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?

About Trish

family legacy curator, social justice advocate, blogger, amateur photographer, reader, cyclist, runner & swimmer, mom of two

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13 years ago

whats it like to be such an amzing writer?