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September 2, 2005

Female Chauvinism

Roy Meachum

Not surprisingly Tuesday's column elicited comment. Two Jennifer Dougherty supporters called me "a male chauvinist pig." One, an old and dear friend, chuckled; the other did not. She displayed the venom I've come to expect:

"I have no doubt," she wrote, "that your marriage failed because you chalked up your wife's anger with you to her menstrual cycle each month instead of to the real issue.that you are an insufferable sexist pig."

The opinion was delivered by a member of Jennifer Dougherty's staff; a woman neither my former wife nor I ever met. Sharon calls me every month, saying we are still family; I agree. Unlike the letter writer's argument, there is no hostility between us. Quite the contrary.

But in that letter is the anger that I've come to expect from women who back Mayor Dougherty; by contrast most of the supporting males are quietly resolute. Aristophanes' "Lysistrata" comes to mind. I don't think, in this instance, it is so much a matter of sex withheld, as the Greek play posited, but probably a matter simply of not irritating the little lady.

My admiration for strong women, the letter writer's argument aside, has been well documented. I've rarely met a female candidate I didn't like, beginning with Alderman Sally Murphy, whose husband died of the same cancer that threatened my youngest child. Michael Andrew Meachum survived and went on with his career of becoming a senior and instructing paramedic in Washington. Jim Murphy died.

What kind of male chauvinist pig would tout a female candidate of the opposite party? I did. Ellen Saurbrey's plumbing aside, she made more sense to me than incumbent governor Parris Glendening. I equally had no problem endorsing Kathleen Kennedy Townsend against Bob Ehrlich, who sits in State House now.

On the local scene, I tried and failed to influence the voting for Fran Baker and Sue Hecht; I even backed the letter writer's employer in Jennifer Dougherty's first bid for public office.

The malicious attack reinforced my point: the current mayor receives support solely because she is a woman, and that's chauvinism to the point that would make Nicholas Chauvin nod his head.

First of all, I suppose, readers should know that Monsieur Chauvin never existed; he was the fictional character in a play that featured his blind willingness to accept any and all that came from the "divine" Emperor Napoleon. To live truly in his model, today's chauvinists must exhibit the same willingness to ignore flaws that Nicholas flaunted.

As exemplified in an aside from a Republican, younger female members of her party have expressed a willingness to support Democrat Dougherty, because they think that's what it takes to get rid of "the old boys (GOB) system." They are soaking wet.

Perhaps the most objectionable truth to Ms. Dougherty's campaign, delivered in my Tuesday's column, was the simple reality the GOB system has not existed for nearly 15 years, not since GOP Delegate Anita Stup forced county political boss James E. McClellan into stepping down. He may have decided to retire without Ms. Stup's pressure. State Sen. Charles Smelser's decision to return to private life meant the loss of significant muscle to the system that had ruled Frederick for many years.

Ron Young could very well be a "good old boy" - although his wife of 30 years says not - but if true, he would be a singular example of what used to be but is no more. I have frequently quarreled with the former mayor over the years but never faulted his attitude towards women.

But then, the question now before us has everything to do with how I feel dealing with the opposite sex. I like them. Why would ladies in my past keep close contact with me?

The final realization should be accepted: Attacking me as "a male chauvinist pig" reveals more than anything I could write how sexist the campaign mounted by incumbent Mayor Jennifer Dougherty. She claims, and gets, loyalty chiefly on the basis of sex; for that reason she generates an anger against members of the opposite gender and any women who dare to oppose her.

In fact, the current mayor is a glib factotum, dedicated to the proposition that she alone understands the truth; in that sense she compares with fundamentalist preachers who promulgate the same argument against abortion.

At Wednesday's taping of a Channel 10 debate with challenger Ron Young, she was so obsessed by her lack of control that she demanded the segment be taped again. Mr. Young refused, sparking a yelling denunciation that erupted into Adelphia's parking lot, according to three witnesses.

My record clearly shows that I am not totally enamored of the former mayor. But, as his ex-wife said, he neither lies nor dissembles. His opponents can argue until blue in the face he doesn't like strong women; his personal life says otherwise.

I have never commented on a more demeaning, ridiculous campaign. Jennifer Dougherty, her family and supporters should get a life. Voters might give them that chance a week from Tuesday. I devoutly hope so.

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