Women in politics – oh, the horror!

One female MP recently announced at a Liberal women’s caucus roundtable discussion on women’s issues that she didn’t believe there was such a thing as “Women’s Issues” – that all issues transcend everyone, i.e. there are family issues, etc. My head started spinning, did I walk into a Conservative Caucus meeting by mistake? Hello!? What are we HERE for?

The people around the table were invited to there share their priorities and stories, putting women’s issues in our province into perspective. Most felt appreciative of being given the opportunity. Everyone took advantage to varying degrees of the chance to put their priorities on the table. We applauded the efforts of the MP’s, and some expressed the need to know what would be done with the information that was shared, and how the caucus would move forward from there.

I left the meeting with a bad taste in my mouth, because of the individual previously mentioned, and another whose one small comment reinforced why the first’s ignorance at women’s (and people’s in general) issues are so significant. I couldn’t help but feel dismay that such an individual could have ever been elected in the first place.

I don’t wish to point fingers, as there was much about the process that could be beneficial and have no desire to jeopardize that. Yet, it is exactly the kind of language and underlying values offered by this “community leader” that we must be careful of. We’re all guilty of making hurtful statements at times, sometimes without realizing, sometimes recklessly, sometimes in a moment of error. I can only hope that most of us look back in reflection and realize that we could have handled ourselves differently.

It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I heard, during a discussion about engaging women in the political process, the response to one recount of a female MP’s experiences of sexism on Parliament Hill being adamantly discounted by this questionable Member of Parliament. “Party policies” of “assessing individuals on merit” aside, Ottawa truly is a sexist Boy’s Club. I witnessed it myself during a week long visit on the Hill in March of this year. Things may have come along way since the first female MP was elected, but we’re nowhere near free of sexism.

I wished that my ears deceived me when during this meeting I was certain I heard one MP (and female at that) call another female MP a “twinkie” (in said roundtable on women’s issues, no less). Or when a male MP asked me if I thought the female MP I was shadowing was liked for frequent media spots “because she’s smart, or because she’s beautiful?” I couldn’t help but cringe. Would we hear comments like that about the men?

These are very small examples of the way we treat women in politics. Women who make huge sacrifices to serve our nation and try to effect change. We wonder why more women don’t get into politics? We wonder why women don’t bother to vote? Sometimes we wonder why women even speak out.

This same ignorant female MP who has her head in the sand about the sexist nature of politics and about the unique issues women face, also demonstrated her intolerant and ignorant views of multiculturalism. She spoke of her desire to ASSIMILATE and integrate the residents and citizens of Canada who originate from other nations. She suggested their choice of wearing hijabs (as one example) was a cultural tradition that should be discouraged within Canada. Her vision would be that they accept the western ways. And this woman offered these examples to portray the differences between her urban Toronto riding from the far less diverse Nova Scotia ridings – that her issues were not the same. While we certainly are not experiencing the challenges of such issues as “honor killings”, I hope Nova Scotians and their elected representatives are much more accepting, welcoming and able to embrace the beauty of all the cultural differences within our communities, as I believe them to be.

How on earth did did this woman come to represent her diverse riding? Were the voters aware of her aspirations toward a nation that embraces only Western traditions, or her ignorance of unique issues of different groups? Or did only those who support her views turn out to vote?

Formerly hot and ever-so-powerful!

If for no other reason than to support Stephanie Dolgoff for writing a book that stirred up this kind of energy and lead ignoramuses like BB (comments on Steph’s blog here) to show himself for what a despicably insecure idiot he can be, I will be buying a copy of her book My Formerly Hot Life.

At the age of 35 (and looking good for my 35 years, I might add), according to BB, I am now on the slippery downhill slope to zero value. Huh!

Wow. Aside from the “power” I supposedly experienced as a younger self who was hot and well – young, I can think of far greater value that women like myself have experienced that are certainly worth celebrating, and offer a little reason for grieving the formerly hot life in a way… Being of the prime age for reproduction, as a for instance, is a responsibility that once was considered by other ignorant individuals of society to be the only real value of a young woman. And however much we lament the suggestion today that young women have no other value than their looks and their abilities to procreate with greater biological odds, women – the life givers, the carriers of the next generation DO become far more powerful as they age, just as do some men.

Ask any child what sort of value their mother has, and they can put into the simplest of words and expressions the most complex concept: that their 35plus-year-old-mother rocks this world! And for those women who have not yet had children by the time they reach that magical number of 35, whether by choice or otherwise, women (like the ever powerful man) become more powerful in their financial assets and ability to provide for their families, selves and society as they age. Yep, you heard me right BB, women also earn higher incomes, and accumulate greater knowledge as they age – and will continue to do so.

However, to suggest that women in general EVER had power and privilege surpassing that of men at any stage of their lives is a farce. How many women (young or otherwise) do we see elected to powerful positions? Yet we make up more than half of the overall population. How many women continue to work for less pay than that of their male counterparts in the exact same level of work? I suspect, if we were to look closely at women before the age of 35 in comparison to men of the same, and again at women over 35 compared to men of the same, we will find that the income gap is smaller in the older group than the younger. What power is there in that for young women?

As for the suggestion that young women hold such power that men that will go to war over them/us… is that act of war not in fact more an expression of the man’s power over the woman and desire to possess rather than celebrate her? Speaking from my own experiences, men who behaved in such manner were as far from my younger formerly hot self as I could keep them.