Monday was a big day for Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman. She announced that at long last, Peavey Plaza -- that sunken area of dry pavement next to Orchestra Hall -- was getting a $10 million renovation.
Peavey Plaza used to have shade. It used to have working fountains. Now it looks like a generic video game level from a mid-’90s first-person shooter: a big gray expanse with a few platforms around the edges. It’s 45 years old, and it could use a little help. So Goodman made a quip somewhat to that effect:
“Like all 45-year-old women, sometimes you just need a face-lift,” she told the Star Tribune. “And that is what’s happening to our beautiful midcentury modern plaza. She’s about to get her 45-year face-lift. And I would say it’s pretty much overdue.”
She knew as soon as she’d said it that it was a mistake.
The face-lift comment had been tongue-in-cheek, not meant to be taken seriously, but she immediately knew that some people would. She asked the Star Tribune to make sure people knew she was joking, or to change the quote to say “like some 45-year-old women.”
They said they were pretty sure people would know she was joking.
A quick glance at social media shows that if they did, they didn't think it was funny.
Goodman calls the backlash “unfortunate.” No, she doesn’t actually think all 45-year-old women need facelifts. Her political career began in the women’s rights movement. Besides, she’s 52. But she’s also a politician in 2018, an era when even the most benign comments can set fire to instant outrage.
She says she’s sorry if anyone was offended. She’s most sorry that the fiasco diverted attention from the real subject of the story: Peavey Plaza.
“I’ve been working on this for about 12 years of my life,” she says. If she knew her comments were going to take over the story, she wouldn’t have said anything.