Opinion

3 Moments Where We Could’ve Used a Woman in the Mayoral Race

3 Moments Where We Could’ve Used a Woman in the Mayoral Race

Photos by Sam Hodgson

Mike Aguirre, David Alvarez, Kevin Faulconer, Nathan Fletcher

It feels like a lifetime ago that the city was besieged by an endless loop of Gloria Allred press conferences.

During that stretch, women were a mainstay in the spotlight in the worst way possible: as victims of sexual harassment.

Sara Libby on NewsThe mayoral race, which features an all-male cast of characters, has been pretty remarkable in that it’s mostly steered clear of the shameful situation that got us here in the first place.

Here are some moments from the race so far that could have played out much differently if even one woman candidate was in the picture.

The Fletcher Fixation

It might seem counterintuitive, but having a woman in the race could actually help avoid some of the creepy fixation on Nathan Fletcher’s appearance.

The idea that it’s unfair and sexist to focus on a woman candidate’s appearance is a no-brainer for most journalists. But that same concept is apparently harder to grasp in a field of all men – hence the nonstop inappropriate comments about Fletcher’s “good looks and Colgate smile.”

The most cringe-worthy example of this happened Wednesday, when 10 News’ Kimberly Hunt responded to Fletcher’s remark during a debate that he made good tips while working as a bartender with, “That’s not surprising, is it? I mean, look at this candidate.”

That’s not all that far off from Bob Filner telling a woman veteran, ”You’re beautiful, and I can’t take my eyes off you.”

We tell little kids to “Look, don’t touch” – and we might need to institute a similar rule for journalists in this campaign: “Listen, don’t leer.”

Research has shown that fixating on a male candidate’s appearance doesn’t damage his prospects the way it does for a woman, but that doesn’t mean it’s useful, either.

Having a woman in the race might serve as a reminder to journalists who forget that gross fascinations with a candidate’s looks don’t have a place in any race.

‘No.’ ‘No.’ ‘No.’

Perhaps the closest the candidates have come to having an honest conversation about the circumstances that prompted this race was in answering this survey about sexual harassment.

Thankfully, each candidate says that no one has ever made a sexual harassment claim against him.

But there’s one very telling moment in each survey:

David Alvarez:

6. Have you ever experienced any kind of workplace harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination yourself? If yes, please explain the circumstances and what happened.

No.

Nathan Fletcher:

6. Have you ever experienced any kind of workplace harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination yourself? If yes, please explain the circumstances and what happened.

No.

Kevin Faulconer:

6. Have you ever experienced any kind of workplace harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination yourself? If yes, please explain the circumstances and what happened.

No.

Here’s the thing: Every woman I know has a story. Mine involves a coworker who sent me several months’ worth of disturbing, sexual text messages – enough to warrant police involvement.

With no woman in the race, we likely missed a crucial opportunity to hear firsthand about what these experiences are like from someone who’s actually been there.

Without hearing more about the toll sexual harassment can take on a person professionally and emotionally – and without forcing ourselves to face the consequences that can come from a lack of women at the table – we run the risk of quietly erasing the whole Filner episode from our memory without learning anything.

The Bro Photos (Brotos?)

A woman candidate would at least give us a visual change of pace from all-bro photos like these:

Photo via Kevin Faulconer Twitter feed

Photo via Kevin Faulconer Twitter feed

Image via Kevin Faulconer campaign

Image via Kevin Faulconer campaign

 


Optics aren’t everything. But these ones speak volumes about what kind of campaign it’s been.

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Sara Libby

Sara Libby

Sara Libby is VOSD’s managing editor. She oversees VOSD’s newsroom and its content. You can reach her at sara.libby@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526.

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49 comments
Lee Datina
Lee Datina

its hard to be a victim of sexual harassment , when your the person who sexually harasses others...I guess that would considered a no to their question about this, since it only replies to it they have every been the victim of this type of incident.

Matt Finish
Matt Finish

Men took a picture together, oh the humanity!

This type of "reporting" is unserious. It looks like it was pulled straight off of Jezebel or Gawker. Libby can do better and VOSD should know better.

Matt Finish
Matt Finish subscriber

Men took a picture together, oh the humanity!

This type of "reporting" is unserious. It looks like it was pulled straight off of Jezebel or Gawker. Libby can do better and VOSD should know better.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Is this the same Lori Saldana who publicly dithered for weeks about whether she would run, then decided not to? The same person who claimed she had warned the local Democratic party about Filner before his election? Am I the only voter tired of politicians lecturing us that we need "a conversation about" race or sex? I doubt it. What have these conversations produced beyond pointless acrimony? Do we need a dose of Al Sharpton periodically to keep us pure of heart? Please, no!

