December 4, 2008

"Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family, perfect."

What Gov. Ed Rendell said about Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Okay, now, how bad is this? Rendell's getting ripped for being a big old sexist, but does he deserve it?

He was caught speaking casually, using the jocose expression "no life," which may not be as insulting as it sounds to some people. I don't think he meant anything like: She's not much of a woman (or human being) because she has no husband or children/she must be emotionally unfulfilled/cold/stunted.

I hear this as: She will be able to give absolutely the entirety of her attention and energy to a job that truly requires it.

Now, this may upset some people who want to believe that everyone has to live a life in which work is leavened and enriched with time in the warm embrace of a family. What's worse is the idea that a job requires all of a person's attention, so that anyone with a family is disqualified. And of course, there's one terrible implication: That men can have a family and a highly demanding job, but women cannot.

Did Rendell's statement contain that terrible implication? Perhaps! I do get a little whiff of: Normally, you don't send a woman to do a man's job, but that doesn't apply to Janet Napolitano. It's not that she has "no life," but that she has no female life. She can run with the men. I hear a bit of that.

But perhaps Rendell meant to boost opinion of Napolitano, to rebuff accusations that her lack of a family would make the job too tough for her. Remember when Laura Bush said this about Condoleezza Rice?
"Dr. Rice, who I think would be a really good candidate (for President), is not interested. Probably because she is single, her parents are no longer living, she's an only child. You need a very supportive family and supportive friends to have this job."
It could be that Rendell knew the way not having a family is used against women and he wanted to get out in front of that criticism to help Napolitano. There's sexism in that, but it's not Rendell's sexism. He's proactively defending her from attacks. Now, I might concede that it's better feminism to behave as if sexism does not exist, and maybe Rendell's proactive defense against sexism unwittingly promotes it in some ways, but I'm inclined to give him a pass.

61 comments:

Doyle said...

Okay Ann, we get it. You're a pro-sexism feminist, unlike those humorless liberal feminists.

You can stop writing posts like this now.

Chris said...

This is Ed Rendell. What else needs to be said.

MadisonMan said...

That men can have a family and a highly demanding job, but women cannot.

Sure, men can have a family and a highly demanding job. They just never see their family, but they do have it. The same applies to women with highly demanding jobs. They never see their family either.

Chris has the obvious explanation: This is Ed Rendell talking.

John Hawks said...

I think the reflex for someone like Rendell is to think, "Would I want that job?" and to give an answer on that basis -- "No, I would have to have no life!"

Not sexism. Egotism.

Original George said...

You have to watch ex-cheerleader "pundit" Campbell Brown's "No Bull, No Bias" video piece....Gawd, what a tiresome scold she is. Looks like she's had a ton of plastic surgery, too. 40 years old. And she's on her second marriage. Probably won't last long because she's too busy being a video newsbabe. What a nag.

Roger J. said...

I think Rendell's statement can be overparsed. As others have suggested, this is akin to parsing Yogi Berra's pronouncements.

Doyle said...

See Ann, your refreshing attitude towards sexual politics makes this a welcoming environment for readers like Original George! You must be so proud.

Oligonicella said...

You always hear a bit of.

Bob said...

I see now that Palin's problem was she had a family life. Somewhere in "the rules" Cabinet level positions or higher require no family for females. Who knew? Chelsea is out of the house but doesn't Bill count as a child? Wait, he has a Secret Service detail. Got it.

Rendell seems to have caught the Biden hoof & mouth flu.

TitusLovesAGangBang said...

This reminds me of the time Barbara Boxer made those comments to Condi Rice about the war and not suffering because she had no kids.

Personally, I run into this all the time at work but don't really mind. We have an acquistion or merger or joint partnership and someone from the office needs to travel to God knows where in order to close the deal. Let's send Titus, he has no life and can get on a plane at the drop of a hat.

I actually enjoy this role. It has served me well professionally. My "flexibility" or "no life" has done wonders for career opportunity, promotions and bonuses.

Napolitano is a big girl she can deal with it. Does she have a girlfriend.

My parents used to walk the dogs at Indian Park in Wisconsin and see Donna Shalala with her girlfriend walking their dogs. Why don't these powerful lebanese women come out?

Original George said...

Oh! I forgot...Campbell Brown is from Mississippi....an ex-cheerleader from Mississippi.

Her husband truly deserves our pity. What a misery his life must be.

Imagine the draperies in her parlor.

Yachira said...

The plain truth is, of course, that he's right. Singles and DINKS do have few responsibilities when compared to individuals or couples with children.

PatCA said...

I think we should put a white dunce hat on him and parade him through the streets.

Chris said...

Speaking of sexism and Campbell Brown, who is the smoking hot financial pundit on CNBC? I watch her and the DJIA mesmerized, immune to the horrors being inflicted on my 401(k).

Expat(ish) said...

Anyone here remember the old intra company culture wars when the childless squared off against the be-childed about the cost of benefits, etc, etc?

