A Board of Education member in Oklahoma has caused an uproar after saying a proposed candidate would be "worthless" to them—because she's pregnant and might take maternity leave. The woman, eventually voted in, left the meeting in tears.
The context was a contentious meeting where a Republican education commissioner, Janet Barresi (serving under Gov. Mary Fallin, also a Republican) was facing resistance to confirmation of her appointees, chiefly from two male Democrats.
According to local news reports, when Jessica Russell's name was brought up before the board for consideration as a legislative liason, there was a unanimous vote to approve her. But then board member and former state senator Herb Rozell asked when the baby was due, adding, "If she has that child in April and takes off six weeks, she's worthless to us. She won't be able to keep up."
Barresi told him his comment was inappropriate and asked him to withdraw it, at which point another board member, Tim Gilpin, said, "Can we have a motion that she not have her baby in April or May?" He told her she must have a "fairly thin skin" if she was offended, because he said Rozell was clearly joking.
Russell later said, "As a young professional woman, I was just in shock that that would even be said. I just couldn't believe that something like that would be said in this day and age."
Governor Fallin said in a news conference, "As a pregnant woman myself who ran for the state Legislature in 1990 and had a baby between sessions, I can say women can be pregnant and get the job done. Shame on them for making fun of a pregnant woman. It's really disgusting to hear those kinds of comments being made." Two Oklahoma state senators called on Rozell to resign.
Judging from accounts of the event, it sounds like Gilpin and Rozell were being sexist douchebags merely for the sake of giving the Republican superintendent a hard time. (Although they may also be sexist douchebags in general.) And Fallin may be genuinely outraged, though we suspect there are also partisan forces at work in the tenor of her outrage. We only wish she was as pro-woman in her policies. Before being elected in November as governor, she was a congresswoman who voted against the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, and against the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (which disproportionately affected women.) And that's just the recent ones. Feminism, Mama Grizzly style!