When Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor-General of Canada, was interviewed by the Globe and Mail in March of 2016 she said,
Politics has always been a man’s club. When Judy LaMarsh was elected as a parliamentarian, she could not find a women’s washroom anywhere near the House of Commons. That women are now half the federal cabinet is a wonderful step forward. I never thought I would see the day.
In case you didn’t know, of the thirty cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, 15 (50%) are women. In outgoing US President Barack Obama’s cabinet only 25% of them are women. In the province where I reside, there are 10 women, including the Premier, in a cabinet of 19 ministers. That means over 50% of the cabinet is comprised of women.
Witnessing these kinds of historic events led me to believe that sexism was decreasing and that sexism was well on its way to becoming extinct. Boy was I wrong. But first, what do I mean by sexism? Dictionary.com defines sexism as “attitudes or behaviour based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles” or as “discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women”. It seems when referring to equal gender rights, the idiom, “One step forward, two steps back” is true.
So what has taken us backward. From my point of view, it is people like Donald Trump, now president elect Donald Trump, who is taking us backward. I’ve already written about Trump being a sexist in posts such as, Trump This and Seriously, I don’t Get it.
The Atlantic published an article titled, Fear of a Female President, which shocked me when I read it. The author of the article, Peter Beinart, reported that at the Republican National Convention the hostility toward Hillary Clinton was everywhere. These are his words.
Inside the hall, delegates repeatedly broke into chants of “Lock her up.” Outside the hall, vendors sold campaign paraphernalia. As I walked around, I recorded the merchandise on display. Here’s a sampling: Black pin reading don’t be a pussy, vote for Trump in 2016. Black-and-red pin reading Trump 2016: finally, someone with balls. White T-shirt reading Trump that bitch. White T‑shirt reading Hillary sucks but not like Monica. Red pin reading life’s a bitch: don’t vote for one. White pin depicting a boy urinating on the word Hillary. Black T-shirt depicting Trump as a biker and Clinton falling off the motorcycle’s back alongside the words if you can read this, the bitch fell off. Black T-shirt depicting Trump as a boxer having just knocked Clinton to the floor of the ring, where she lies face up in a clingy tank top. White pin advertising kfc hillary special. 2 fat thighs. 2 small breasts … left wing.
I was stunned when I read this. I like everyone else thought Mrs. Clinton would make history and that she would be the first female US president. Yes, I understand she had made mistakes and that controversy surrounded her but that was also true for Donald Trump. I believed Americans would see him as the bigot, sexist, misogynist and liar that he is. I was sure that Americans would vote for Hillary, the best, most qualified candidate of the two choices. Boy was I ever wrong. So I reflected upon this. I asked questions. Why would Americans vote against her? Why were the polls so wrong? Was there really a silent majority of people who wouldn’t admit that they supported Trump? Was there something deeper going on? I began to wonder if sexism is more prevalent in society than we like to admit? It seems Peter Beinart agrees. He wrote in The Atlantic article, Fear of a Female President,
Standard commentary about Clinton’s candidacy—which focuses on her email server, the Benghazi attack, her oratorical deficiencies, her struggles with “authenticity”—doesn’t explain the intensity of this opposition. But the academic literature about how men respond to women who assume traditionally male roles does.
Now we Canadians like to think we’re different than Americans. We like to think that there are no sexist or racist people wanting to lead our country. WRONG. Kelly Leitch is wanting to lead the Federal Conservative Party of Canada. Upon hearing of a Trump victory, Leitch told her supporters “Tonight, our American cousins threw out the elites and elected Donald Trump…It’s an exciting message that needs to be delivered in Canada as well. It’s the message I’m bringing to my campaign to be the next Prime Minister of Canada”. Like Trump, Kellie Leitch has proposed screening immigrants for Canadian values and refers to her competing candidates as out-of-touch elites.
On the day after the Trump victory, I discovered that Alberta politics has its fair share of sexism.
The National Post reports that the only two women candidates in the Alberta Progressive Conservative (PC) Party leadership race have dropped out because of harassment and intimidation. It is interesting that it is only the female candidates that are being harassed. After much research I could not find any news reports of male candidates getting harassed.
Sandra Jansen, one of the two female PC leadership candidates, reports in the National Post article that at the PC convention: “My social media has been filled with filth, my domain name purchased to direct people to smear pieces on me and finally, this past weekend in Red Deer, the final straw. Insults were scrawled on my nomination forms. Volunteers from another campaign chased me up and down the hall, attacking me for protecting women’s reproductive rights, and my team was jeered for supporting children’s rights to a safe school environment.” She did not identify any wrongdoers by name, but she did point a finger of blame at former federal Conservative Party Member of Parliament and Alberta provincial leadership candidate Jason Kenny who flooded the convention with youth delegates.
The Calgary Herald reports, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has and still is being harassed. Now I have to wonder if it is because she is a woman. The Premier’s press secretary has said: “This kind of social media or correspondence activity is not unusual in any way,” and labelled the threats as “totally normal.” These things come by letter, phone and, as in the case of the most recent ones, via social media. Premier Notley has had threats made against her which appeared on two Facebook pages where some Albertans opposed to the New Democratic Party (NDP) go to rant. They included a warning to Notley to be careful, or “you’ll be the first assassination,” while another read: “I’m not advocating for violence against you — yet — but keep talking like that and someone will take matters in their own hands.” I personally find this deeply disturbing to the point where I wrote my provincial representative encouraging him to speak out against this nonsense. I never did hear back from him and in fact he has since become one of the Alberta PC leadership candidates.
CBC News reported last year that Alberta female politicians were targeted by hateful, sexist online attacks. The news article makes reference to gender consultant Cristina Stasia who described the comments as shocking and sexually violent, taking specific aim at the premier’s gender. Stasia said, “There’s a fury that lurks underneath this … that we have a woman running our province” The consultant also said the remarks seek to degrade but say little about policy and show Alberta, which is “saturated with misogyny and high rates of violence,” still has a long way to go. Is it normal for premiers to be threatened? I tried to find news reports of male premiers being threatened but found none. This is occurring in the province I live in. This is not the kind of province I desire to have. I find this deeply troubling.
We males need to look inward. We need to accept that times are changing (I hope) and that the patriarchal world of the past is disappearing or at least needs to. Men and women are equals. Women need to be treated and respected as equals. Yes, I am a man and I sincerely believe this. Gloria Steinem, an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist says, “A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.” I agree. I’ll give the last words to Hillary Clinton who almost became the first female US president and if you go by popular vote should be. Mrs. Clinton says, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” Thanks for trying Hillary!