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Recording of Rep. Rick Nolan on women workers: ‘There’s a lot more fragility in the professional world than there is in the industrial, hard-working world’

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Rep. Rick Nolan

In the course of reporting the story, “Rep. Rick Nolan’s legislative director left the office amid multiple sexual harassment accusations in 2015. Months later, he was hired by Nolan’s campaign,” multiple sources spoke about what they considered the congressman's outdated attitudes toward sexual harassment in the workplace. One source provided a recording of Nolan speaking about the “fragility” of white-collar women workers versus blue-collar ones during a meeting with his staff. Below, you can listen to that recording.

MinnPost contacted Nolan’s office to ask whether he stood by the comments, but received no response.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by David LaPorte on 07/21/2018 - 07:41 am.

    Fragility is not gender-specific

    I’ve worked in both the professional and industrial worlds. Both men and women expect more respectful treatment in offices than they do in blue collar setting. Personally, I consider that to be a sign of more sophistication (now that I’m in the professional world), but a lower level of toughness is anther way to phrase it.

    We all see the words that make our group look more virtuous.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/21/2018 - 10:10 am.

    Typical white male BS

    All Nolan is doing in this recording is voicing the age old claim that: “boys will be boys” and women just have to deal with it. His delusion that his daughter lives in a world free of sexism because she tell people to: “buzz-off” betrays his male privilege. Sure, there are different types of work environments but Nolan clearly see how women deal with sexism as the problem, not the sexism itself. Nolan may think of himself as some kind of champion of women’s rights, but with champions like this… women don’t need enemies. And look… after decades of Nolan-like representation:

    No pay equity
    No equal rights
    Increased violence against women
    Increased workplace harrassment
    Increasing numbers of women and their children living in poverty
    Dramatically curtailed access to women’s healthy care and abortion
    And… a SCOTUS that will finally turn every women of child bearing age into a second class citizen with no privacy rights or health care rights.

    Frankly… few if any Democrat get to brag about their record of defending women’s rights, by and large they’ve failed spectacularly.

  3. Submitted by Larry Lamb on 07/21/2018 - 10:38 am.

    Seeing reality

    The narrative of Nolan’s “outdated attitudes” over a woman’s “fragility” is sort of funny; laying blame for society’s bias on his doorstep.

    The woman-as-fragile is an inconsistency built into our society and remains alive and well. Here is one simple example of institutional man-woman bias in sports:

    In high school and college sports, women wear essentially the same type of gear as a man in the sport of hockey. And yet in lacrosse, women NEVER wear the gear that men wear; no helmets or pads or gloves. Women are allowed to “suit-up” on the ice, but are treated like dainty-flowers on the lacrosse field. Up until 6th grade (I think), girls were allowed to suit-up in boys gear in Eagan community lacrosse. I remember one girl long-stick-defense that should have been allowed to continue on in the boys sport because she was talented and tough enough.

    And maybe city people need to see the world beyond their local Starbucks.

    As someone that grew up on a Wisconsin farm in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I saw women work as hard and perform on par with men when it came to farm chores; driving machinery, stacking bales, milking cows, and running the family checkbook. In many cases these women ended up running the family farm even after the husband had passed. And some of my high school girl classmates rode the bus smelling like the barn and took a five minute shower at school before class just like many of the boys.

    I have worked on the farm and in big corporate offices and I know firsthand that many farm girls ARE tougher than most city girls (and I would apply that same experience to women in trade labor.)

    If you really want a great manager in an office– hire a woman that grew-up on a farm. I know this first-hand; she WILL make sure that work-gets-done!

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/22/2018 - 08:42 am.


      No one is saying that Nolan invented sexism, so we’re not blaming him for society’s bias. We do expect him to be aware of those bias and not promote them at the very least. As for farm vs. city “girls”… layering yet another type of bias on top existing ones is probably not a solution of any kind.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/23/2018 - 04:28 pm.

      “Fragility” Has Nothing to do With it

      Sexual harassment is wrong because it is demeaning, often assaultive, conduct that treats the victim as something less than an equal. It has nothing to do with “fragility,” and everything to do with basic human dignity. It is wrong regardless of the gender of the victim or the harasser.

      Nolan is not to blame for an outdated, sexist attitude. He is, however, to blame for holding and voicing these retrograde opinions.

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