Finishing school daze! Some favor Golden’s ‘walk like a model’ seminar

Longtime incumbent state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) defended himself against a blistering, though not entirely thorough, attack from Democratic challenger Mike DiSanto.
Photo by Tom Callan

State Sen. Marty Golden’s decision to cancel a panned 1950’s finishing-school-style seminar where participants would learn to “walk up the stairs elegantly” and “sit, stand, and walk like a model” is getting an “F” from some Bay Ridge residents who claim young women could benefit from being more ladylike.

The taxpayer-funded career-development event, where women would be able to “refresh their business etiquette and social protocol skills,” and focus on “handshakes and introductions” as well as “posture, deportment, and the feminine presence” would have taken place on July 24, but Golden (R–Bay Ridge) pulled the plug when news of the seminar hit the blogsphere and everyone from the Village Voice to Comedy Central mocked the program.

Yet Arlene Keating, executive secretary of the Bay Ridge Community Council, said women would have benefited from the class.

“Nine times out of 10 young women are going to be interviewing in front of a male, and they need to know how to sit,” said Keating, 58. “What’s the big brouhaha about?”

Community Board 10 member Susan Pulaski said good form is still an important part of the workplace, but was curious why Golden singled out one sex.

“I would want to know why he chose women, if he’s going to do men later, and what age bracket he’s talking about,” said Pulaski.

Calls to Golden were not returned, but his spokesman echoed Keating’s arguments.

“Each year, Senator Golden holds several well-received events to provide options to his constituents for personal and business development,” Golden spokesman John Quaglione said in a statement. “Our upcoming event, which we have chosen not to hold, is similar to ones being organized by other elected officials as well as classes conducted in local high schools.”

Critics called the seminar offensive, claiming it clearly showed that Golden was out of touch with his female constituents.

“Our political leaders should make sure that women are paid fairly and are able to succeed professionally, regardless of their ability to walk with a book on their head,” Jill Filipovic, a writer for the feminist blog Feministe told City and State, which broke the story. “A 1950’s-style etiquette class focusing on feminine charms rather than actual business acumen is insulting, regressive and wasteful.”

Outraged groups say they plan to protest the seminar — even though it’s no longer happening.

Andrew Gounardes, the Democrat hoping to unseat Golden in the fall also chimed in, bashing Golden for using taxpayer dollars to pay for etiquette lessons, yet not approve the Fair Pay Act, a bill that would guarantee equal wages for male and female state employees.

“He’d rather teach women to walk like models than pass the Fair Pay Act,” Gounardes said.

Still, most women just giggled over Golden’s gaffe.

“Walking up and down the stairs? Who walks up and down the stairs anymore? We take an elevator,” said CB 10 member Jeannie May, who said Golden’s seminar reeked of old-fashioned male chauvinism. “Is he sending us to the Miss America pageant?”

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