2016-07-13 / Opinion

The Best Man - or Woman - for the Job

Does Gender Matter?

* Lillian Browne is editor-in-chief of The Reporter. * Lillian Browne is editor-in-chief of The Reporter. In recent months the nation has had a front row seat to a parody of an election cycle. We have watched candidates at all levels of government enter and then drop out of political races. We are approaching the finish line in November’s general election, where in addition to a new Congressional representative, we will see a new Commander in Chief. This year’s election has something that we’ve not yet seen - a viable female candidate for the presidency. As the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton has a few things going for her. Her name, political experience and access to campaign funds are among them.

She also has something that Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump referred to with slanderous undertones - “the woman card.” Trump has accused Clinton of using this imaginary solidarity, cheerleading, sympathy, underdog status to her advantage. Bring it on, I say. But only for reasons that we are seeing played out at a very local level - in public school sports. Case in point is that of a Walton Central School male student who wants to play on the school’s all-girl field hockey team.

“Mixed competition” as it is called in New York public schools, is nothing new. Various varsity and junior varsity teams throughout Delaware County have allowed girls to participate in football and wrestling, which are typically played only by boys. There are a variety of factors that make such things possible - a doctor’s clearance, an athlete’s ability, rules set by the state high school athletic association and ultimately the district superintendents’ nod of approval.

The Walton student cleared each hurdle but the last. The district super said he was of the opinion that the male student’s speed and endurance and possible displacement of a female athlete were detrimental to fair play. I challenge that line of reasoning - not because I am a “feminist,” but because I am an “equalist.” I believe that people should be treated equally regardless of skin color, gender or economic status. When those barriers are removed, fair play can proceed. Perhaps the notion is idealistic - that we should be assessed on our ability to get the job done, our authenticity, our work ethic and our character. These are all things that we learned as children were important for future careers and indoctrination into productive adulthood.

Sadly, that is not true. In many cases, skin color and gender are factors in obtaining employment, especially if seeking a taxpayer-funded position.

In the adult world it’s called “Equal Opportunity Employment” with the goal of ensuring that women, minority ethnic groups and others are “fairly” represented in the public work force, by being given preferential treatment. This, in my opinion, is just bad policy.

I question the practice placing an unqualified person in any position.

Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond has chimed in on the issue of gender in policing and said, “I feel that gender is not a factor in policing. Over the past 31 years I have worked with lots of police officers and gender has never been a factor. The officer needs only to be morally and ethically sound as well as have the courage to apply their training proficiently and professionally.” Now that’s a statement I can get behind.

Therefore, Mrs. Clinton, though a woman who is in a unique position to level the gender playing field, will not get my vote. She has demonstrated on numerous occasions that she does not follow the law - the email scandal is just one instance. I also detest policy advocacy that pigeonholes and holds hostage any group - her stance on the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare, for instance. Mr. Trump, I am not sure, is any better.

But the decision that banned a male athlete from playing on a girls’ team in Walton based on a preconceived idea that he “might” play one way or another bothers me.

Each of my children, all girls, played organized sports from the time they were five years old through college. They started by participating on co-ed teams at the pee-wee level. I encouraged them, whenever possible, to practice, scrimmage or compete with boys. Those at different ability levels will often challenge you to become a better, smarter, stronger player, whether on the sports field or in a competitive career. I believe mixed competition made my daughters better athletes and better people.

I am certain that the Walton superintendent made a decision that he thought was best for everyone and I make no judgment about his leadership qualities or his ability to do his job efficiently and with expertise. Under his tremendous leadership, the district was pulled from fiscal chaos that could have proved disastrous for the Walton community. The Walton superintendent was able to prove himself, not only worthy of the job, but to be the best person for the job under extremely challenging circumstances. But he wouldn’t have been able to, had he not been given a chance to prove himself.

Return to top