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Amy, do you think Libby would be trumpeting the necessity of a woman's voice if the woman was Palin or some other woman who didn't meet Libby's narrow definition of what a woman should be? Of course not. There is no reason to bring reason into a libby-rant.

lorisaldana
lorisaldana

There are many reasons why this is an important issue for elected officials to discuss: Workplace harassment costs us all, not only in terms of embarrassment, moral outrage and fear, but in terms of lost productivity of employees, lost wages to workers and their families, and lost taxpayer dollars when settlement payments are made. I agree a woman candidate would have had a different response to the question about experiencing workplace harassment and/or discrimination. (And, frankly, why limit the circumstance to workplace only?) But the format of the question limited the possible replies. A "yes/no" question doesn't encourage anyone to think beyond the precise circumstances presented. A woman candidate may have had a different reply not just because chances are higher that she had experienced harassment (or worse), but also chances are higher she knew of someone close to her who had been harassed and shared that information with her. As my own experience in 2011 with women who had been harassed by Filner illustrates: Women are more comfortable discussing these situations with other women, and less comfortable going public and opening themselves up to questions (at least) and attacks on their credibility. One suggestion: broaden the question and ask candidates to discuss the issue this way: has someone close to you ever experienced this type of situation, and asked you for help? What was your response when you learned of it? How did you work to ensure it stopped and no one else had to experience it, in or out of the workplace? That's a question I'd like to hear candidates respond to. And I would avoid legislative responses. It's clear what most people would do and say in elected office, where everyone feels a need to be perceived as "tough on crime." What's less clear is how they would respond as a person, in private, and what they learned from the experience. That question and response would offer insights into their character and judgment, qualities which are hard to evaluate in traditional candidate forums.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Dotinga: I think Mr. Dilno is suggesting that maybe Mr. Alvarez my be meeting the ideals that Ms. Libby wishes to see. Regardless, I don't think your effort at humor worked in this case. A little restraint may be in order.

amy roth
amy roth subscribermember

How do you know, Sara? Does gender dictate what someone says in a conversation? (Personally, I acknowledge the vast differences between men and women, but that's not politically correct, is it? So I'm surprised that you of all people subscribe to that notion.)

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

So you are saying Kimberly Hunt should throw her hat in the ring?

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin

Saw a bumper sticker Sara "I'll see it when I believe it." I think your angle is a non-issue and quite frankly is an impossible ideal. As people we have biases. Its not an aberration it is part of being human. Women have them just as men have them. Kimberly Hunts comment is no where near Filners comments or behavior. To suggest so is over the top sensitivity.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

Saw a bumper sticker Sara "I'll see it when I believe it." I think your angle is a non-issue and quite frankly is an impossible ideal. As people we have biases. Its not an aberration it is part of being human. Women have them just as men have them. Kimberly Hunts comment is no where near Filners comments or behavior. To suggest so is over the top sensitivity.

David Benz
David Benz

Our last female mayor was a complete disaster. Sexual harasser Filner was better than financial rapist Golding. She was in charge when we started underfunding our pensions and everyone remembers the stadium debacle. Worst mayor in my lifetime.

David Benz
David Benz subscriber

Our last female mayor was a complete disaster. Sexual harasser Filner was better than financial rapist Golding. She was in charge when we started underfunding our pensions and everyone remembers the stadium debacle. Worst mayor in my lifetime.

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

His campaign has better sense regarding images? Or he just prefers to hang out with chicks? (Is that the opposite of "bro"? A little help here!)

Jeri Dilno
Jeri Dilno

No "Bro Photos" from the Alvarez campaign? Doesn't that say something?

Jeri Dilno
Jeri Dilno

No "Bro Photos" for Alvarez? Doesn't that say something?

Don Wood
Don Wood

Donna Frye should be mayor of San Diego, and could have won easily if she had chosen to run. The fact that she didn't says volumes about San Diego's current city government and the local media.

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

Donna Frye should be mayor of San Diego, and could have won easily if she had chosen to run. The fact that she didn't says volumes about San Diego's current city government and the local media.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

I disagree with you completely.

Libby can't do better.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

I disagree with you completely.

Libby can't do better.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Bill, sounds like you need sexual compassion therapy (set to the 9th symphony of course) so that you can become a good citizen.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw

Is this the same Lori Saldana who publicly dithered for weeks about whether she would run, then decided not to? The same person who claimed she had warned the local Democratic party about Filner before his election? Am I the only voter tired of politicians lecturing us that we need "a conversation about" race or sex? I doubt it. What have these conversations produced beyond pointless acrimony? Do we need a dose of Al Sharpton periodically to keep us pure of heart? Please, no!

Lee Datina
Lee Datina

why not ?? Marty Emerald did and got elected, and besides Kimberly Hunt is way better looking Marty...

Sara Libby
Sara Libby

No one is saying "a woman must be mayor." I'm saying there have been situations in which the conversation would've been enhanced by the inclusion of at least one woman.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster

Mr. Dotinga: I think Mr. Dilno is suggesting that maybe Mr. Alvarez my be meeting the ideals that Ms. Libby wishes to see. Regardless, I don't think your effort at humor worked in this case. A little restraint may be in order.

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga

His campaign has better sense regarding images? Or he just prefers to hang out with chicks? (Is that the opposite of "bro"? A little help here!)

David Crossley
David Crossley

Frye should have been mayor before, but that ship has sailed.

