the days when all the lecherous pigs of the Capitol hung out in my cubicle so they could catch a glimpse – or dream of getting themselves a piece.

Yes, I’ll admit to taking advantage of their attention at times so as to get information for stories – which indicates less-than-noble behavior on my part.

I can recall her complaining about the people on the state payroll who thought the fact she was busty entitled them to their attitudes. I also remember the many rumors that got spread about her – many of which struck me as “wishful thinking” on the part of some people as to what they wished she would do to them.
HUTCHINSON: Not naming names

My point being that when I hear accounts of women being threatened of job loss if they didn’t play along, I find it believable. Elected officials can be just as scuzzy as anyone else in any walk of life – even though some would have us think they are the most noble form of creatures in existence.

IN SOME WAYS, it’s a part of the Capitol Culture, which is sad if we continue to sit back and think this is the way things are meant to be. Because some of the Capitol types view such behavior toward women as part of the perk of being in politics.

Just because the history of the Illinois Statehouse contained many stories from the past of the “monkey girls,” the assorted young women who worked clerical jobs at the Capitol while also cavorting with the legislators when they were in Springfield – rather than back home in their legislative districts.
HYDE: His Statehouse indiscretion exposed

The label, according to the old joke, meant these girls got their jobs by using their tails – so to speak.

If you think I’m exaggerating, just recall the late 1990s reports of long-time Congressman Henry Hyde – who while serving in the General Assembly back in the late 1960s had an extramarital affair with a local woman who was married and with children.

HYDE WAS FAR from unique. He’s just one who got found out – both when her husband told Hyde’s wife, and decades later when felt compelled to report the old tale at a time when Hyde was leading the failed Congressional effort to impeach and remove Bill Clinton from the presidency.

In reading the reports, I noticed the view of state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, who pointed out she wasn’t going to name publicly her colleagues who had harassed her.

“That open letter was never intended to start hauling people out of the Capitol and criminalizing a whole bunch of stuff,” she said. “The issue is this survives in silence.”
HAROLD: Will 'Miss America' image help or hurt? Is it sexist to mention?
Because I have no doubt the reaction among some male political operatives will be to want to use names so that this can be turned into a partisan issue with which to beat electoral opponents over the head.

JUST AS I have noticed some criticism over whether state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, who is now running for Illinois attorney general, was a sexist jerk when he made comments belittling his eventual Republican opponent, Erika Harold, as “Miss America” – for which he promptly issued an apology.

The question is that much of Harold’s own campaign is based on the fact that she was a former Miss Illinois who, in 2003, won the Miss America pageant. Does this mean she can only be praised – and not criticized? That would be against the spirit of aggressive campaign tactics; and I’m sure when the campaigning steps up Harold will fight back with her own digs to take at Raoul.

The fact is that if we let this issue be turned into just more rounds of campaigning, it will distract from the serious issue at stake.

And only the real sexist pigs amongst us would want to see that happen.


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