Apparently men can't trust themselves to behave.
Earlier this year, House Minority Leader John Boehner reportedly told a group of male Republicans to stop getting drunk and partying around with female lobbyists. "Duh," you may say. But that warning, reported in the "New York Post," has had an unintended consequence: female lobbyists are being shut out on Capitol Hill - and especially off campus, where most of the business of lobbying is conducted.
I'm not here to defend lobbyists, but I am here to defend the rights of female lobbyists to do their job.
There aren't a lot of female Republicans in Congress: just 17 in the House and four in the Senate. That means most of the GOP is off limits off campus to those ladies from K Street. And they are mad. One lobbyist told "The Hill" newspaper, “What year are we in again? Is this 1960? There’s no problem with congressmen drinking at the Capital Grille [the GOP watering hole] with their male lobbyist-friends, which happens every night of the week. But somehow if they do it with a woman, it doesn’t look good. That’s just an outdated attitude and one reason we don’t have more women in top Republican leadership jobs.”
The controversy reminds me of the days when I was trying to break in as a sports reporter. In those dark ages, female reporters were barred from the locker rooms. "So what?" you may ask. "Wait for the post game press conference." But most of the quotes and stories that come out of games originate in the locker room, not the generic press conference. No access, no stories.
The often unspoken message from teams (including in those days, the Dodgers) was that athletes wouldn't be able to keep their hands off the ladies. (Or perhaps it's the other way around. My one locker room interview came to a quick end when three Cubs players took one look at me, dropped their towels, and announced, "look who's here!" I politely exited without a sound bite or a story.)
The idea that women are so alluring that the menfolk can't control themselves is the same argument given for covering up women head to toe in a burqa. It's absurd. And it's wrong.
Washington is still a boys town in many ways. I'm cheering for those female GOP lobbyists the same way I cheered for female sports reporters who had the guts to stick it out longer than I did. "Change" can still happen in Washington.