Amidst the national news that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned for his misogynistic and retro (at best) workplace behavior, I wouldn’t want you to miss our own local cringeworthy episode.
Not much shocks me these days. But yesterday, while watching local journalist Josh Molina interview influential Santa Barbara real estate developer Ed St. George on his podcast “Santa Barbara Talks with Josh Molina,” I almost choked on my latte.
Not since All in the Family’s Archie Bunker got all worked up when he and his liberal neighbor, Irene, were competing for the same job and Archie said: “It’s a crime against nature. Women were created for two things: makin’ meals and babies… It’s true. Look at the cave women…” (it gets cringier, but I’m using some restraint) have I heard such Neanderthalic nonsense. The difference is, of course, Bunker was a fictional character, created to make us laugh, provoke discussion, and encourage action. Ed St. George is for real and dead serious.
In Molina’s interview, St. George is asked to comment on the surprising challenge of City Council member and newly appointed Coastal Commissioner, Meagan Harmon, by City Hall insider Nina Johnson, senior assistant to the City Administrator.
“What do you think of Nina Johnson challenging Meagan Harmon?” Molina asked St. George. His answer was breathtaking:
“I like Meagan. I think we all like Meagan… Meagan’s the girl I think we all kind of had a crush on in junior high or high school, maybe our first crush. She was the girl that got along with the jocks, was really nice to the nerds. Here she is. She graduates high school. She joins the Peace Corps. I think she joined the Peace Corps, right? Correct me if I’m wrong…” (You’re wrong.)
“…I think she went to Afghanistan, spent a couple of years there, comes back to Santa Barbara, decides to enroll in law school. Graduates from law school. Passes the Bar. Gets a job with a good firm here in Santa Barbara. Answers an ad for an interim council member, interim, just for a short time. Ends up being longer than just interim. She gets nominated by the council…” (Okay, so far I’m liking this Meagan person.)
St. George continues: “…In the meantime, she’s pregnant. I’m sure that’s been one of her life dreams, as it is with a lot of women. So now she’s got… an infant on the way. She’s pregnant. Okay. I think she’s got a three- or four-year-old daughter, currently… She’s got the husband. She’s got a job being an attorney. She’s a Councilwoman, which in the city of Santa Barbara is a full-time job…” (Perhaps we should be paying our Council Members more than $47,000 a year if we expect them not to need another job.)
He’s still going: “…She’s just now been elected or nominated as a Coastal Commissioner. These are really six almost full-time jobs… So, am I for Nina, or am I for Meagan? Meagan, if you’re listening, please, just think about this for a second. Maybe take a pause, a five- to seven-year pause on what you’re doing. I mean, this blind obsession to grow, I’ve been through it myself. I know a lot of people that have. But I also know a lot of women executives, high powered, really, really driven women and almost all of them have taken about a five- to seven-year pause when they have children. And I don’t know if any of them regret it… it’s just, take pause. You’re young. If you decide to get back into politics, let me know. I’ll be the first person to write you a check.”
So, I have a question for Mr. St. George: Just curious, did you offer the same advice to Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Das Williams, who also has two young children and certainly has a lot on his plate, and if I remember correctly was in the running for Coastal Commissioner against Ms. Harmon? Should Williams, in your opinion, take a five- to seven-year pause, so as not to miss out on these important years with his offspring? Did you question his “blind obsession to grow”?
Ed… may I call you Ed? If you’re listening, even overlooking that a lot of your facts are wrong, women have been working very hard for generations for the same rights that men have, if they choose, to work, to build careers, to pursue their dreams, and to share their talents with the world, without having to give up the great joys of having a family. Your advice is bizarrely retro. I suspect Meagan, with her many competencies you so fastidiously listed, can make these informed life decisions on her own.
And Ed, Sweetie, Meagan Harmon’s not a girl. She’s a grown woman.
Please read Nick Masuda’s In the Know that starts on page 5 for the whole story — including Meagan Harmon’s and Das Williams’ reaction, as well as a pointed statement from the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.