Tuesday, March 28, 2006

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

After getting sizeable media attention, state Senator Rickey Hendon apologized for the "suggestive" comments he made last night to freshman colleague Carol Axley. "My mother would come back from the grave and beat me up," he said. But, in typical "Hollywood Hendon" style, the lawmaker couldn't keep from self-promoting. "I've always been an advocate for justice and fairness and equal rights and equal pay," he assured us. But, what does it say about Illinois that, after passing the ERA and an equal pay law, female legislators can't get respect on the Senate floor?

After Hendon asked her if she had been "out on a date" on township roads, Axley didn't miss a beat. "It was all in fun. Every freshman is hazed in that matter," she said. But, no serious, professional person can take comments like that in stride. It seems as though she and her colleagues were reluctant to speak out for fear of being labeled humorless feminists. Democrat Susan Garrett has been an outspoken advocate for women, sponsoring the Equal Pay Act, and famously suggested that "if women ran budget talks," the process would not take so long. But, she wasn't willing to stand up for women when it meant going against fellow Democrat Hendon. Afterwards, she said only that "Comments on the first bill are never meant to be taken literally." Oh, really? "Anybody who knows Rickey Hendon knows he's very colorful in his choice of words." Axley herself said Hendon, "didn't mean anything" by his questions.

But, he could have meant quite a lot. Though news outlets picked up on the story quickly(the AP had a report by 5 yesterday night, and stories ran today in the Sun-Times and Tribune), the reaction from the Legislature has been muted, as Garrett and Axley's comments show. After forty plus years of fighting for equal rights, is gender equality no longer worth mentioning? Men and women, who like Hendon, say that they are "advocates for justice and fairness" are too cowardly to stand up for the most basic dignities? How can Garret call for all-female budget talks, but be too afraid of calling attention to her gender to condemn something like this? In an ideal world, it wouldn't matter that she and Axley have two "x" chromosomes. But, leave it to people like Hendon to remind them.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! Hendon's comments were crude and inexcusable. Unfortunately, though, other senators try to downplay the remarks because they are afraid of him, and they don't want to get on his bad side.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous NW burbs said...

Amy,

As you well know from the news articles, Democrats in fact told Hendon to stop (Halverson told him so while he was speaking) and do you really think he would've apologized if he had not received a talking to from leadership?

This is a non-story despite what conservatives in this state and elsewhere (it was picked up on redstate and some Seattle right-wing blog) would like to turn it into.


Anon 9:00 AM,

Errr, ok. I don't think anyone's afraid of Hendon. What's he got that anyone needs? "Colorful language"?

4:21 PM  
Blogger Amy Allen said...

Anon 9:00 AM,
Thanks for reading.
NW burbs,
The other lawmakers are indeed afraid of Hendon. Why else do you think that Garrett would come to his defense and Halvorson would let him off with a slap on the wrist? As Assistant Majority leader, he has connections, power, and money.
Thanks for reading.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Amy Allen said...

NW burbs,
I don't know what the so-called conservatives think, but this is a big story to people who care about women and think they should be treated fairly. And, since when are the AP, Sun Times, and Tribune conservative?

6:11 PM  

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