The week before Tuesday's Hartford primary elections, I received an oversized full-color postcard of the endorsed Democratic slate. A perfect, polished, bilingual piece of campaign literature.
Except for one thing — Mayor Pedro Segarra was standing alongside seven men. Not a single woman was included on the endorsed Democratic slate for city council.
I whipped off an angry letter to Mayor Segarra.
How is it possible that a dozen or so smart people — members of the Hartford Democratic Town Committee and those they look to for counsel — sat around a table discussing the slate and did not consider the effect of this omission? Including one woman, which would have pathetically appeased some, would still have been an awkward gesture rather than a conscious and ethical decision. Have we become so callous and short on both memory and sight that we think it won't be noticed if women are excluded from positions of power?
This is not an empty or angry question from an old-school feminist, and it's not a query that is going to be supported by pointing out the percentage of Hartford's citizens who are female, the number of women in statewide office or that most of Hartford's voters are women.
Those numbers aren't needed because this is just a wrongheaded decision on so many levels that statistics aren't necessary to make the point. It's just plain wrong. It's an insult, a slap in the face to those women who work to make the city a safer and more vibrant place to live.
It's hard for young people to believe that it was once, not that long ago, a radical idea that women be proportionately represented in government. Apparently, in Hartford, it still is a radical idea.
Come on guys. Afraid of a little push-back? Afraid to be bested by "a girl?" It feels like high school, and once again, the jocks win the personality contest.
I often tell people from outside the state that Hartford is essentially a village with a moat around it. Unfortunately, the decision of the town committee to run an all-male council slate only serves to support the perception of Hartford as a backwater, old-school, horse-trading bastion of political infighting. Why not go all the way back to the good old days? Pay for votes with a $10 bill? Register dead people to vote? This move is just as outdated and just as embarrassing.
It's hard to imagine the, yes, balls, it took to so obviously feign either indifference or ignorance of the gender and racial makeup of Hartford. And isn't a representative form of government supposed to ensure every person has a voice? Yes, it's the theoretical ideal, but doesn't it make sense to at least strive for the ideal?
I could make the argument that women care more about the welfare of children and families, or education, or the environment, or that we are innately better at logic and reason, that we are more likely to negotiate and compromise. All that may be true, but it's not the reason we should be included, proportionately, on governmental bodies. It's not about what makes us different, it's about what makes us the same. Women must be allowed to be full participants in civic life. It will make civic life better for all.
I am not naive or delusional about the pace of authentic political change at any level, but really, this is just plain stupid and will genuinely affect how well the city council serves the city. The mayor, for whom I voted and will vote for again, is right to stay out of the council's business — to a point. But when injustice is clear, I would ask him to take a principled stand.
I end with a plea from Abigail Adams.
"Remember the ladies, Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation."
Catherine Blinder lives in Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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