For decades women have fought for equal rights and been marginalized in society. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the Bronx; where for many years it was considered a “Boys Club.”
With election season around the corner, Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Council 14 Candidate Pierina Sanchez spoke with the Bronx Times about the challenges they face as females.
According to Fernandez, she has often encountered people who don’t want to talk to her because she is a woman. She added that being a Latina on top of that can make things worse.
“Some people just want to talk to a man,” she explained.
Since getting elected, the lawmaker has received comments such as “Why don’t you be a mother, have kids and do you think you can do that?”
Fernandez credits people like Senator Elizabeth Warren for showing that women can succeed in politics.
Even as she runs for borough president, Fernandez still deals with sexist comments and often has to repeat herself because people don’t take her seriously. People even remark on how she dresses.
“Oh you dressed very seductive today,” people say to her when she is only wearing a button up, slacks and a blazer.
There are also people who love to write nasty messages on Facebook, such as “you are too stupid for this job and you think you are a hot pretty face.”
She tries not to let stuff get to her and has developed thick skin.
“I think sometimes people find things to hate you for,” she said.
Biaggi, who is a victim of sexual assault, feels women have come a long way in politics, but there is still much more ground to cover.
She explained that while there are more female elected officials, many are still treated with sexism and rude comments.
Throughout her life Biaggi was told she was dumb, won’t make the law review, get into college, be successful as a lawyer or wouldn’t become a senator.
“This is the playbook men use to keep women out of the arena,” she said.
It is not easy to endure all of this hate, she noted. With an entire political system designed and built by men, Biaggi is not surprised there still so much animosity towards women.
Biaggi told the Bronx Times that the negativity isn’t just from people in the community. Often it comes from her colleagues.
Some people tell her she is out of line when she asks questions and knows she has been called the b and c words behind her back.
“It’s very clear that not many people have confronted them about their behaviors,” she stated. “Having more women in government is one of the most positive outcomes we can have as a society in the country, not just the NYC Council.”
Sanchez, who is running for office for the first time, has witnessed sexism her entire life. As a child, she saw how her mom and aunt get taken advantage of by the landlord for their lack of English.
She is Afro-Latina and looks young, so often people question if she is really a candidate and if she is qualified. Sanchez has been paid less on projects and asked if she has kids and what her husband thinks.
“You’re told to wait, it’s not your time,” she explained. “But for me my time is now. Women need to be a significant part of the leadership. We do have to hustle harder and work harder.”
She recalled how during a recent Facebook Live event a viewer said “she was young and doesn’t have experience.” Sanchez questioned if she was a man would that have been stated.
Like many women in politics she has thick skin and keeps her eyes on the prize.
“Our leadership should be leadership of the community we come from,” she said.