A better headline from your recent editorial entitled “Two men enter, one tax plan leaves” would have been “Step aside, ladies, and let the men take over.”
Whether the unnamed authors realize it or not, your editorial is the perfect example of the kind of misogyny that is still rampant in Oregon politics, despite our state’s reputation for having strong women leaders. The not-so-subtle message of your editorial is that the women in leadership — Gov. Kate Brown, House Speaker Tina Kotek, House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick — should step away quietly and give their seat at the table to a man.
This is sexist belittling, pure and simple. It’s not far removed from the head-patting insults delivered by opponents of women’s suffrage, who believed that only men were mentally capable of making important decisions at the ballot. It’s 2017, and we’re still dealing with this nonsense from politicians, pundits, and unfortunately the news media.
We’ve heard exactly this same thing from Republican leaders in recent days. House Republican Leader Mike McLane announced a list of legislators he thinks should take over revenue reform — and they were all men.
When a reporter from The Oregonian called him out for implying that none of the women in the legislature were up to the task, he said he was just looking for people with “big ol’ brains.” Rep. McLane’s unabashed sexism is shameful and beneath the leadership position he holds.
The fact is, strong women leaders in Oregon are responsible for the great strides our state has taken in the past several years. They are some of our best problem solvers, some of our boldest leaders, and role models who I am proud to hold up to Oregon’s young people.
To me, this is a call to action: We desperately need greater diversity in Oregon’s newsrooms — and in our state Capitol. We need more women, people of color, LGBTQ people, working class people, young people, and other historically silenced and powerless groups to make their voices heard both as news writers and news makers.
Together, we can build a future where sexist comments like the ones made by Rep. McLane and the East Oregonian editorial board are fewer and farther between. A future where hard-working women are recognized for their leadership rather than ignored, undermined — and asked to leave the room. A future where the people in positions of power are as diverse as our beautiful, growing state.
Jillian Schoene, of Portland, is executive director of Emerge Oregon, which works to train and encourage Democratic women to run for office.