Yeah, I know, Kathleen Granahan Kane made history.
First Democrat elected as state attorney general.
First woman elected as state attorney general.
But if Kathleen Granahan Kane really wants to make a grand impression she will crash the gender barricades that keep her and every other woman like her or unlike her from experiencing true equality. If Kane truly wants to show her respect for her Irish heritage, her intellect, her guts and her wisdom, she will crash the gates to the Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner that’s right around the corner.
Oh, but she’ll be the featured speaker at the Society of Irish Women in Scranton, you say. Oh, but she doesn’t want to go sit with all those male chauvinist Paddy’s pigs dripping cabbage juice down their stuffed shirts as they gobble down the ham and the potatoes and wallow in stereotypes that absolutely apply to them. Oh, you say, our Kathleen’s shown her independence and her bravery and her leadership just by getting elected.
Blarney, I say.
No matter how rich or powerful or independent or proud of her Irish heritage Kane happens to be, she is banned from the Friendly Sons dinner. Just like the old days when signs appeared in saloons that read, “Irish and dogs keep out,” Kane is not welcome for one reason and one reason only. Kane is a woman, a member of that dreaded and disrespected class that should know their place and keep it and pay dearly if they even think about stepping out of their traditional roles. The dinner is one place where those roles are maintained - the last bastion for pompous Irish-American men and others (you don’t even have to be Irish to attend) who want their women the way they want their women.
No matter how much Kane might want to set an example for countless little girls who see her and really believe they can be anything they set their minds to, she’s a loser here.
So are we all.
Scranton, where Kane grew up and went to high school, loses. Lackawanna County, where she lives, loses. Pennsylvania, where we still bar Katie at the door unless she’s working the dinner as a waitress and delivering heaping platters of green spuds, loses.
Kane should dye her conscience green for the occasion – green with envy that, despite her election, men still call the shots and control everything through generations of politics, position and privilege.
Yeah, I know, she received more votes in Pennsylvania than Barack.
But she still can’t go to the dinner.
Barack attended the 2008 Irish Women’s dinner because men are allowed. I attended, too. But Barack and any other male political candidate in the room could have then headed off to the Friendly Sons feast and campaigned there as well. Women could do no such thing.
Women candidates are discriminated against, spurned and prohibited from rubbing elbows with more than a thousand of the most powerful men in Northeastern Pennsylvania, men who could help them fund their campaigns, make inroads in the business world and even introduce them to their sons who also will be in attendance at the dinner, resplendent in their tuxedoes and bile green bow ties.
But Kathleen Granahan will likely do as she’s told. Imagine the fuss she would create if she announced that she would speak at the women’s dinner but then stop by the men’s event to greet the big strong lads who run the show – a way to set the stage for women to come – women who want politics and business and parity the same way men do.
It’s not like Kane won’t know anybody. Who will turn her away at the door? U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who has daughters of his own and who has attended this dull gathering from the time St. Pat chased the snakes out of his own re-election campaign? I don't think so.
No, these fellows would have to welcome Kane to their tables and smile through their embarrassment. But then they might get even. Kane’s re-election depends on men just like them. Would they hold a grudge? You bet they would. Who in the name of all that’s holy does this girl think she is?
I am asking Kathleen Granahan Kane to really make history, to tear down the walls of gender inequality that keeps women in their places – even when they don’t want to be there.
Some Irish-American women, particularly those who have served as president of the Irish Women’s Society, are oblivious to the gross disrespect and low esteem in which they are help by men even in their own families. For all I know Kane's husband already has his ticket to the dinner.
Too many women are so used to living subservient lives that they believe it’s normal and actually defend and justify their own exclusion. It’s a syndrome, you know, a sad and lonely malady that keeps women in their places even when they don’t want to be there.
More cabbage, Kathleen - and another beer while you're in the kitchen, love.