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Get a Grip

Gail Collins is one of many who will surely be lining up to take a whack at Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. What was Rendell’s offense? He praised Janet Napolitano, the current Arizona Governor, as the “perfect” nominee for head of Homeland Security because: “for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.”

Collins objects that this is unfairly picks on single women, and implies that mothers and even childless married women can’t hold these jobs because they “have a life.” This is sort of the flip-side of the “What’s Sarah Palin doing running for VP with all those kids at home?” Which, come to think of it, didn’t raise Collins’ hackles.

Should people be irate with Rendell? On one level he’s just stating the obvious–that these jobs are all-consuming and that they devour people’s lives. So it might be better to have less, rather than more outside interests. Or so the Rendell explanation goes. No offense meant toward women specifically, he says.

But no such mention is ever made, we all know, about any of the male nominees’ “lives.” Who even knows if they are married? Does James L. Jones have kids? No one knows, no one asks. It seems that once again, while we’re all slapping each other on the the back for our post-racial renaissance, those stereotypes of women persist. Yes, news flash: especially among men of a certain generation women are looked upon as suspect when it comes to getting the top jobs.

Still, before Rendell (second only to Joe Biden among Pennsylvania-hailing politicians in his ability to churn out eye-popping gaffes) is flayed alive, let’s get a grip. Women are doing just fine in the Obama cabinet. A woman is a leading star in the GOP. And Rendell isn’t going anywhere other than Scranton. So everything is as it should be.


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