@Titus - I'm with you. I figure I have made an extra $50K/year for over a decade by being willing to travel to Cincy for 6 months or New Have for 8 months.

Now I have kids and am canceling trips to India - go figure.

-XC

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

It was funny to see Campbell in a tizzy over this. Don't remember her throwing any feminist tirades when Palin was the target.

Original George said...

Chris--

Smokin' hot pundit on CNBC....check it out....

Lovely smile. Sincere looking.

Chris said...

I didn't click the link. I'm scared you might be some Florida DJ trying to RickRoll me.

Doyle said...

Don't remember her throwing any feminist tirades when Palin was the target.

Probably because Palin wasn't belittled for being a woman. She was belittled for being a moron.

Chris said...

I found my answer using the search "hottest CNBC anchor" http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_is_the_hottest_female_CNBC_anchor

Chris said...

Erin Burnett but she's ruined for me now that I've checked out her wikipedia page and found out she came up through Goldman Sachs and Citygroup.

Original Mike said...

Ahh, the perpetually aggrieved. They need to get a life.

Matt Eckert said...

"Probably because Palin wasn't belittled for being a woman. She was belittled for being a moron."

Campbell Brown asked who would be taking care of her children when she was serving as Vice President.

The correct answer being the nanny just like the one that was taking care of the news bunnies little latch key kids while she spouted off being an empty suit on TV.

What was never a problem for liberal woman became disqualifying for our Sarah.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Probably because Palin wasn't belittled for being a woman. She was belittled for being a moron

So she manages to get herself elected governor and maintain a high approval rating while being a "moron"? That really is impressive. It would be interesting to see how your achievements compare to hers.

Anyway, regardless of her IQ, I was referring to many smears and the suggestion that she stay home to tend to her family.

Lem said...

If Rendell were a republican he would haven nailed to the wall.

Maybe not by Ann but everybody else.

Original Mike said...

It would be interesting to see how your achievements compare to hers.

You mean besides sitting there in his underwear posting snarking comments?

Darcy said...

I don't think it was sexist. But I think it was a pretty lame way to refer to someone's candidacy for any job.

I do kind of like Ed Rendell for some odd reason, so I would probably just roll my eyes at this.

Way to go to the media, for the double standard, though. LOL.

Chris said...

Lem,

That's a cultural thing. Nailed to the wall by the media? Certainly by some. I think there is a natural regulator in the system. You only have so much media capital you can expend. The pendulum will swing. I don't think it's a big deal what he said. I also don't think it's a big deal what Summers said. Rendell because he was just mouthing off and Summers because his intentions were good.

ricpic said...

If we were a free people the terms sexist, racist and homophobe would either not exist, or if they did exist they would be understood to be terms used by totalitarian feminists, totalitarian professional blacks and totalitarian homosexuals to shut down opposition or even doubt about their respective agendas.

traditionalguy said...

Sorry but where is the gender angle in Rendell's observation that persons without a family life are more likely to dedicate their purpose in life to a Dept.who become their friends and family [see the USMC]. If we do see sacrifice for a mission as foolish loyalty, and we are too smart be be caught-up in that, then by default Rendell will seem to be gender dissing her. But I cannot see in this a statement that a woman who serves with loyalty to a mission is "acting like a man" and therefore has been disrespected.

hawkeyedjb said...

I doubt Janet is offended by the suggestion that she has 'no life.' Some here in AZ have wondered if she is gay, but her response is "No, I'm just a workaholic." I think most of us can understand that 'no life' and 'workaholic' are just conversational synonyms.

Doyle said...

"totalitarian professional blacks" might be the wingnuttiest term ever.

tim maguire said...

Yes, it's insulting. But it's a mild insult and, depending on context, may be no more than friendly ribbing.

No, it's not sexist on any level and only someone determined to find sexism everywhere will find it here.

Catharine said...

One wonders what Judge Rendell, who's spoken of females in leadership positions thinks of her husband's comment.

ricpic said...

Still burning incense to Uncle Joe, Doyle?

AJ Lynch said...

I am a Pennsy resident and am not a Fat Eddie Rendell fan. He is a smart guy and the media has always kised his ass and excused his semi-regular "misstatements" like this one and failed to point out Rendell's big time tax and spend policies which are bankrupting the state.

That said, it concerns me that Napolitano's best qualification to lead Homeland Security is she has no life.

Catharine said...

While she occasionally encountered blatantly sexist treatment from lawyers and judges, Rendell said that most opposition she encountered stemmed from the fact that she was young, not that she was female.

She advised women that the best way to handle sexist opposition is not to "take yourself too seriously" while showing that "you are serious of purpose," noting that simply becoming angry with those who act inappropriately will have little benefit.

--Midge Rendell

mariner said...

Come on folks, there's nothing to see here.

"R" is just the beginning of Rendell's name. If it were at the end of his name in parentheses, this would be HUGE.

