Off the patriarchy, and why I prioritized voting for a woman

As a city councilor in Easthampton, I have often found myself defending my votes, but I am surprised that I must defend preferring a woma...

As a city councilor in Easthampton, I have often found myself defending my votes, but I am surprised that I must defend preferring a woman candidate last month when I had the rare opportunity to choose a new councilor when Councilor Bill Lynch resigned. I was told I “discriminated” against men.

I was debating writing this opinion, but now, with the recent Wall Street Journal piece speculating if Dr. Jill Biden should remove her “doctor” title when she becomes First Lady, I feel compelled to respond. This to me smacked of the patriarchy raising its ugly head. No woman should ever feel the need to demote herself to placate some male perception of her accomplishment.

A Ph.D. is such a difficult but rewarding accomplishment and deserves to be respected by all, especially men in power. The fact that I must write this and defend voting for a woman to sit on our council is astonishing to me, but I shouldn’t be surprised.

The patriarchy that is alive and well at all levels of government needs to be realized by all men as a barrier to women who want to serve, and we men must recognize it and work to eliminate it. In Easthampton, when we had that vote, I decided I would choose from the female candidates because I had the rare opportunity to actually do something to level the field on the council with a vote that is one of eight, not one of 5,000.

Of nine councilors, we had seven men serving before the resignation. We had five candidates, nominated because they met the qualifications for charter requirements and these credentials: service to the community and a record of work experience that advised a good fit for the council, and then I analyzed the “content of their character” and whether they had only the best intentions for Easthampton.

With those qualifications generally equal for all candidates, I put the three women at the top of my list, which is a preference and, yes, a gender-based decision, but I say why not? I would not vote for just any woman using only their gender as a qualification. If Betsy DeVos or Sarah Palin moved to town (please don’t), I couldn’t vote for them for several reasons, especially if using the “content of their character” as a measuring stick.

The three women who ran were well qualified by anyone’s standards, and the one who stood out was for her willingness to serve in a demanding position that, hopefully, rewards the person with the knowledge they are helping their hometown grow and prosper.

Government is still quite a patriarchy, with men out numbering women at all levels. When Joe Biden decided that he would name a woman as his vice president, I believe he took a risk in that many men just don’t want a woman at the top level of government. And when he ended up naming Kamala Harris, that risk added race to the mix. I feel he lost a lot of votes, but he won anyway, and a woman has finally broken that glass ceiling.

Easthampton has done well, though, in putting women in top positions, and they have proven their ability to lead. We have had two female mayors; our superintendent of schools is Dr. Allison LeClair, who succeeded another woman; our treasurer and auditor, important fiscal positions, are women of notable skill and experience; and the president of our council, Peg Conniff, is constantly proving her leadership during these troubled times.

The proof of that leadership is that they must make difficult decisions, especially when they face notable circumstances. Our current mayor, Nicole LaChapelle, does not flinch when making decisions amid a health crisis that has created severe budget uncertainty.

So, yes, someday we may be able to be gender neutral in all respects when we make hiring and voting decisions, but we aren’t there yet. We need to consider women who have proven qualifications when we vote or hire. And we need to pay them equally.

I’m proud of Easthampton as we have chipped away at patriarchy, and I especially thank our current women serving on the council for demonstrating what women can do.

Next up, President Kamala Harris. Wouldn’t that be lovely!

Dan Rist is Easthampton City Council vice president.

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Newsrust: Off the patriarchy, and why I prioritized voting for a woman
Off the patriarchy, and why I prioritized voting for a woman
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