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Soft Sexism: Capitol Hill Edition

In honor of today's article on soft sexism, I gathered up a few examples of it on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail. Lest you think this is a GOP problem, I'm an extremely liberal feminist, and I've been working for Democrats. But hey at least there's bipartisanship when it comes to being the office douche canoe?

Illustration for article titled Soft Sexism: Capitol Hill Edition

1) The Real Meeting vs. the Fake Meeting
When I worked for one Member of Congress, staff meetings were normally held during the day to discuss major policy issues. Legislative assistants (LAs), who report to the Dudebro legislative director (LD), pitch their stuff to the boss during what I learned was the Fake Meeting. Dudebro, fully aware of the familial obligations the female staffers had after 5 PM, would wait until they were all gone. Then he'd go to the boss for the Real Meeting, which consisted of him taking over any subject the boss showed interest in, taking credit, and then pushing his idea of what should happen. The female staffer who handled that issue would find out these changes either the next day or when the boss was giving a floor speech, usually not the floor speech she originally drafted. Dudebro would not do this with male staffers as they all collaborated together.


2) Staff Meeting vs. Coffee Break
Similar to the first one, there was the staff meeting where everyone was allowed to "share their views, openly collaborate, and have the boss's ear." Sounds good, right? Except there was the coffee break, which could occur in the morning or afternoon, where the boss would take only the senior level men on what was described as, "Just going out for coffee!" Except they'd be gone for two to three hours sometimes with no contact. When they returned, a flutter of emails would erupt from the senior male staff to let us know that everything we'd originally agreed upon was changed. Emails would never come out and say that; any correspondence would use phrases like "change of plans" or "new development" or "fresh perspective." All of these "new views" always involved a man taking credit and/or taking over and never involved any actual new information.


The coffee break was presented as something casual and non-work related whereas the Real Meeting was done always in secret and those involved denied those meeting happened.

3) Greeting Visitors
Dudebros believe they are the only people who have important shit to do. When they're running late (because they suck at time management not because they're super important) they don't want their visitors twiddling their thumbs and looking at the boss's baby pictures in the front office. Who can be nurturing, soft, and make idle chit chat? Why the ladies of course! We were always asked to talk to the visitors out front, regardless if we had stuff to do. The most noteworthy incident was when a female staffer was writing up a policy brief for a vote that afternoon while a male staffer was reading ESPN.com in full view of everyone and occasionally scratching his balls. Guess who got asked to do Schmooze Patrol?


4) Parade Cheerleaders
Any Congressional campaign involves a local parade. (I think I've been in more parades as an adult than I was when I was in marching band.) All this involves is wearing the boss's campaign shirt, handing out literature and pins, taking a few questions, and chanting the boss's name. It also helps if you smile so much your face might break. During these parades, all the women got "Hey there cutie pie!" and "Give us some sugar!" and "Hey little lady, I'd rather talk to your boss about the economy 'cause I got lots of things to say, and I don't know if you should be hearin' 'em!" and (of course) "Take it off!" There's just something about women walking around in a group in public that leads men to think we're sex workers. I never did figure out why.

5) Writing Women Out of a Women's Health Speech
This was only one incident, but it's too good not to mention. During the Obamacare debate, the leader's office asked Members to go to the floor and make one minute speeches on certain elements of the health care debate throughout the week. One of the topics was women's heath. I helped collaborate on the speech along with another female staffer who specialized in health care. The aforementioned Dudebro, the legislative director, edited all speeches before they went to the boss. He collaborated with another dude in the editing process. They edited and edited and edited so much it didn't resemble anything we'd written, which was a common occurrence anyway. By the time it got in front of the boss, all references to women's health were literally gone. What's worse is that when I pointed this out, they didn't even realize what they'd done.


I wish I'd made that one up.

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