Sexism is a problem in politics that should be confronted and changed, some local elected officials and former candidates said at a forum held by The Galloway School.
One of the attendees, recently elected state Sen. Jen Jordan, said she did not expect sexism to be so prevalent in the General Assembly.
“One of the things that surprised me about the state Senate is that it’s really like 1950 there,” she said in a video recording of the forum posted by the school.
The Oct. 1 “All Politics is Local” forum featured elected officials who are alumni of the Buckhead private school or parents of current or former students, according to Galloway. Participants included Jordan; Peter Aman, a former Atlanta mayoral candidate and a Buckhead resident; Sandy Springs City Councilmember Andy Bauman; Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst; Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi; Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris; and Shea Roberts, a candidate for the local state House District 52 seat. The moderator was Michelle Maziar, the director of the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
Jordan, a Democrat who represents parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, said she was surprised by the “advice” she was given by a committee chair.
She said he repeatedly called her into his office and told she needed to “smile more” and should bring her children in so people “could relate to [her] better.” He asked why she got “so agitated,” Jordan said.
“Every time, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Am I getting “Punk’d”?,’ ” she said, referring to a prank TV show.
When asked by Maziar what advice she had for men, Jordan said to not perpetuate gender stereotypes and that it is as simple as treating women equally.
“If you’re a leader in a community people are watching how you treat young girls, how you treat women,” she said. “It does matter.”
Bauman, the Sandy Springs councilmember, said that he would like to see more women run for office because they can bring a different perspective and may be more willing to work across the aisle.
“I talk to people, both Republican and Democrats, where I say, ‘I think we would all be better off if, frankly, we did nothing but elect women for the next couple of elections,’ ” he said.
Morris, the Fulton commissioner, said, “We certainly need more women in government and all that is changing for the good.”
When asked by Mayor Ernst if Jordan thought younger generations were less likely to make sexist comments, she said the committee chair referenced in her story was in his 40s.
“It’s not generational, and by God I wish it were, but that’s why it’s so important that we keep pushing,” she said.
Roberts, a Democrat who is running for the House District 52 seat against Republican incumbent Rep. Deborah Silcox, said women need more voices in the General Assembly and to vocally oppose sexist statement.
“We just have to call them out when we hear them and change the impression of what women can and should be doing,” she said.
Jordan said the hearings on the sexual assault accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, who was later confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, make it even more important to listen to women.
“Especially after last week, it may be particularly important to make sure women feel like they are being heard,” she said.
The forum also included discussion on such topics as affordable housing, police, election security and transit. To watch the video, visit youtube.com/user/GallowaySchool.