Christine Quinn Has an Equal Opportunity ‘Bitch Tap’

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images2012 Getty Images

The New York Times has some information to share with you about Democratic mayoral frontrunner Christine Quinn: Turns out she has a bit of a temper, and from time to time she yells at people. Also, she threatens to cut their balls off, regardless of their gender. The feature by Michael Grynbaum and David Chen zeroes in on Quinn's mean streak in a way New York's Jonathan Van Meter did not in his January profile. While Van Meter got plenty of scenes of Quinn being crass and a little off-color, Grynbaum and Chen focused exclusively on her reputation as a bare-knuckle political street fighter. It's a reputation she's comfortable with, though not all readers are comfortable with the portrayal.

As source after anonymous political source recalled examples of Quinn's hotheadedness to Grynbaum and Chen, the City Council speaker herself remained blithe about her reputation. "I don’t think being pushy or bitchy or tough, or however you want to characterize it, is a bad thing," she told the reporters. "New Yorkers want somebody who’s going to get things done."

So unabashed is Quinn about her capacity for toughness, she provided the most memorable detail about it herself:

In strategy sessions, Ms. Quinn can speak colorfully of other lawmakers, often saying, “I’m going to cut his balls off.”

In Ms. Quinn’s parlance, the phrase can apply to women, as well: in the interview last week, she volunteered that using that phrase with a gender-neutral pronoun — “their” — is “a good way of doing it, so you don’t have to wonder about the gender.”

Grynbaum and Chen even dug up a killer line she gave Greg Sargent in a 1999 Observer story: "I make a conscious decision about when I’m gonna, you know, open up the bitch tap and let the water run. It can be really effective when I need it to."

But the Times' focus on Quinn's combativeness has some calling sexism. "This story would never have been written if Christine Quinn was a man," tweeted BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray. "AKA ladies who get mad are SCARY," wrote Gothamist executive editor Jen Chung. "This article essentially paints candidate for NYC mayor as Joan Crawford in 'Mommy Dearest,' " frequent political tweeter Russell Shaffer quipped.

But others on Twitter pointed out the paper had run similar "OMG hothead" stories on male politicians such as Howard Dean, Michael Bloomberg, Anthony Weiner, and of course Rudy Giuliani.

Sexist or not, it's hard to see this story hurting Quinn all that much politically, especially since she so willingly embraces her short temper. After all, as Quinn told The Observer way back in 1999, "I’ve gotten through to people who are far more important than me by being, you know, a real bitch to their staff on the telephone." Seems to have worked.