Tonight, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Lackawanna County will gather at Genetti Manor in Dickson City for their 110th men-only dinner. Vice President Joe Biden, who was born in Scranton, is the keynote speaker. I suggest adding a few seconds to the radio broadcast delay, just in case he calls his invite a “big (bleeping) deal.”
His boss, President Barack O’Bama, spoke at the Society of Irish Women dinner in 2008. He was an upstart underdog in Clinton Country. Hillary Rodham Clinton also has Scranton roots, and it’s safe to say the majority of women voters there that night voted for Hillary in the primary a few weeks later. I’m sure that calculation also occurred to the O’Bama campaign. That he showed up anyway speaks to the political clout of Irish women. Even when you know you can’t win them, it’s well worth trying.
The exclusivity of the Friendly Sons dinner comes up every year. The event gathers a majority of the region’s powerful men and denies women a seat at the table. As a result, critics complain that women are kept from networking with the male power brokers who rule the valley.
I get the premise, but can’t swallow it whole because it assumes that no wheeling and dealing happens at the women’s dinner. This notion is inherently sexist and patronizing. This valley is blessed with many powerful, accomplished women, and many will be at the 17th annual Society of Irish Women’s dinner tonight at the Radisson at Lackawanna Station.
They will talk politics and business and network just fine without their male counterparts Up Da Line. In my nearly 20 years in this job, I have heard many protests against the men-only policy of the Friendly Sons. Not one was voiced by a woman. Maybe that’s because they don’t need to be “validated” by a few hundred men to assert their power in politics, business and the community.
Every Friendly Son was brought into this world by a woman. Even Joe Biden.