Palm Springs mayor: Some 'Forever Marilyn' opponents 'co-opting the Me Too movement'

Erin Rode
Palm Springs Desert Sun

Palm Springs Mayor Christy Holstege on Thursday addressed what she calls "the misinformation shared in public comment" section of the Palm Springs City Council meetings over the past few months about the controversial "Forever Marilyn" statue.

Opponents of the "Forever Marilyn" statue have expressed their anger and frustration about the statue's placement on Museum Way. 

The general public comment section allows individuals to comment on items that are not on council's agenda that night. Typically, councilmembers do not respond to these comments, and councilmembers are barred from discussing or taking action on non-agenda items during council meetings.

But after about half a dozen people made comments criticizing the city's decision to place the statue on Museum Way on Thursday, Holstege responded to these criticisms during the council meeting for what she called "the first and last time," including whether the statue had originally been confirmed to be placed in the new downtown park, the preferred location for opponents of the Museum Way location. 

"I was on the downtown park subcommittee, and the Marilyn statue was never confirmed to be in the park, from my understanding of the approvals, it was always listed as a possible park art piece," Holstege said.

Holstege added that because the city was sued "right away" by the Committee to Relocate Marilyn, councilmembers have been limited in their ability to comment on the statue due to the ongoing lawsuit. 

More:'Forever Marilyn' lawsuit inches through court system

The Committee to Relocate Marilyn is suing the city of Palm Springs over the city's decision to allow local hotel association PS Resorts to place the "Forever Marilyn" statue on Museum Way. The committee accused the city of violating various municipal and state codes with its planned closure of Museum Way.

Holstege also said that those who say they oppose the statue because it is misogynistic, but who also say they'd support the statue's placement elsewhere in the city, are "co-opting the Me Too movement." A group called Me Too Marilyn is petitioning the city to move the statue. The online petition currently has over 41,000 signatures. 

Holstege noted that she was speaking as the first female mayor of the city, on the first majority-female city council, and as a survivor of sexual assault. She also noted that she's worked as a civil rights litigator and attorney for women's issues and works on the board of Planned Parenthood. 

"I just want to say and I'm reacting because it's really difficult to hear people call in and say that this is a Me Too issue and I know that people have legitimate concerns about that but really to co-opt the Me Too movement, to call in and say that it's offensive to sexual assault survivors, like myself, but it's okay if it's 50 feet away or 500 feet away or in any other location..." said Holstege. 

She continued, "For all of us who are listening who are truly sexual assault survivors, and have been engaged in the Me Too work, even before Me Too, and have dedicated our careers for women's equality and equality for survivors is incredibly offensive and it's triggering and to have a sit here every single time and have to listen to that."

Many of the public commenters criticized a recent Valley Voice penned by Holstege and Councilmember Geoff Kors in The Desert Sun, saying it is not factual, disputing both details about Monroe's life and career and the process that led to the statue's placement on Museum Way. 

"The city council has been shockingly unresponsive to the outcry from the community regarding the abrupt placement switch of the Marilyn statue, hundreds of letters to the council and many calls like this one have gone unanswered. This is not responsive government... We implore city council to address the issues around the statue and its placement with an in-person, town hall meeting to give everyone an opportunity to give the pros and cons, and an opportunity to engage directly with the council," said Trina Turk, founder of the Committee to Relocate Marilyn, during the public comments.

The "Forever Marilyn" statue was officially unveiled on Museum Way on June 20. The next status hearing in the Committee to Relocate Marilyn's lawsuit is scheduled for July 20. 

Erin Rode covers the western Coachella Valley cities of Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs. Reach her at erin.rode@desertsun.com.