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December 4, 2008

Dumb Things Guy Governors Say

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell accidentally shared his opinion on the selection of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security with the entire world by giving it while standing too close to an open mic. “Janet’s perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.”

Here's the video of the comments plus Campbell Brown's great commentary.

Thanks, Ed! Good to know that being an unmarried, childless woman means you couldn't possibly have any kind of life at all outside of your job. And it was so kind of him to charitably grant Governor Napolitano four or five hours a day away from work, presumably so that she could sleep a little, revise her eharmony questionnaire (again), and cry about how lonely and pathetic she is.

Arianna Huffington was interviewed about Rendell's comments on the Early Show this morning:
Q: We know that you're not shy about giving your opinion. So what did you think about Governor Rendell's comment? Did you think it was sexist?

A: Actually you know what I thought, I thought it really epitomized a misperception in our culture that if you work 20 hours a day, if you have no life, you're going to be more effective. And I believe the exact opposite. In fact on the Huffington Post and in the book we have a lot of blogging about how you need to "unplug and recharge" is what we call it. In fact, if some of these Wall Street executives or these auto industry executives had spent more time napping and doing something to bring balance into their lives, they might have made better judgments. Which is really the key to leadership is judgment and wisdom, rather than being a workaholic.

Q: So do you think that if it was a man who was the nominee for that job that the comment would have been made? The 'no family' distinction would've been made?

A: I think that is really, again, an illusion about a woman's life. Janet Napolitano has a very rich life. I mean, she plays tennis twice a week and nobody in her staff can interfere with that sacred time. She actually climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, she goes river rafting, she loves movies and the opera... So the idea that because she doesn't have family and children, she's a complete workaholic or that this is a good thing is a real misperception.

[view the entire interview]

We hope that Governor Rendell wasn't counting on the 'single women without kids' vote to help with his next re-election campaign.


Adam said...

On behalf of PA residents I'd like to say we have nothing to do with what comes out of his mouth. I think PA Governors are pulled from some dark nest of murky doom somewhere and unleashed on the rest of us. I'm not sure the democratic process has anything to do with it.

Also, while what he said is stupid and may have been said with sexist intent, I don't think the phrase itself is sexist. I've heard similar things before said about men. “Adam's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Adam has no family. Perfect. He can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.” Just my take. I like how the interviewee responded at the bottom of your article by pumping up Napelitano without commenting on whether the phrase was sexist or not.

Lilith said...

Well, in my opinion... the phrase itself isn't sexist so much as it is 'single-ist'. There's the assumption that "no family = no life" and then the assumption that "no life = perfect for the job". However, I do think there's a sexist aspect to it in this case, because if she did have a family would that make her unqualified? I've never heard anyone question whether a man could do his job and properly raise a family.

Dollface said...

I'm going to agree with Lilith on this one. Though the phrase is not sexist in itself, in the context of the situation it is sexist. It implies (as we saw with Governor Palin) that when women have a family it becomes a "burden" that "interferes" with one's job. This is something only women have to put up with, since society views us as the primary caregiver.

Therefore, this comment about Napolitano implies that it is preferable for *women* to be single (and have "no life") because they will work hard (unlike mothers). Basically, it's the notion that the job will become Janet's husband. Which is a load of crap.

dollyspeaks said...

Well, I do think the phrase is sexist because we do assume so often in business and politics that women are a liability becase they have families. When we talk about singles getting work, there is always the expectation that if a single man gets married, he'll become happier and more productive. But employers see young women who get engaged and thnk--she's gonna have a baby, she's gonna ask for maternity leave, she'll want a raise.

There's also the implication that if a woman doesn't have a family, she doesn't have a life. So women are defined by whether they have chidlren and husbands to take care of? They don't have any aspirations of their own? To be honest, I've never heard anyone make a statement like the one Adam is suggesting in the second paragraph of his comment. And the reason why he liked Arianna Huffigton's comment is exactly why I don't like Arianna Huffington. She's not willing to tackle real issues of sexism; she's about faux-women's-empowerment.

Jezebel said...

I think that, as the lovely ladies above me started to get at, it's not necessarily so much that this particular comment was so absolutely horribly sexist, but that it highlights this situation where women can't really win - either they're saying you shouldn't take the big job because you're a wife and mother and OMG think of the children!, or they're saying that sure, you'll be great at that job since without a man or kids your life is obviously empty anyway.