2016—2017 · Vol. 44 No. 4



Women in politics speak out about abuse & hatred

Public abuse and expressions of hatred towards women in politics was almost a daily occurrence in the recent US election campaign, with Donald Trump supporters routinely chanting “lock her up,” and Trump himself insinuating, to the apparent delight of his supporters, that Clinton’s assassination by the “second amendment people” would be a perfectly acceptable response if Trump didn’t win the election.

We’d like to think that this kind of misogyny doesn’t happen here in Canada, but the truth is that Canadian women in politics are frequently subjected—publicly, privately and on social media—to abuse, threats and multiple other forms of harassment. Politicians have always been subject to criticism and even mocking, but for many women seeking office, this has now morphed into near-constant verbal abuse, threats against their families, threats of rape and even death threats.

Recently, Alberta politician Sandra Jansen withdrew her candidacy for leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party and crossed the floor to join the NDP government of Rachel Notley. In a letter to supporters, Jansen cited personal insults scrawled on nomination forms, jeers from delegates as she passed them on the floor, and the “filth” directed at her through social media as her reasons for dropping out.

When the leader of Alberta’s Wildrose Party is comfortable asking if it’s “against the law to beat Rachel Notley,” and when the Oilmen’s Golf Tournament encourages participants to aim at placards featuring Notley’s face, it’s little wonder that women think twice about choosing politics as their career.

This is not just an Alberta problem. Women in provincial and federal politics from across Canada have begun to speak out about the constant abuse and threats, and the pervasive misogyny they are subjected to on a daily basis. Most recently Cathy Bennett, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Finance, invited a number of female journalists to hear about the incessant abuse she has had to endure, including death threats, body-shaming and suggestions that she should kill herself.

Being targeted by hatred and misogyny cannot be excused as some kind of joke or simply part of the job. It’s an important step that women who have been targeted are speaking out, but now is the time for their male colleagues and for all of us to be equally vocal in proclaiming that this type of harassment is simply not acceptable in politics or anywhere else in our society.

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