Posted by Phil Andrews
Here is a just-received press release from: the Canadian Federation of University Women.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Guelph Ontario, October 20, 2014. Political bullying and gender bias in politics
Yet again politics has brought out the worst in some of Guelph’s citizens. We live in a free and democratic country where, since October 18, 1929, women are legal persons, deemed equal in value to men and with equal opportunity to participate fully in Canadian society. Why are women who chose to exercise their right to hold public office still subject to public displays of misogynistic symbolism?
Last week, a self described photographer and concerned and active citizen who tweets about “politics, social and environmental justice, anti-oppression and cultural critiques”, captured an image of a downtown Guelph window display. It featured a small wooden artist’s model symbolically sodomized by miscellaneous hardware and a couple of EXIT signs, suggesting Mayoral Candidate Farbridge needed to leave politics and someone was prepared to see that she did. The image using violence as its message was sent into the twittersphere. The offending display has since been dismantled, apparently at the request of an offended female passerby, but the image lives on in perpetuity, associated not with the perpetrator’s name but with Farbridge’s.
Make no mistake. The issue is not the dissemination of political views via window displays or social media. The use of exit signs associated with Farbridge’s name might even be construed as clever. No, the issue is sexism, discrimination and misogyny, the denigration of women, their sexual objectification and the depiction of violence against them. This disgusting display appeared in the wake of Women in Crisis’ 10 days of Resilience, which focused attention on violence against women and coincided with news rife with the consequences of cyber-bullying.
We continue to hear horror stories from female political candidates. According to a Star investigation, Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow has received almost 7 times the number of racist, sexist and other offensive posts on her Facebook wall compared to fellow candidates Ford and Tory. Chow’s campaign attributes the high number of inflammatory comments to the fact that Chow is the only high-profile female candidate as well as an immigrant. But there are home grown examples as well. Locally, we witnessed political cybersquatting (purchasing an opponent’s domain name in anticipation of their announcement to run) and cyber bullying, not to mention face Social Media Accounts and spamming.
The under-representation of women in the Canadian political system is inexcusable: fewer than 21% of representatives in the House of Commons and in municipal and provincial governments. In the UK, where 22.6% of MPs are female, a committee of female MPs chaired by Conservative MP Mary Macleod investigated why women leave politics. They cited “culture of tribal warfare” in the chambers as a deterrent and recommended greater media involvement of female MPs as well as a review of sexism in the media. The US Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that if nothing changes, it will take Congress, where women currently hold only 18.5% of the seats, 107 years to reach US gender demographics. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN YEARS!
On behalf of women everywhere, CFUW holds the citizens of Guelph and of Canada to a higher standard! With a Federal Election on the horizon, we need to up our game fast. We live in a remarkable and exemplary community in an amazing country. We can do so much better.