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The Man Keeps His Mansion, The Woman Almost Gets Tethered

April 8, 2008

A stunning example of gender double standards is playing out on the Detroit political stage these days.   It takes women longer to achieve leadership.  But when they misstep, they fall faster and harder than men.  Here's an Op Ed I wrote for the Detroit Free Press. 


  Thanks heavens for Judge Paula Humphries, presiding judge of the 36th District Court, who late Monday over-ruled a lower court order for Christine Beatty to wear an electronic tether.  Mark that up as one small step for womankind. 

    In case you missed the latest developments in the growing insanity surrounding our hometown’s Michigan sex, lies and texting scandal, let me bring you up to date.  Last Friday, Magistrate Steve Lockhart had Christine Beatty hauled into his courtroom because she had attempted to travel out of state to look for a job – without asking the court’s permission.  Magistrate Lockhart responded by ordering her to wear an electronic tether, denying her the right to leave the state “for any reason” and questioned “who would hire someone facing felony charges.”
   An electronic tether? And travel restrictions that would have made it nearly impossible for her to find a job to support herself and her children.  Excuse me?

   Last time I checked a certain SOMEONE - who is facing even more extensive felony charges than Beatty - is still collecting his pay check, living for free in the Manoogian Mansion, being driven around town in a city-owned vehicle by his city-paid security and going to church in Texas.

   Does anyone besides Judge Humphries  see anything wrong here?

   Now don't get me wrong, Christine Beatty is not my candidate to be inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame. But I can't simply seethe silently and not speak up about the double standard - one for the male leader and a much tougher one for the female leader - that has been repeatedly playing out before our eyes on Detroit's political stage.

   Just consider these facts:

   Yes, both Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty are facing multiple felony charges for lying under oath, reportedly to make sure that the cover was not blown on their affair.
However, Kilpatrick is facing more charges than Beatty. She's not the one who authorized the secret agreement in the whistle blower lawsuit, deceived the City Council into approving it and cost Detroit taxpayers more than $8 million.

   In addition, the Mayor was Beatty's boss. She held her once powerful position at his pleasure. She was dependent upon him for her financial security. Lawyers who make a career out of cases like this tell me there's a fine line between sexual harassment and mutual consent when one of the players holds all the cards.
Beatty resigned her position within a few days of the scandal breaking, realizing immediately that she had lost credibility and could no longer perform her job. Kilpatrick had the gall to say that Beatty "had to go," while insisting that he must continue to collect his paycheck and all the benefits of his position because he's "doing the work of God." Insiders are also whispering these days that the Mayor's Office is suffering without Beatty because, whether you liked her or not, she is a highly experienced executive.

   Now, she is a divorced, single mother with young children to support. Her career and reputation are in shambles. She doesn't have a $700 per hour Chicago lawyer heading her defense team. And I haven't seen anyone offering to help raise money for the daunting legal expenses she is facing.
 On top of all that, we have a judge ruling that a woman who was once the mayoral chief of staff is such a flight risk - or perhaps danger to society - that she must be tethered. I’m wondering why he didn’t order Beatty to wear a Scarlet letter on her chest while he was at it.

   What ever happened to "innocent until proven guilty, " "equal treatment under the law" and "justice and fairness for all"?
There is something very wrong going on here. Magistrate Lockhart’s actions were just the latest examples in the steady stream of gender double standards we’ve seen in this case.  It reminds me of the policy in my high school, decades ago, that expelled female students who became pregnant, but allowed the boys who fathered the babies to remain in school and graduate.
The Harvard Business Review recently published an article entitled, "Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership." It makes the case that even at the beginning of the 21st Century, women face numerous obstacles to professional success and are held to higher performance standards than men. It's still much more difficult for women to achieve leadership positions. Once they do, if they make a misstep, they fall faster and harder than men. Just ask Christine Beatty.

  I've never even met Ms. Beatty and I have little sympathy for the mess that she has gotten herself into. But I'm hopping mad. Where is the outrage over a once admired and highly accomplished woman leader of our city being discarded like yesterday's newspaper and ordered by a judge to be tethered like a criminal, while the male leader who faces even more serious felony remains firmly seated on his powerful throne? 

  Judge Humphries made the right decision, but stay tuned.  We’ve just begun to see the gender inequities that will play out in this tragedy.  

  Women need to stand up and cry "Foul!" Not for Christine Beatty, but for the separate and very unequal standards that are being applied to a female leader. This isn't about special treatment. It is, as in the millions of examples throughout the professional world every day, about an even playing field for women - even for those accused of perjury.

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