Two female Canadian politicians motivate amid babble of infant men: Paradkar
Shamed if you’re not white and blonde, and if you are. Three cheers for two MPs who tackled this duplicity, writes Shree Paradkar.
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This was a week that saw men with fingers on nuclear codes reduced to blathering name-calling idiots, while women in the public eye rose up and spoke and inspired.
It was a week when some men acted like infants even while others tried to discredit women by infantilizing them.
Exhibit A for baby-men were Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in a tense exchange of brinkmanship, where — get this — Kim made more sense than the U.S. president. In a statement, Kim castigated Trump’s “unethical will to ‘totally destroy’ a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system.”
Then he responded with a threat to conduct “the biggest ever hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific,” and returned Trump’s name-calling in kind.
In their defence, they offered the hollow comfort of hilarity.
“Rocket Man!” roared the vapid villain who had already reduced to dust the dignity of his American seat.
“Frightened dog. Deranged dotard,” raged the pipsqueak ruler of the kingdom of ashes, the wondrous creature who once called South Korea’s first female president “a crafty prostitute.”
At this, the wounded egomaniac summoned up his finest vocabulary.
“Madman,” he screeched.
You’re fired, Donny boy. In a war of words at least, Kim’s weapons possess longer range than yours.
Earlier in the week, the ever-mature president had retweeted a doctored GIF of himself swinging a golf ball and hitting his former rival Hillary Clinton on the back, leading her to take a tumble. Such power! Such machismo! See, here was a man to put women like her in their place.
Then there was the football fans’ derision directed at Beth Mowins, who made history this week by becoming the first woman to call a game on Monday Night Football. “Can’t stand the voice”, “Her voice is like fingernails on a blackboard”, “Your voice ruined it for me,” whined viewers.
There’s no point pretending this was personal preference rather than sexism.
As Rebecca Martinez, who teaches women’s and gender studies at the University of Missouri told the New York Times: “The comments, mostly from men … focus on the naturally higher pitch of women’s voices and ‘shrillness,’ all the while claiming their critiques of higher pitch have nothing to do with sexism.”
This is how women sound — different from men. This is how women look — different from men.
As with men, not one is without flaws. Unlike men, not one escapes ridicule.
Exhibit A of infantilizing women took place in Canada when Saskatchewan MP Gerry Ritz referred to our country’s environment minister as a “climate Barbie” in a tweet.
Of what confounding nature is this duplicity foisted on women? Shamed as inferior if you’re not white and blond. Shamed as inferior if you are.
Two MPs tackled both issues this week.
Women in Catherine McKenna’s position of having received sexist or racist comments are often counselled to click mute at this point — even by well-wishers.
Let it go, we are told. Happens all the time. Not worth it.
Sometimes, though, it’s the silence that’s not worth it when all it serves to do is maintain the status quo.
McKenna called him out.
“Do you use that sexist language about your daughter, mother, sister?” she responded. “We need more women in politics. Your sexist comments won’t stop us.”
Some 20 minutes later, Ritz apologized for using the word Barbie. “It is not reflective of the role our minister plays.”
If only we could also recalibrate the thinking that leads to such expression.
In New York to talk climate change with high-level diplomats, McKenna spoke about the incident to reporters.
“You know what’s really sad?” she asked. “That I’m having to talk about this.”
“I want to be talking about what I’m doing. But unfortunately we’re having this conversation. … We need to move on. I’ve got two daughters. There’s lots of young women who want to get into politics, and I want them to feel like they can go do that, and they can talk about the great work they’re doing — not about the colour of their hair.”
There was Celina Caesar-Chavannes, the MP from Whitby, rising magnificently in Parliament Hill wearing her hair in braids in solidarity with women who have been shamed based on their appearance. She delivered a one-minute speech that was a marvel of composure and wisdom and defiance.
I leave you with her words as your motivation:
“It has come to my attention that there are young girls here in Canada and other parts of the world who are removed from school or shamed because of their hairstyle.
“Mr. Speaker, body-shaming of any woman in any form from the top of her head to the soles of her feet is wrong.”
“Irrespective of her hairstyle, the size of her thighs, the size of her hips, the size of her baby bump, the size of her breasts, or the size of lips, what makes us different makes us unique and beautiful.
“So Mr. Speaker I will continue to rock these braids. For three reasons. No. 1, because I’m sure you’ll agree, they look pretty dope. No. 2, in solidarity with women who have been shamed based on their appearance.
“And No. 3, and most importantly, in solidarity with young girls and women who look like me and those who don’t. I want them to know that their braids, their dreads, their super-curly afro puffs, their weaves, their hijabs, and their headscarves, and all other variety of hairstyles, belong in schools, in the workplace, in the boardroom and yes, even here on Parliament Hill.”
Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar