Girls Can't Play White House Hoops?

What Women Really Think
June 19 2009 8:00 AM

Girls Can't Play White House Hoops?

A guest post from Politico writer Lisa Lerer:

Obsessive White House watchers can't stop talking about an ESPN article on the political pecking order of presidential basketball games. Author Wright Thompson breaks down the sociology (and some of the psychology) of how power works in Washington.

"What's the hottest invite in Washington?" former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers asks in the article. "Yeah, it's great to go to White House state dinners or Stevie Wonder kinds of events. But what's the sine qua non? It's a pickup game with Obama. That's the inner, inner, inner sanctum."

All over town, people are playing hoops - in newly started leagues, in pickup games at private schools, even in Congress - as they try to work their way into games with Obama, or at least with his advisers. The piece is packed with insider anecdotes. But it also delivered another insight that I found far less entertaining: In the story, only one woman makes it onto the court.

This isn't the only evidence that the inner Obama circle might be just a little bit too male, despite the presence of some high-level female staffers like Valerie Jarrett and Anita Dunn. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus picked up on the same theme in a column on aide Ellen Moran's move in April from White House communications director to chief of staff at the Commerce Department.

Of course, politics tends to be male-dominated. Women still only represent 17 percent of members of Congress. But for an administration promising change, shouldn't we expect more than moving the boys' club from the golf course to the basketball court?

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

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