Culture of Misogyny Persists for Women in Silicon Valley Politics

San Jose was once the female capital of the world for political power. Janet Gray Hayes was the first woman mayor of a major city. She had a council consisting mostly of women. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors also had a majority of women. Gender parity was coming into vogue.

But times have changed and fewer women are now in local public office. The Board of Supervisors has just one woman, Cindy Chavez, and previous to her special election victory the board was all male. San Jose has three women councilmembers, one of whom was appointed on an interim basis (Margie Matthews) and another who is in her final two years in office (Rose Herrera). The third, Magdalena Carrasco, is rumored to be looking at higher office.

The South Bay legislative delegation once boasted two state senators, Becky Morgan and Elaine Alquist, and assemblywomen Leona Egland, Rebecca Cohn and Sally Leiber. Now just a single woman represents the South Bay, Nora Campos, and she will term out in 2016.

Only in Congress, where Mike Honda joins Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier, is there an actual majority of women representing Silicon Valley. But both the House and U.S. Senate have sizable male majorities.

Two nationally prominent women, Barbara Boxer and Barbara Milkulski, have already announced their plans to retire from the U.S. Senate. So, while likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton seeks to bust the gender glass ceiling, there is a tremendous need for today’s leaders to also look at how to bring more talented women into positions of power.

Groups such as Emerge, Emily’s list, Democratic Activists for Women Now and the National Women’s Political Caucus are becoming more active and their leaders more attentive to gender politics. It is not simply enough to elect women leaders to change the culture in which they are forced to compete.

The recent flap with The Daily Fetch is the latest example. The Fetch is a anonymous links blog that shows open disdain for some local politicians. It is considered snarky, but it often crosses the line with attacks on people opposed by liberals and progressives. Recently, the blog referred to our current vice mayor, Rose Herrera, by her husband’s last name. She kept her surname from a prior marriage.

Progressive women, many of whom are not often quick to praise the vice mayor, came to Herrera’s defense because a woman’s name is her choice—not the media’s. This is not the first time such issues have been raised. Both the Mercury News and Metro (parent company of San Jose Inside) have received criticism in the past for their coverage of women in politics. The people who have spoken out do not usually take issue with substance of reports, but more so how women are portrayed in contrast to men—and the double standard that is easily identifiable.

Nobody cares when Bill Clinton changes his hairstyle, unless he holds up airport traffic getting it cut. Nobody comments on Dick Blum’s fashion choices when he stands next to his wife, Sen. Dianne Feinstein. They don’t refer to him as Mr. Feinstein. Nobody questions Mitt Romney’s commitment to his numerous grandchildren when he ran for president, but for some reason it is a story for Hillary.

To many in the good old boy establishment, much of this is dismissed as political correctness or women being overly sensitive to criticism—an insulting charge. The simple truth is that there is a new generation of women who will not play by the outdated codes and double standards that continue to persist. They see rules that need rewriting and want to change perceptions.

What women wear, whom they date, what they look like and what name they choose to be called is not relevant to the content of their character. It is not news and it will be challenged.

The next generation of women will not be forced to break as many glass ceilings. They will grow up emancipated from the constraints their mothers faced. They will expect to be treated as equals. Like their male counterparts, they will not be monolithic, nor share the same philosophy, and they will speak up without waiting to be called upon.

But they will still need help from the leaders who are currently breaking barriers to succeed. It is imperative that the women who are achieving so much today lend a hand to their sisters coming up behind them. As we have seen in Silicon Valley, nothing lasts forever and the fight for equality continues.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

15 Comments

  1. The conventional wisdom is that women have an advantage when running for office locally.

  2. What ever Rich, I understand you just want to put more money in your pocket and SJI gives you this opportunity. Why don’t you post the names of all your political clients. Some who have been in the recent not so good news.

    • What’s amazing me is his defense of Herrera. He did so many attacks on her character during her re-election.

      Rich, I got news for you, Rose does not like you. No matter what you try to do to mend fences, it’s not going to happen, and personally I don’t blame her.