Doyle said...

If it were at the end of his name in parentheses, this would be HUGE.

Yeah yeah. Media bias. Sarah Palin's really smart. Wake me when this blows over.

rhhardin said...

but I'm inclined to give him a pass.

That's feminist patronizing.

LarsPorsena said...

""totalitarian professional blacks" might be the wingnuttiest term ever."

Obviously, Doyle has not listened to his complete set of the sermons of Jeremiah Wright or followed Danny Glover's love affair with Hugo Chavez.

martha said...

What Gov. Ed Rendell said about Gov. Janet Napolitano.

I find Rendell's comments insulting.
Of course Gov. Napolitano has a life.
Just not the life of the typical wife/mother. When I was single and a physician-in-training, colleagues frequently assumed I would take extra call because I did not have a husband or children. But I did have an active extracurricular life and I resented the assumption that my "life" was so empty I would happily do extra duty.

William said...

Among the bourgeoise professionals there seems to be an initiation process whereby one gives up youth in order to achieve professional competence. Professionals have a very limited personal life in their twenties. The trade off is supposed to be that they sacrifice youth for a lifetime of wealth and success. But some of them long afterward continue to fetishize success or money or the respect that their professional life gives them. They routinely work sixty to eighty hours per week all their life......I have read about the personal lives of French, Prussian, British and Aztec aristocrats. It is amazing the amount of personal discomfort these people were willing to endure in order to maintain caste.....I think this is more an issue of class than sex. People want to be important much more than they want to be happy.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Obviously, Doyle has not listened to his complete set of the sermons of Jeremiah Wright or followed Danny Glover's love affair with Hugo Chavez.

Well you're assuming that Doyle would be in disagreement with the sentiments.

Kirby Olson said...

It's fun when democrats slaughter one another over political correctness. It reminds me of the primaries. Those were the good old days.

Doyle said...

It's fun when democrats slaughter one another over political correctness.

Campbell Brown isn't a Democrat as much as she's a talking head, and this is a scolding.

Slaughtered is what Republicans get when they try to win office anywhere but Georgia, and even then it's close.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Slaughtered is what Republicans get when they try to win office anywhere but Georgia, and even then it's close.

Only in the fevered swamp of Doyle's brain is a 14 point victory considered close.

You betch'a

Doyle said...

Only in the fevered swamp of Doyle's brain is a 14 point victory considered close.

That would be the 14 point victory in the runoff election, required by the closeness of the 11/4 result?

PJ said...

Post-35ish exec guys use that expression just as much about each other and themselves. "I can't take that business trip during Christmas because now I have a life." (Meaning now I have a family). And under 35s of both genders use it in the opposite way. "I'm not in a relationship, thank god, I have a life." (I'm freely fucking.)

It's cutting, but in a gender neutral way.

People are pitiful creatures always needing someone else to not have a life so they feel better about their own.

AllenS said...

If I had a life, I wouldn't spend so much time at this blog. You'se people, too.

bagoh20 said...

Helen Keller would be the only person qualified to be a politician for today's sensitivities. Na, she'd be criticized for lack of transparency.

blake said...

Touché, AllenS.

Hoosier:

14 pts in Georgia = close
14 pts nationwide = landslide

Palladian said...

You'd have to travel to the Low Countries to see a bigger dyke than Janet Napolitano.

Palladian said...

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

Hoosier Daddy said...

That would be the 14 point victory in the runoff election, required by the closeness of the 11/4 result?

Yes that's right Doyle. You win a cookie.

Trooper York said...

Jeeez Palladian, don't tell Rick Smits that!

Thats how he lost his last year of eligibity at Marist.

Michael said...

Everyone who follows PA state politics (Philly resident here) is aware that our dear Gov. Rendell is gregarious and he has a roving eye. I've heard a very interesting stories of how he complements some of his female staffers and interns attire and bodies. He is sexist, that I do not doubt. He really likes to put his foot in his mouth.

AlphaLiberal said...

I don't understand why that's sexist. There are numerous people in politics without "lives".

And many Americans who think anyone engaging the democratic systems needs to "get a life." So I've heard, anyway.

Michael said...

"Dr. Rice, who I think would be a really good candidate (for President), is not interested. Probably because she is single, her parents are no longer living, she's an only child. You need a very supportive family and supportive friends to have this job."

The fact is that she has a support network of friends and she has a girlfriend. She didn't run for President or VP because she doesn't want her sexuality writ large across the US. Laura Bush was trying to put a pleasant spin on the question.

jdeeripper said...

Easy Ed is a good guy. Classic Jewgene

He's right. Freed of her natural duties as a wife and mother, Janet Napolitano will have more time and energy to devote toward not doing anything important in her new Washington job.

Mitch said...

While Napolitano may not "have a life" she has done nothing in AZ - other than create a financial mess - to indicate that she has any qualifications for the job or would do a good job in the new one.