Normally, I write my short notes, but I’d like to dedicate some time to this issue with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s othering of a teacher this past weekend at a political rally of his. Most of the coverage around this event has centered on the tenor politicians have set in their quest to reform education. As Christie wags a finger at this woman, the crowd cheers, signaling a societal acknowledgment that politicians can lay waste to any courtesy towards anyone, and that democracy is overrated. Surely, dissenters get jeers at any rally, but this particular type of jeer further solidified the idea that teachers’ rights are aligned with women’s rights.
For those unaware, teaching has had the perception of “woman’s work” for the better part of the last century. Without workers’ rights and collective bargaining, some of the rights teachers have these days wouldn’t exist. Yet, it seems clear that teaching as a woman-dominated profession would get accosted by a patriarchal government. The facts are clear: 85% of K-12 teachers are women and 80% of our government officials are men. Even with a margin of error of 5% (give or take), Christie’s finger-waging of this teacher is not just symbolic of the attitudes against teachers, but women as a whole.
How the East Coast Governator gets away with this speaks volumes for why everyone needs to speak louder for women’s rights as a whole.
I don’t consider myself a feminist, per se. I’m still learning, and continue to learn as I grow. I just see how even my colleagues who say, “It’s not about her being a woman but a teacher” won’t acknowledge that police officers, firefighters, doctors, or any other male-dominated profession wouldn’t get similarly accosted in the public. Yes, the cuts abound, and to this day, even local hawks like Mayor Mike Bloomberg have suspended contract negotiations with his own battalions. Even he’s smart enough to speak around that subject without mentioning police directly.
When it comes to teachers, though, he, along with Christie and a host of others, proudly jump on the podium in the name of education reform. None of this counts for teacher appreciation, keeping the best teachers, attracting the best talent, racing to the top, or any of that malarkey. More importantly, none of this othering happens without society’s consent. Aside from Christie’s ego, gender plays a huge role here, and if you can’t see that, then perhaps you’re part of the problem, too.
*** photo c/o http://twitter.com/daveweigel ***