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga

Frye has done several interviews with local media in recent weeks about how the whole scandal progressed. She's made it clear what she knew and when. You're free to not believe her, but it would be helpful if you mention what she's said and why, exactly, you think she's lying instead of just throwing a slur around with no evidence behind it. As for Fletcher's looks: They haven't come up in any of your conversations with people about him? If so, you have must have very refined conversations.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Donna Frye could only win if a bus carrying all the other candidates went off a cliff. BTW how long did she sit on Filners sexual harassment issue before it became convenient to let out a little truth? As far as the somewhat sexist article here, it's sort of ridiculous, Fixation with Fletcher's looks a real issue? Too funny.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw

Huh? The fact that Donna decided not to run says volumes about Donna Frye, not the current city government or not whether she'd have won if she'd tried. It's not rocket science; she didn't want to be mayor. Look, it's not too late for a write......

David Crossley
David Crossley subscriber

Frye should have been mayor before, but that ship has sailed.

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

Frye has done several interviews with local media in recent weeks about how the whole scandal progressed. She's made it clear what she knew and when. You're free to not believe her, but it would be helpful if you mention what she's said and why, exactly, you think she's lying instead of just throwing a slur around with no evidence behind it. As for Fletcher's looks: They haven't come up in any of your conversations with people about him? If so, you have must have very refined conversations.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Donna Frye could only win if a bus carrying all the other candidates went off a cliff. BTW how long did she sit on Filners sexual harassment issue before it became convenient to let out a little truth? As far as the somewhat sexist article here, it's sort of ridiculous, Fixation with Fletcher's looks a real issue? Too funny.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Huh? The fact that Donna decided not to run says volumes about Donna Frye, not the current city government or not whether she'd have won if she'd tried. It's not rocket science; she didn't want to be mayor. Look, it's not too late for a write......

Matt Finish
Matt Finish subscriber

Jim, I love you man. You're one of the reasons I come to this site. We need a "broto" together.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Bill, sounds like you need sexual compassion therapy (set to the 9th symphony of course) so that you can become a good citizen.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Amy, do you think Libby would be trumpeting the necessity of a woman's voice if the woman was Palin or some other woman who didn't meet Libby's narrow definition of what a woman should be? Of course not. There is no reason to bring reason into a libby-rant.

amy roth
amy roth

How do you know, Sara? Does gender dictate what someone says in a conversation? (Personally, I acknowledge the vast differences between men and women, but that's not politically correct, is it? So I'm surprised that you of all people subscribe to that notion.)

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

So you are saying Kimberly Hunt should throw her hat in the ring?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Randy, we know Frye knew about it before she came forward, Frye herself said she heard about it "soon" after going to work for Filner, but took no action on it, basically allowing it to continue until she heard someone else was investigating, then she came forward: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/sep/23/trio-making-public-harassment-allegations/ What was it? 7 or 8 months between her going to work for Filner and her asking him to resign? Would she have come forward if other people were not on the story? I think her months and months of silence answers that, doesn't it? As far as Fletcher's looks, no, it has never come up when I have conversations about Fletcher. If that makes my circle refined, unrefined, whatever, I'm OK with that, and you are perfectly free to make Fletcher's looks the center of whatever deep and meaningful conversations you have..Trio Says Making Public Harassment Allegations Against Filner Was Wrenchinghttp://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/sep/23/trio-making-public-harassment-allegations/Aired 9/23/13 Former Councilwoman Donna Frye and lawyers Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez said they had hoped to keep their letters calling on the mayor to resign private. They precipitated one of the biggest political scandals in San Diego's modern hi...

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Sure, I called it wrong, I bet on the intelligence of the San Diego voter and lost. Hows your man Filner working out for you David? Donna had her chance, she lost to Sanders worse than DeMaio lost to Filner iirc.

David Cohen
David Cohen

Again showcasing the astute political judgment that enabled you to foresee the election of Mayor DeMaio.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Randy, we know Frye knew about it before she came forward, Frye herself said she heard about it "soon" after going to work for Filner, but took no action on it, basically allowing it to continue until she heard someone else was investigating, then she came forward: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/sep/23/trio-making-public-harassment-allegations/ What was it? 7 or 8 months between her going to work for Filner and her asking him to resign? Would she have come forward if other people were not on the story? I think her months and months of silence answers that, doesn't it? As far as Fletcher's looks, no, it has never come up when I have conversations about Fletcher. If that makes my circle refined, unrefined, whatever, I'm OK with that, and you are perfectly free to make Fletcher's looks the center of whatever deep and meaningful conversations you have..Trio Says Making Public Harassment Allegations Against Filner Was Wrenchinghttp://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/sep/23/trio-making-public-harassment-allegations/Aired 9/23/13 Former Councilwoman Donna Frye and lawyers Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez said they had hoped to keep their letters calling on the mayor to resign private. They precipitated one of the biggest political scandals in San Diego's modern hi...

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Sure, I called it wrong, I bet on the intelligence of the San Diego voter and lost. Hows your man Filner working out for you David? Donna had her chance, she lost to Sanders worse than DeMaio lost to Filner iirc.

David Cohen
David Cohen subscriber

Again showcasing the astute political judgment that enabled you to foresee the election of Mayor DeMaio.