By Leslie Linthicum, Albuquerque Journal
I’ve always thought there must be a special place in this world for women who call other women bitches. And now I’ve found it. It’s the New Mexico Governor’s Office.
And I’ve always wondered if there is any place on the planet where people call other people “retard.” There is. It’s on the communications staff of the New Mexico Department of Human Services, which serves developmentally delayed clients.
We know this thanks to a Mother Jones magazine story that included leaked email exchanges and sound bites from debate preparation sessions while Susana Martinez was running for governor in 2010.
There was a lot of vaguely embarrassing stuff on the taped snippets and leaked emails – Martinez, then the district attorney in Doña Ana County, wasn’t familiar with WIPP, the Commission on the Status of Women or the Hispano Chamber of Commerce and smacked on schoolteachers for getting the summers off.
Her campaign team displayed potty mouths, aggression toward women in an email (“I (EXPLETIVE) HATE THAT BITCH!”) and revealed a disregard for voters by conspiring to create a fake public statement to cover her if anyone accused her of breaking a campaign promise not to cut benefits for teachers.
The big sound bites, though, were “bitch” and “(expletive) retard.”
Martinez can be heard referring to her opponent, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, as “that little bitch.”
Her deputy campaign manager, Matt Kennicott, can be heard making fun of how Speaker of the House Ben Lujan (now deceased) speaks. Kennicott tells Martinez that he’s been told Lujan speaks beautiful Spanish but speaks English like “a (expletive) retard.”
Martinez, after the Mothers Jones report, brushed off her “B-word” utterance and promised to feed the cuss jar. Kennicott, now spokesman for the state agency that oversees behavioral health services, said Martinez was just repeating something someone else had said and that he’s sorry if it offended anyone.
Does any of this matter?
After all, most of us speak differently in private than we do in public. If we all wore lapel cams every day, the Internet probably couldn’t hold all the dumb and offensive stuff we say.
But I think we know more about the governor and her closest advisers now than we did before. The recordings suggest there’s a coarseness in Martinez with her hair down that she’s kept out of her public image.
She didn’t call Denish a jerk or a liar (which Denish has called Martinez in the past). She used the word “bitch,” which holds special derogatory meaning.
A brief feminist history of the word “bitch”: It has been used for centuries as a disparaging word for a woman. The reference in its historical context is sexual – it implies being sexually permissive like a dog in heat – but it has become a broader insult to mean a woman who’s aggressive, or bossy or acting too much like a man.
When New Mexico’s first female governor uses that word against another woman – when any woman uses that word against another woman – she’s adopting the sexist assumptions about a woman’s place, whether or not she’s doing it consciously. Adding “little,” another favorite term of the patriarchy, just makes it worse.
Martinez’s refusal to apologize for the insult also reveals a hypocrisy in her frequent finger-wagging at others.
Remember state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton and her reference to Martinez as “the Mexican on the Fourth Floor?”
This was the lecturing comment Martinez provided in response: “I believe Rep. Stapleton’s words were sad and disappointing. In New Mexico, we pride ourselves on our diversity, and on our ability to be proud of our unique heritage, while remaining united as New Mexicans. I’m pleased that Rep. Stapleton apologized to New Mexicans because the people of our state are the ones who deserve the apology.”
Remember Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks and his “moo moo, oink oink” Tweet directed at New Mexico Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera?
Martinez called him out, telling the New Mexico Watchdog, “He should be a role model to girls, to say this is not the way we speak to women. And to boys, that this is not the way we speak to women.”
Both Stapleton and Brooks apologized for their hurtful comments, as they should have. Martinez has not and says she has nothing to apologize for. So, who’s the role model for children?