  3. I don’t think voting for someone based on gender or race is right. Having said that, almost every incredible woman I have supported for office lost because fund raising for women seems to more difficult, then the men I have supported. The media tends to be more interested in male candidates too, including SJI/Metro.

    Also, I think people’s attitudes toward women entering a “man’s world,” AKA “politics” needs to be examined. For some reason people still think women should be at home cooking, cleaning, or raising children.

    I’ve seen SJI/Metro make some pretty sexist remarks about women candidates. One recent incident comes to mind. When Kathy Sutherland ran for Council, it was suggested that she should stay in the background because even though she was a good person, she wasn’t a true, leader” just because she hasn’t held office before. WTH?

    As to the Daily Fetch, I don’t always agree with how they tell a story, or the way they attack people, but I think it is hypocritical of you Rich, and SJI/Metro, to cast stones. You guys are just as guilty as they are.

    And yes, I’m still proud to have voted for a Keystone Cop! ;-)

  4. > Culture of Misogyny Persists for Women in Silicon Valley Politics

    Hmmm.

    Why don’t we check in with one of Silicon Valley’s foremost political consulting firms and check for signs of a “Culture of Misogyny”:

    http://www.robinsonwins.com/wordpress/about/our-team/

    Robinson Communications

    Our Team

    Rich Robinson, WHITE MALE, (Metrosexual?)
    William G. Rutland Jr., Vice President, MALE
    Douglas S. Chan, Corporate Attorney, MALE
    Bruce Smith, Chief Financial Officer, MALE
    Nebi Alemu, Senior Consultant, Business Development, MALE
    Patty Jo Rutland, Senior Consultant, FEMALE-NEPOTIST
    Barry Wyatt Associates, Senior Consultant, MALE
    Bob Staedler, Senior Consultant, MALE
    George Broder, Senior Consultant, MALE
    Grant Robinson, Southern California Operations Manager, MALE
    Kathy Torgersen, Palo Alto, FEMALE
    Shahib Moghadam, Social Media Intern, MALE

    Total:

    MALE = 10
    FEMALE = 2

    Looks to me like less gender diversity than the NRA or the Republican National Committee.

    • As generally occurs, through his well articulated use of logic, reason and common sense, FINFAN has, yet again, virtually closed the thread. However, for those who believe that statistics are the only valid form of argument, consider these: (These are not my statistics)

      According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the 2005-06 school year, women made up: 57.5 percent of all students earning bachelor’s degrees; Nearly 60 percent of students earning master’s degrees; 48.9 percent of students earning Ph.D.s.;

      Women control nearly 60 percent of the wealth in the United States.;

      There are more than half a million women with personal incomes of $100,000 or more;

      More than 10 million firms in the United States are majority or equally owned by women; According to the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Small Business Administration, women employ approximately 27 million Americans;

      The number of wealthy women in the U.S. is growing twice as fast as the number of wealthy men; Women represent more than 40 percent of all Americans with gross investable assets above $600,000; 45 percent of American millionaires are women; 48 percent of estates worth more than $5 million are controlled by women, compared with 35 percent controlled by men;

      The Small Business Administration has reported in recent years that women-owned businesses are far outpacing all other businesses in terms of growth. Sixty percent of high net worth women have earned their own fortunes;

      As well, I don’t see any radical feminists complaining that women are somehow “underrepresented” in war time casualty reports or on war memorials, nor should it ever be otherwise.

      Now, do I really have to say this? An intelligent, attractive woman who understands and knows how to employ her “feminine mystique” can always get whatever she wants out of any gullible man and the more intelligent and attractive she is, and we are not talking only in the physical sense, the less gullible the male must be in order to be manipulated. Please read into that as much as you would like because it will likely all be true but is more a matter of intelligence, subtlety, and intuition than sexual in nature because only intelligent women are interesting. Therefore, only unintelligent, unattractive women have to bludgeon society with the tired, tedious, feminist rhetoric of the 70’s in order to have a chance at achieving some modicum of success.

    • Oh thank you for pointing this out … a case of calling the Kettle Black

  5. “San Jose was once the female capital of the world for political power.”

