The Post and other tabloids in New York just love making fun of DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, echoing Marty Markowitz’s claim that she is a zealot, and accusing her of imposing an anti-car ideology on New York, in order to turn New Amsterdam into Old Amsterdam.
Making things somewhat easy for the schoolyard humor of the tabloids is the matter of Sadik-Khan’s unusual last name, perfect fodder for the Post Pun-Bot 3000 headline generator (Khan job, Wrath of Khan), protest signs (“Don’t be Conned by Sadik-Khan”) and blog comments.
Working in a world of puns is the bread and butter of the tabloid world. Oftentimes they’re actually funny, like yesterday’s Sue and a Half Men. But looking beyond the jokes the papers use to describe Sadik-Khan’s name, one can easily find an somewhat uncomfortable, almost reflexive use of sexism to describe her personally. Mike Bloomberg is typically described as a bully, an elitist, or New York’s own version of Napoleon, imposing his will on his subjects. But Sadik-Khan? She’s just that nutso bicycle lady.
Yes, her predecessor at the DOT was also a woman, but I don’t recall such a level of gender-based invective thrown at Iris Weinshall. And besides, it’s much easier for chauvinists to keep their sexism in check when a strong woman pushes an agenda that conforms with their worldview. Had Weinshall realized that her job involved more than just keeping the traffic moving, and installed a pedestrian plaza in Times Square or a separated bike lane, perhaps she too would have been vilified by the tabloids in the same manner as Sadik-Khan.
To make matters more complicated, as these things often are, many of the insults leveled at Sadik-Khan come directly from women themselves, perhaps giving cover to some of the uglier sexism at play.
Here’s Andrea Peyser, 2/28/2011.
Is Janette Sadik-Khan, the psycho bike lady who helms the city’s Department of Transportation, nuts?
Here’s Peyser again (1/11/2011) comparing NYC department heads to Snow White’s seven dwarves. The six other “dwarves” of the Bloomberg administration are merely given nicknames such as Sleepy and Dopey, but Sadik-Khan merits an additional descriptive.
Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty (Happy) was first to swallow the administration Kool-Aid. He said that as a blizzard with hurricane-force winds barreled down on the five boroughs, including several that are not Manhattan, he and Janette Sadik-Khan (Grumpy) — psycho bicycle lady who runs the Transportation Department — made a decision, on their own, not to declare a snow emergency.
As with any kind of prejudice, irrational thinking often contradicts itself in the span of the same thought. Here’s a New York Post editorial, 2/27/2011, that manages to use both diminutive and domineering terminology to describe the DOT chief.
New York’s bicycle belle has her eye on 34th Street this time, which she’s planning to transform into another teeming walrus wharf . . . er, pedestrian plaza.Which is why it is critical that the City Council exert its every power to force Madame Bike-Lady to explain — publicly and in detail — what she has in mind, and precisely what its impact will be.
Team Bloomberg — Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty — ran interference for Sadik-Khan during last week’s City Council hearings, assuming virtually all of the blame themselves. Yet that’s not enough for the Bicycle Lady: She has to throw slush on Kelly.
But the growing debate over all those empty bike lanes imposed by our mayor and his transportation commissioner, Roberta Moses, is just a symptom of something more malign: the suffocation of the very spirit of our city. When Ms. Moses (aka Janette Sadik-Khan) declared diagonal Broadway irrational, started shutting down stretches of it to automobiles and all but said she’d like to see it gone because it violates the city’s grid, not to mention the earth, I saw red, not green.
Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who icily pointed the finger at top cop Ray Kelly…