In Defense of Guys

Last night I attended the annual dinner of an organization called Wisconsin Women in Government. I was there because Janet Piraino, a long-time friend and my chief of staff for all of the eight years that I was mayor of Madison, was getting the organization’s Legacy Award.

Piraino has been chief of staff to two state senators, a congressman and a mayor, state director for two United States Senators, district director for a congressman, a lobbyist for the UW System and development director for the Overture Center for the Arts. Some would say she can’t keep a job while others might be mildly impressed with a resume like that. And, oh yeah, soon after she retired she was coaxed back into state government as special assistant to the secretary in the Department of Revenue. So, she’s not even done yet.

Janet Piraino was my chief of staff and that was only a small part of an impressive career.

It was a recognition well-earned and I was happy to be there to share the moment with her and other good friends. It was also fun to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen in years. And the hearty hors d oeuvres at Monona Terrace were pretty good too.

But what I want to write about this morning is the keynote speech by Patti Solis Doyle. Solis Doyle was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2008 until she was tossed under the bus after Clinton’s third place showing in the Iowa caucuses that year. Given how the rest of that campaign went, you could make a pretty good case that the problem wasn’t the campaign manager. In any event, she recovered and wound up managing Joe Biden’s part in the Obama-Biden ticket that year and was then rewarded with a job in the Obama White House. Now she’s a consultant.

Her speech was pretty much what I expected. Her basic theme was that women are better than men at politics, governing and pretty much life in general. She offered a handful of reasons, among them the idea that women are more collaborative, that they work harder and that they are more in tune with issues that really matter to voters and to the future, like child care.

It was an unexceptional talk in the sense that we’ve been hearing this kind of thing everywhere for a long time. But I sat there, nibbling my excellent hearty hors d oeuvres and wondering what the reaction would be if this were exactly the same kind of speech, but delivered by a man in front of an audience of mostly guys.

He might say that men are better at politics and governing because they are more decisive, more logical and less prone to emotional arguments. Now, a talk like that would have made some headlines.

And yet there’s some truth to all of it. In fact, I would agree that, in very broad strokes, women are more collaborative and they probably do care more about issues like child care than men do. Whether or not they work harder is more debatable. There’s no question that Janet worked harder than her boss when I was mayor, so I know that it was certainly true in one case.

But if we’re going to concede the good traits of women why would it be so seemingly controversial to assume a few good traits in men? My people are, in fact, as a general rule more decisive, more logical and less emotional.

Here’s what would be really good: if we’d just drop the whole project. Stop trying to suss out the good and bad traits of genders. There are positive human traits: collaboration, decisiveness, compassion, logic, empathy, strength, etc. What we’d like is leaders who display all of those things and it doesn’t matter whether they’re men or women. In other words, we want people who are the opposite of Donald Trump and Kari Lake in every possible way.

So, I wasn’t offended by Solis Doyle’s speech. I just found it to be more of the same. The same old tiresome women-good, men-bad stuff we’ve been hearing forever. Time to move on.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

3 thoughts on “In Defense of Guys

  1. I totally agree and am impressed that you have the self-confidence to post this. If certain demographics read it, there could be a flood of negative correspondence. I hope you have thick skin, Caveman.


  2. Janet Piraino had a terrific public service career. Sounds like a clear case of discrimination! It couldn’t possibly be due to the fact that she’s likable, hard-working, and politically savvy. [Insert winky face here.] Congratulations Janet!


  3. You present some interesting opinions. I hear many men on the right saying much the same thing anytime women talk about how hard it is for women to get traction in positions of power or when women are honored for their abilities. Women have been working hard to get a place at the table for quite some time. Yes, we now hold 24% of the US Senate and a whopping 27.3% of Congress. What more could we want??? Why would women talk about what positive qualities they bring to politics? Or honor a woman who has achieved so much? It appears we have a long way to go to get to a representative 50%, and respect even from our allies.


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