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The Blarney Stone of Misogyny

Apr
8
2005

Yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle offered up a great illustration of why I have such increasing contempt for the movement that styles itself as “progressive.” In this most self-consciously progressive of cities, it’s a movement – actually, it’s a fashion statement – run by hypocrites who tailor their politics to suit their needs all the while claiming higher moral ground because, well, because they’re good people.
During San Francisco’s last mayoral election – the one that featured art-loving hipster Matt Gonzalez against slick rich guy Gavin Newsom – there was a lot of talk about how Gonzalez’s progressive “values” would be good for the city. This was a joke. All you had to do was take a look at where Gonzalez money and support was coming from. To fund his campaign, Gonzalez picked up some interesting friends, among them head of San Francisco’s politically powerful Residential Builders Association, Irish tough-guy Joe O’Donoghue.


O’Donoghue had no interest in seeing Newsom, a man who had the nerve to talk about reforming the city’s beleagured (that’s the polite word) buildings department. The two men, as far as I know, don’t speak. Which, as far as I’m concerned, speaks well of Newsom.
But O’Donoughue has a strong hold on the city’s Board of Supervisors – he strolls around the chamber as though it were his home away from home. And he’s not afraid to flaunt his tough-guy tactics. So he rounded up a bunch of his like-minded brethren to “testify” about Amy Lee’s qualifications for her job in a hearing earlier this week. It wasn’t pretty.
Lee, who has worked at the department for six years, is expecting her third child in a few months. That, as far as the builders were concerned, was enough to disqualify her for the job of policing their activity. Here’s The Chron’s Joan Ryan:

One man told the commission that Lee wasn’t qualified because the director should not be replaced by a “person who is not even going to go up a ladder with her dress down.” Whatever that means.
“If you appoint her,” another said, “she cannot function as you intend. Given that she is about to go on maternity leave, she cannot function at any capacity whatsoever. That is a reality.”
Lee, who has worked in the building department for six years, took maternity leaves of three months and four months for her first two children. Indeed, O’Donoghue supported her hiring for the No. 2 position during one of those pregnancies, and he knows she kept in regular contact and even attended meetings while on leave. Yet now that she is slated to replace someone O’Donoghue especially likes, the pregnancy and brief maternity leave are a problem.
One self-employed builder took the mike to say he knows how debilitating pregnancy can be because his wife is expecting a baby in four weeks and she can no longer help him with his billings.
“My wife refers to it as ‘pregnancy brain.’ Her mind is on other things, ” he said. “I ask you today, are you going to replace this man with ‘pregnancy brain’?
“That’s not disrespect. That’s just a metaphor. But when you have a baby, that’s all the hormones are about. I’m just making the point.”
And yet another man: “The facts are I was there when my kids were born. I know what goes on. You don’t have to be a woman to understand. Amy is going to have to take some medical leave. What’s going to happen then?”

What did “progressive” Joe O’Donoghue have to say about all this? Well, he uses fancy words but he’s retreating to the usual tactic men deploy when women get upset. He’s claiming that everyone – every woman, that is – is over-reacting.

He took to the microphone himself at the end of the hearing to clear it all up, shocked that Lee would take mentions of her gender and pregnancy as anything but lovely, honorable compliments.
“We are a family-values-oriented organization,” he told the commissioners. “We have always defended women. Ours was one of the first cultures to have women kings. And we still honor women.”
The remarks about Lee’s maternity leave were not “anti-feminist,” he said, because “it’s reality.”
“For a woman it is a joy and a blessing to be pregnant because it means the birth of life. … Then to say that a woman concentrating on that beautiful conception of life is somehow or other a negative is absolutely a misinterpretation of what was intended or implied,” O’Donoghue continued.
“If offense was taken by Amy Lee, none was intended, believe me, and if you listen to the words, none was implied.”

Can we run this man out of town? If not out of town, then out of City Hall? Now.
UPDATE or WHY I LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO: Retired dominatrix Susan Preacher has recently claimed victory in an unusual law suit. It’s as sharp a contrast to Joe O’Donoghue’s patronizing sexism as anyone would want.
Leaving behind a life of latex, ropes and Lord only knows what else, Preacher got herself a job. With the federal government, of course. Turns out, one of her former clients became one of her supervisors. And, well, it seemed he missed his former mistress.
Preacher, who claimed all sorts of non-consensual on-the-job abuse, which she was able to document sued. She won.

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