Backrooms and bullshit

By Jane Alkhouri

“She is so Holt Renfrew” or “Can you get me a cup of coffee please, two sugars, one cream.” These are both examples of comments female politicians endure throughout their careers.

Women and politics have come a long way since the famous five from Alberta earned the right to vote, however, it seems there are still double standards when it comes to women in politics. Are men and women equal in the politics or is one gender more equal than the other?

In general, women are well respected and treated as equals in the political world in North America. Yet politics at almost every level are still male dominated. For example, a close look at the Students’ Legislative Council at the University of Calgary reveals that only six of the 21 individuals are women. In the House of Commons, women currently hold only 62 of 301 seats. Only three are from Alberta.

Beatrice A Lanzi, a Democratic Representative from Rhode Island, is often mistaken for a secretary.

“I was stopped by a doorman at the House Chamber,” she explains. “When I told him I was a Representative, he kept questioning me, thinking that I was trying to fool him to get into the Chamber. Because I was so adamant, he called another doorman over and asked him if I was telling the truth. When [the other doorman] confirmed that I was indeed a Representative, instead of simply apologizing and letting me pass, he got very upset. [He] looked over at me and said something to the effect that, how should he have known that [I was a Representative] since I did not look like one.”

In politics it seems that women’s physical appearances and personalities are more closely scrutinized that those of their male colleagues. To boot, some behaviours are acceptable for men, however, the very same behaviours in a woman are looked upon badly.

If Federal Minister of Justice Anne McLellan suddenly had an entourage of men following her everywhere, idolizing her and turning her into a national sex symbol, she would most likely be viewed as unprofessional, slutty and disgraceful. However, when it’s a man, we take his last name and add “mania” to the end of it and he becomes a national hysteria.

When former Tory MP Kim Campbell hired an escort in Los Angeles, everyone laughed. However, go to the legislature or Parliament Hill and you will undoubtedly find a male representative either cheating on his wife or partaking of an escort service himself for fancy soirees. Besides Frank magazine, how often do you hear about those incidents concerning men?

The Holt Renfrew comment from the beginning of this piece is a criticism by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein of Liberal Leader Nancy MacBeth. His implied that she wasn’t a woman of the people. If a woman takes care of herself, she is too prissy, and if she doesn’t, she’s criticized. How many times have people made fun Canadian Alliance MP Deb Grey for having broad shoulders? The Royal Canadian Air Farce actually let’s a man play her part, implying she is not woman enough.

The ugly world of politics and women’s role in it are not discussed in public, but only in quieter settings with close friends and advisors. Female politicians heard speaking about the discrimination they face are looked poorly upon poorly by the “old boy’s club.”

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