    Given the positive implication contained in the above quote, it’s quite obvious that Rich Robinson has little respect for the intelligence of SJI readers, as no big city in the last half-century has faced fewer hurdles or squandered more opportunity than has San Jose. This city’s lowly tax base, minimum levels of service, unfunded debts, and neglected infrastructure should be viewed as a warning of what can be expected when estrogen is allowed to seep into every nook and cranny of a government entity. Too much nurturing — in the form of unaffordable compassion, excess consideration, and endless appeasement has turned San Jose from a city of production and results into one of needs and demands.

    Like the child allowed to grow-up undisciplined and unruly by an inept single mom, San Jose has never found the maturity necessary to pay as it goes, address its responsibilities, or plan for the future. It has instead reflected the self-serving needs of politicians playing fast and loose with the truth, the rules, the treasury. Where Sunnyvale, Mt. View, and Santa Clara have made themselves headquarters of revenue-generating industry, San Jose has made itself the capital of homeless encampments, residential construction, traffic jams, Section 8 housing, youth gangs, potholes, halfway houses, unruly saloons, shuttered firehouses, race-pandering, and empty police cars. San Jose — where diversity is its most treasured asset, can tell its citizens in any number of languages that they must pay to make perfect the sidewalks and curbs in front of their homes — despite the crumbling condition of the street; that the city’s tree trimming program was terminated back when Quetzalcoatl and the Mexican Heritage center were funded; that all neighborhood parks are neglected — not just theirs; that there are no police officers available for their call; that the city is aware and concerned about the poor quality of its schools; that all downtown sidewalks smell of urine; that there’s money to take gang-bangers on fun outings, hire former thugs as mentors, and remove gang tattoos and graffiti, but not enough to make its streets and parks safe for the good kids who want no part of gang life.

    Take a walk along San Jose’s borders and you will find, in almost every direction, that to step across the line is to step into higher home valuation, better schools, smoother pavement, faster fire service, cleaner parks, better police coverage, and enhanced residential services. And what, you might ask, will you lose? Nothing, or as they might say at city hall (if you catch them during their reduced hours): nada, không, zilch, akulutho.

  6. RCI’s legion of ex-employees who have gone on to bigger and better opportunities include many more women not currently listed as team members who remain part of the Robinson Communications family. See our alumni page. More importantly, RCI continues to help qualified women candidates gain public power–including the first woman Sheriff in California, participated in the campaign for the first woman U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, supported women of color for local decision entities and are actively looking for more qualified candidates.

    There are three criteria for becoming an RCI client; You must support equality for women including choice, you must be pro-civil rights and civil justice and you must support affordable housing. We do not take clients opposed to these values.

    We support women, previously excluded populations and we are proud to have a diverse and equal team of individuals participate with our clients.

    Just for the record.

    • > We support women, previously excluded populations and we are proud to have a diverse and equal team of individuals participate with our clients.

      “The small number of women working for Robinson Communications is proof of how wonderful RC is for women employees.”

      Huh?

      I’ll bet if you tried really, really hard, Rich, you could get the number of women employees down to zero and have even more showcase female ex-employees.

  7. “Progressive women, many of whom are not often quick to praise the vice mayor, came to Herrera’s defense because a woman’s name is her choice—not the media’s.”

    Well said, and applicable to every segment of society. Men and women have the exclusive right to name and label themselves.

    The Mercury News may be making progress with this, in an article today about a Morgan Hill issue, it refrained from slandering the diverse white Americans who also live in Morgan Hill. It was startling because, in the past, any demographic-based claim carried with it false names and labels for local white Americans.

  8. Rich: U want to see real cultural misogyny, go to any muslim country.

  9. Wow. Was there some kind of falling out here, Rich… not a single mention of your most winningest candidate for Sheriff in an article about elected women in Silicon Valley? I’m shocked. Of course she’s not really having a lot of “hold your head up” moments right now, is she. I mean losing a child molester looking at life because of negligent, dangerous policies and getting caught trying to hide invasive equipment purchases from the public and the county. *ouch*