Democrats’ Deafening Silence

Yesterday Buzzfeed wrote an excellent piece on leading Democratic women’s deafening silence on various sex scandals including the one plaguing San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. You should read the entire piece but to sum it up leading Democrats including Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi won’t ask Bob Filner to step down despite a mountain of evidence and his own admission he hasn’t “respected women.”

The message I hear from the Democrats is: it’s okay to mistreat women in private and grope them at the office as long as you vote for “women’s issues.” All the votes in the world don’t matter if I’m afraid I’ll be groped when I walk in the office. The women’s movement starts one person at a time and sexually harassing anyone is never, ever okay. I’m grateful for the maternity leave and meaningless resolution on equal pay for equal work congress passed, but I’d like Boxer, Feinstein and Pelosi to condemn this actual, concrete bad behavior.

What’s even more offensive is to think how differently these women would react if Filner was registered Republican. Recall how viciously Barbara Boxer rightly attacked Bob Packwood (R-Oregon) when he was accused of sexual harassment. She called for ethics hearings and used the situation to elevate her national profile. But now that one of her own, Bob Filner, is facing the exact same situation, she’s remained virtually silent. What, other than party affiliation, is the difference?

And, Dianne Feinstein cut a television ad that referenced Arnold Schwarzenegger’s treatment of women during the 2003 recall campaign. Again, what’s the difference other than party affiliation?

When a woman stands up and says she’s been harassed, the accusation is fraught with all kinds of awkwardness. You risk being labeled overly sensitive, afraid of your femininity and unable to hack it in what is, quite frankly, a still male-dominated world. The fact that these women won’t condemn Filner’s behavior only reinforces that and makes it less likely other women will come forward.

To be fair, courageous San Diegans like Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez and Toni Atkins and Congresswoman Susan Davis  have called on Filner to resign. But, they don’t have the national profile and political capital of a Boxer, Feinstein or Pelosi.

And where is the leadership of the California Democratic Party? Why hasn’t John Burton, who faced a sexual harassment suit himself, called on Filner to resign?

Despite our differences over most issues I’ve always respected Boxer, Feinstein and Pelosi’s willingness to fight fiercely for what they believe is right. Until now. They’ve proven they’re just as partisan and just as responsible for the work we women still have to do to get the respect we deserve. The fact that leaders won’t condemn Filner is offensive. We’ve come a long way, but clearly not far enough.

-Amy Thoma

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