Fields Overlooked?

There’s no better way to defeat the news cycle than to begin an event at 7:00 p.m. amid a great national tragedy. So NY1’s Mayoral forum last night, understandably, doesn’t get much ink in the papers this morning.

Still, it was a more interesting spectacle than many expected. Set as a town hall meeting in the grand but decrepit City Council chamber, the questions were fairly lively. A blond woman rose to ask Mayor Bloomberg why he hadn’t rushed to the scene of an alleged anti-white bias crime in Brooklyn as he had to an alleged anti-black one in Howard Beach. And after the Mayor floundered for a bit, his spokesman, Ed “Relax?! They don’t pay me to relax!” in heated conversation with NY1’s Bob Hardt over how long the forum had run.

Later, Freddy responded capably to a rather confused question about “your suggestion that Wall Street relocate to the Bronx.” (“Nice as that would be for the Bronx and the Yankees…”). Gifford was in pretty good form. And Anthony got in a Ricardo Montalban reference.

But the rawest moment of the evening (only the News really picked up on it) came during Virginia‘s segment, which began — oddly — with her delivering an opening statement directly to a camera that was turned off for a commercial break. Early on, NY1’s Dominic Carter asked her, in essence, if she feels the media is ignoring her because she’s a woman.

“Gender definitely has something to do with it,” she replied, quoting Shirley Chisholm about race and gender, but adding, “race aside.”

“Have I been marginalized today?” she asked. “Absolutely.”

Fields was particularly irritated that her housing plan got only a passing mention in a New York Times story about housing, which mentioned her plan, handed out at a Citizens Budget Commission forum with little fanfare months ago, only in passing.

Does Fields have a point here? It seems odd to suggest that women running for office are ignored. More often, they complain of too much of the wrong kind of attention — glamorized, personalized coverage that ignores the issues. And the ingrained discrimination seems to me to set in lower on the political food chain, weeding out women before they reach the stage of seeking office. Indeed, noted feminists like unreconstructed GOP Chairman Steve Minarik have made a practice of seeking out women candidates because they win.

Still, Virginia does often appear to be getting taken less seriously than the three leading male candidates. There are other possible reasons for that than her gender. But her anger about it was very real, and seemed to connect with many in the audience.

“Sure I can lead this city,” she said at one point. “Men have led the city for so long and look at the shape it’s in.”

NOTE: The second paragraph of this post has been corrected.