There’s no way for a male to address this question without running the risk of being branded a sexist pig, but the Kirsten Gillibrand brouhaha is irresistible. Besides, any man who grew up with the modern feminist movement has had a lifetime to learn to live with women’s low opinion of him personally and his gender generally.
Since the dawn of time, women have been treated as sex objects and have thought of men as pig objects. And since the 1970s, they have been saying so. Usually the women are right and the men richly deserve it.
Still, after about a half century you’d think men, if they aren’t professional athletes, corporate executives, military officers or good old boys would have gotten the idea that women are, at the least, their equals, and probably their superiors. And if they haven’t internalized that reality have at least learned to keep their retrograde opinions to themselves for fear of running into the Lysistrata Effect.
Yet we learn from a new memoir by the Junior Senator from the great state of New York that the men of Congress are slow learners. At a fund raiser, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid once called Gillibrand “the hottest member” of Congress. In public. Into a microphone. Yikes. The fact that this is both a) true and b) a low bar to get over does not excuse the magnitude of his piggery in uttering it.
At forty-two, Gillibrand had her second child shortly before taking her Senate seat and gained quite a bit of weight in the process. It happens. When my wife was pregnant with our daughter she got an uncharacteristic yen for ice cream. Not wanting her to be lonely, I kept her company and gained even more weight than she did. She subsequently lost the weight. Daddy did not.
Gillibrand, a smart, steely woman promptly set out to shed her pounds. She quotes a chivalrous member of the House consoling her by saying, You’re even pretty when you’re fat.” Does any man on earth think it is ever right (or safe) to call a woman fat? Children still in diapers know better. But apparently the news hasn’t reached Congress.
Another House member warned her about getting “porky.” Takes one to know one. And when she began to drop the pounds, an avuncular Senator put an arm around her waist, (Strike One) and said, “Don’t lose too much weight, now,” (Strike Two), “I like my girls chubby.” (Strike Three. Yer Outta There!)
If Gillibrand were just telling these tales to illustrate the facts of life for the second class female citizens of Congress, it would be bad enough. But I suspect she is after bigger game. She has been a crusader in favor of far stronger action to combat an epidemic of sexual assault in the military. But Congress has shown little interest in the issue.
By outing the antediluvian attitudes of her colleagues, I suspect Gillibrand hopes to educate the public. These clowns are not just out of touch sexists, after all, still marooned in the “Mad Men” era mindset. They are lawyers and lawmakers part of whose job description is to pass laws to prevent the exploitation of and discrimination against women. Their wives, mothers and daughters, for instance.
They are also politicians, fifty percent or more of whose constituents are also women. If they don’t wake up to that reality, maybe a back room glimpse of what they are like to work with will help wake up the women who are silly enough to keep putting them in office. If the consciousness of enough voters is raised, a lot of pigs could be sent to the electoral slaughter.