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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

There's nothing 'good-hearted' about the Rachel Notley golf-course controversy

Both the original prank and the outraged reaction to it were motivated by real, ugly anger.

There's a link between symbolic violence against women and real violence against women — and the men who put Rachel Notley's face on a target know that.

Screenshot / Twitter

There's a link between symbolic violence against women and real violence against women — and the men who put Rachel Notley's face on a target know that.

Grown men will be boys, as the saying goes.

So when the Big Country Oilmen’s Association took an image of Alberta premier Rachel Notley’s face and used it for target practice at their weekend golf tournament — well, “everybody had a good laugh,” Ernest Bothi, the association’s president, told media.

“It was good-hearted laughter,” he clarified.

Perhaps he missed the Facebook video of a golf cart careening towards Notley’s face and bowling it over, amid a soundtrack of unfriendly glee. “Good-hearted” also wasn’t exactly the impression he left in the press. Bothi was “fed up” with the oil economy and frustrated at government, he told the CBC. “A lot of good people have invested their entire life into this industry and for what? So that a government can strip it away from us?” he said.

When asked if he was sorry, he countered with: “For what? For being frustrated? For possibly losing my home and possibly losing my business because of this government? No.”

And there you hear real anger that inspired this “good-natured” golf gag.

Bothi later did apologize, after the story picked up steam and he learned British MP Jo Cox was murdered last week. His “timing was poor” and had he known, there would have been no Notley cameo at the tournament.

In making such a declaration, Bothi suggests he believes there’s a link between symbolic, even joking, violence against women and actual violence against women, even if it only amounts to poor taste. But you can’t have it both ways, sir.

Yes, sexism and violence against women are entwined, and that’s why effigies of Rob Ford and Stephen Harper and Ralph Klein never made quite the headlines of the Notley prank. Bothi wasn’t applying his judgment to the wider context, as we should. Just as a cake recipe must be adjusted depending on altitude, critiques of women politicians, however innocuous, must account for the temperature of misogyny.

But neither was the feminist outrage well measured. In the comment sections, the only people holier than the ones crying sexism were the ones seemingly blaming the newly empowered NDP for all but original sin.

In truth, at least according to Facebook (Bothi didn’t respond to an interview request), anger — not good-naturedness and not sexism — seems to be at the root of the whole thing. Bothi’s feed is populated by comments thick with personal jabs, sweeping criticisms and little nuance.

Albertans are a “gullible electorate” and Alison Redford is an “arrogant, lying, pork barrelling pig of a premier,” a “Marie Antonette” (sic) whose party will hopefully show “the politically guillotine and cuter her bitumen bubblehead off.”

Also, the Toronto media is “corrupt” for publishing Rob Ford’s crack video, “most of the Libs and NDP’s” on Parliament Hill are criminals and Justin Trudeau is a “pretty boy” and an “airhead.”

This week, to the media, Bothi took a decidedly more measured tone. “I’m sure she’s a wonderful person to sit and drink coffee with, but I just wish she’d have a change of heart on what she’s doing, especially with this carbon tax,” he said of Notley.

Likewise, I’m sure Bothi might be a nice enough man to have a beer with, and while I sympathize with the fear he and many oil workers must be feeling, I wish he’d have a change of heart on how he’s behaving, especially with all this vitriol stuff.

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