Schwarzenegger risks angering women by targeting nurses, teachers
By BETH FOUHY, AP Political Writer
Last Updated: February 21, 2005, 12:30:29 PM PST
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Could Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have another "woman problem" on his hands?
He has made headlines in recent months by deriding political opponents as "girlie men" and publicly ridiculing a group of nurses at a state women's conference.
His latest effort to paint the state's teachers as little more than a balky special interest group has angered many critics, who have begun to question why constituencies dominated by women have been singled out for such tough talk.
"He behaves like an arrogant patriarch with respect to women's occupations," said Rose Ann De Moro, executive director of the California Nurses Association. "Nurses, teachers, home health workers - it's vulgar how he's run roughshod over them. He's arrogant, and he's a bully."
As a candidate, Schwarzenegger was dogged by allegations that he had groped and humiliated women on movie sets. Since then, he's won over many skeptics by appointing women to key staff positions and relying on his wife, journalist and Democrat Maria Shriver, as his closest adviser.
But recently, as he has pressed for budget cuts and a broad package of government reform proposals, some of his turbocharged rhetoric has opened him to charges that his views on women are demeaning and macho.
The criticism began to grow in December, when a small group of nurses gathered at a state women's conference to protest Schwarzenegger's decision to side with hospitals and delay changes to the state's nurse-to-patient ratio.
With Shriver in the audience, Schwarzenegger responded to the protesters by saying, "The special interests don't like me in Sacramento because I am always kicking their butts."
The nurses union swiftly denounced his comment, and the verbal sparring has only escalated since.
"The arrogance of taking on teachers, nurses and other professions where women are underpaid, overworked and vital to society is beyond the pale," said Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and a frequent Schwarzenegger critic.
"But Arnold is someone who treats women as objects, so it's natural for him to have a tendency to disregard and devalue professions that are made up of women."
The California Teachers Association and the California Nurses Association recently displayed a willingness to go toe-to-toe with the governor, staging high-profile protests and buying ads critical of his policies and proposals...