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How ‘First Lady’ Cylvia Hayes is Letting Feminists Down

Monday, October 20, 2014



What does the word "feminist" mean to you?  To me it is incredibly simple: I claim my moral and legal entitlement to the same social, political, and economic opportunities and rights as men while at the same time I have a deep and abiding commitment to gender justice.  

That means I understand that my rights as a woman are intrinsic and awesome, but they come with concurrent obligations, duties, and accountability for my actions. In other words, personal responsibility.

Personal responsibility is a subject that fascinates me, mainly because I see so little of it. Everyone who gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar these days is always so busy constructing a finger-pointing mechanism, defining their own victimhood, and throwing other people under the bus that they don't seem to consider even for a moment owning up to what they did wrong and issuing a proper mea culpa.

Case in point: the "First Lady" and the daily drip drip drip of scandals from Mahonia's leaky faucets.

Ms. Hayes and Governor Kitzhaber have handled this developing mess poorly, to say the least, and in a manner I find annoying as a strong woman and a feminist besides.

I'll tackle my thoughts in a numbered fashion because that helps me keep myself organized and also allows for me to edit easily at the last minute when the latest scandal rolls in ("Cylvia Hayes accused of driving in a designated bike lane while eating GMO non-organic apples grown in California")

1. Kitzhaber said he was "proud" of Hayes admitting to the illegal marriage and said "it took a lot of guts for her to do that."
Well, no.  No it didn't.

She was exposed by reporter Nigel Jaquiss at Willamette Week and she was doing damage control.  That's not gutsy or anything to be proud of, that's Politics 101, most especially in an election cycle that has about three minutes left on the clock.

So right off the bat, we have the Governor dumbing down the meaning of courage and touting as gutsy her admission to the undeniable.  I find this troubling but especially so given Hayes' female status.  

Why?  Because our feminist foremothers fought hard for our right to be included in these games fought by powerful and wealthy men, and we dishonor them when we play by a different and more lenient set of rules - the “girls' rules.”

Concerns about 'strong women'


2. Kitzhaber went on to say the real reason his fiancé was being pilloried in the press was that some people are "extremely concerned and nervous" about strong women.

Who exactly does he think is extremely "concerned and nervous" about this pillar of strength, Cylvia Hayes?  The reporters covering the story?  The people reading it?  I don't believe it - not for a hot minute.

We live in a country in which Hillary Clinton, the proud owner of a uterus, is almost certain to clinch the Democratic nomination for President and stands a pretty damn good chance of being elected leader of the free world.

We live in a state that was governed by noted woman and milk-producer Barbara Roberts, back in the day when female governors were a rarity (1991-1995; she chose not to seek re-election).

We live in a city that was run, some say quite aggressively, by the legendary Vera Katz and her fallopian tubes from 1993 through 2005.

Don't try to sell me this B.S., Dr. John, 'cause I aint buying it.

3. Cylvia Hayes seems to have mastered the "excuse rather than explanation" tactic for addressing the poor choices she made back in the day.

Regarding the illegal marriage and subsequent filing of a fraudulent tax return, she said,

"This was a difficult and unstable period in my life... I was associating with the wrong people. I was struggling to put myself through college and was offered money in exchange for marrying a young person who had a chance to get a college degree himself if he were able to remain in the United States."

Remember, she was 30 years old at the time.  I was broke in law school and you know how I handled it?  I got a job.  Cylvia Hayes broke federal laws because she wanted a laptop so she needs to stop spinning the story and start taking responsibility for her actions.

Regarding the was-it-or-wasn't-it-a-pot-farm scandal, she whined "I am not proud of that brief period of time. I was involved in an abusive relationship with a dangerous man."

Now wait a minute...I thought we were supposed to be sympathetic toward her because she is suffering under the collective fear Oregonians have for "strong women?"  Now we are supposed to give her a pass because she was voluntarily in a long-term relationship with a bad guy?

Which is it?

4. The most troubling allegations for me have concerned the glaring conflicts of interest that have arisen in the way Cylvia Hayes conducts her business via her use of state resources and her imaginary "First Lady" title.

At the debate with Richardson, Kitzhaber said, “...in 2014, it seems ludicrous to conclude that a woman, who has had a successful career...long before she became first lady, should be expected to give up her career and her life’s work ....”

He sounds like a feminist, right?

Actually, no.  He is hiding behind language that at first blush sounds like equality-toting, but actually is a lame excuse for his woman's questionable behavior.

According to reports, Hayes tripled her income in 2013 via three lucrative contracts totaling $85,000, all of which posed ethical conflicts because of her relationship to the governor.  That means prior to taking advantage of state resources and her status as First Date, she was earning roughly $28,000.

She wasn't exactly hitting the lights out.

Further, if an elected official knows that his girlfriend's work creates ethical problems in his administration, he should either get a new gal or ask that she do something else while he's in office.  His own chief of staff and top lawyer reportedly warned him there were problems and instructed Hayes on what she could and couldn't do to remain compliant with the laws. 

Hayes stomped her pretty little foot, said no, and the rules were tossed.

Entitlement-minded accountability avoidance 

This whole thing reeks of "treat me differently because I'm a girl" and illustrates Cylvia Hayes' boundless capacity for entitlement-minded accountability avoidance. It's all too shady and she is coming off like a bit of a grifter who insists rules should not just be bent but be re-written to suit her purposes.

Is she or isn't she a public official?  Is she or isn't she a strong woman?  Is she or isn't she a victim?  As a professional woman and a strong one besides, I find her behavior disturbing and insulting to women and I cringe at Governor Kitzhaber's enabling, rationalization, and attempts to make this all about something, anything other than what it is: his fiancée's questionable character.

Note to Cylvia - a little free advice that's worth every penny:

When the latest scandal breaks, say you screwed up, you regret it, apologize if that's in order and don't make any excuses.  Assuming Dennis Richardson doesn't figure out how to make hay here and Kitz wins the election, put your business on hold and do something else for a while.  

The marijuana initiative is sure to pass - perhaps you could start a grow operation?

Former Portland lawyer and current Portland big mouth Robin Des Camp is the Velvet Sledgehammer of Truth, smashing through socially acceptable niceties to tell you how to live your life, and why. She blogs at www.askdescamp.com. Write to her at [email protected]


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