There’s been a lot of debate about whether what Jake Auchincloss said to Jesse Mermell was, in fact, sexist. Auchincloss’ supporters say this was an attack by Mermell and that Jake was just responding but what he said wasn’t sexist. Mermell’s supporters (of which, I am one) say that Jesse was asking a legitimate question and Jake’s response was dismissive. 

But this story actually got a lot more interesting. Becky Grossman came out tonight on Twitter calling the comment sexist and offering support to Mermell. 

This comes after Becky experienced her own bit of sexist behavior from someone on her Facebook page, which also spilled over onto Twitter. She also received some support from a few of her competitors. 

Mermell, Alan Khazi, Dave Cavell, and Natalia Linos all responded to Grossman’s tweet with notes of support.

As for whether Aunchincloss’ statement was sexist, I believe it was, but I also believe that Emily Norton is correct when she says (in comments) that she doesn’t believe Auchincloss was intentional. As for why it’s sexist I want to take a moment to look bigger at the working world. Here in the Boston area, where we’re dominated by tech, women are often put into marketing and communications roles (as well as HR) while men dominate higher paying positions in tech and sales.

As someone who has spent a career in PR I’ve often heard it referred to as the “pink collar ghetto” because women tended to be pushed there and kept out of more lucrative advertising jobs. That has changed over time, but the overall gender disparities remain. I remember looking at the data of a big PR firm I worked at and it was 70% female (even as the c-suite was 80% male, so there are huge issues there). 

For that reason, I believe that trying to relegate Jesse’s long history of progressive leadership to just being a “good communicator” is sexist. However, given that the Auchincloss is positioning himself as having the leadership that others lack, trying to downplay leadership experience by his competitors (including Cavell) is just part of the program, which is why I don’t believe he was intentional.

Still sexism is alive and well in this race, and it’s not just coming from a single source. 

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