Thursday, June 28, 2007

Women In Politics - Double Standard - Change must come at Local Level First

Why are there not more women in politics? Federally, provincially and even municipally right here in Langley women are by far under represented. Langley Township 's Councillor Kim Richter is the only woman seated amongst 8 men. Langley City is better off with three women out of 7 councillors. So, why the inequity at all levels of government especially municipally?

One of the clear main reasons is that highly qualified and especially very competent and intelligent women are not interested in being publicly driven through the mud by their male peers and the press alike especially about their gender differences. This Editor has observed an on-going litany of the ridicule, embarrassment, discourteousness, shunning and downright vile attitude by the male counterpart politicians and the equally discourteous but more veiled press. Why would any highly educated and qualified woman ever want to be a victim of this ongoing persecution? Hence the lack of quality female candidates and actual elected women is embarrassingly low and will remain so. The glass ceiling is an old boys club steel ceiling in the political world.

This latest world wide circulated photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who by the way is Germany's first ever female chancellor, once again shows the difference in which a female politician is treated as opposed to her male counterpart. The picture while an attempt to be satirical shows two polish leaders sucking on each of her exposed breasts (photoshop modified). Could you ever imagine seeing a world wide circulated picture of any male G-8 world leader having him being photoshopped with other leaders sucking on his male appendage? I know you wouldn't because it would be unthinkable to ever do so for any male in power by any other male in power politically or in the press.

Recently former MP Belinda Stronach revealed that she had breast cancer and had a surgical mastectomy. Her treatment by the press & peers on this topic was finally understated and somewhat respectful. Too late though because she, after a few short years in federal politics, decided to exit public life some months ago. One has to wonder if her treatment by her political male peers and the male dominated press on varied topics such as being widely called a bitch, the public hockey player Tomi accusations/innuendos and the constant other public barbs on her looks, attire and not the least on her intelligence had played a part in her decision to leave the public stage. Even one of the local Langley press’ frequent editorial comments and political cartoon representations of Ms. Stronach in the past year were downright despicable and tasteless. There have been no apologies ever or comments on her cancer from that specific local paper Editor to date!

This example of one of Canada's most powerful and wealthy women's public assassination by her political peers and the equally male dominated press certainly does nothing to motivate other capable and intelligent women to ever venture into the male testosterone dominated political gladiator arena. The ancient Romans went to the amphitheaters for their “entertainment” where they could see the imprisoned gladiators killing and being killed. The new entertainment seems to have become women in politics: especially capable, intelligent and prominent women. Strong and passionately opinionated women are especially singled out.

Right here in Langley Township the obvious segregation and similar downright rude & crude treatment of the Township Council's most educated, articulate, hard working and in this Editor's opinion most intelligent councillor, Kim Richter, is another example of this blatant and sexual discrimination in politics. Look to this council's track record of unseconded Richter motions, look to the double standard of lack of procedural respect & decorum as demonstrated often and most recently so in this previous posting when her microphone was arbitrarily cut off while that of her male peer antagonist was not. Her male peers on council essentially also isolated her from all prominent committees including GVRD as well.

In another Township Councillor's website a slur on her 'jiggling breasts' while running to hand out candies to kids in a parade was allowed to be posted and only after complaints by her husband removed with no subsequent apology.

One local newspaper Editor once accused her of essentially lying politically (which was untrue) and compared Richter's political work to her teaching career as a Professor of business. He personally questioned how she could ever dare teach ethics to her students. Have you ever heard any similar damning references made about any male on council with their profession? When another male on Council used completely false and misleading election materials, that same local newspaper editor made nowhere close to any ethical accusations about that Council member or linked his unethical behavior to his own career and business. That Council member got away without even a slap on the wrist and no personal slurs at all.

One has only to watch any Township council meeting to see the obvious male group think and ganging up on the only female councillor at any opportunity.

What benefits do women have to offer their constituents in public life?

Clearly their differences provide more political balance and perspectives that should be appreciated and not ignored and assailed at every opportunity. A small and simple example that comes to mind is a few years back when there were once three women on Township council. These three women Cllrs. Arnason, Kirkpatrick and Richter all voted against a day care facility located within a proposed mini-storage building located within the 200th street & Trans Canada highway cloverleaf. As women & mothers they were obviously concerned with warehousing very young children right within a cloverleaf. Heavy traffic noise, air pollution and obvious physical safety were the concerns they reasonably brought up. The day care centre was ultimately approved with the 6 men on council all voting in favour and the 3 women opposed.

Just this week, the sole woman on township council asked to have all the neighbour’s concerns about a boldly lit 120 foot steeple hi-rise addressed prior to approval. Once again, no-one seconded her motion not even for discussion. It is interesting to note that the majority of neighbours with concerns at the public hearing were women while the overwhelming majority of the proponents for the steeple were male. I guess women’s concerns don’t really count in Langley township council.

How many other municipal councils have the same myopic majority male led councils? Women bring a balanced and sometimes different but much needed point of view that reflects a complete community’s make up, not just the male half.

To get more qualified women into politics will require a change.

Change has to all be started at the local municipal level first which is the springboard to provincial and federal politics.

The public must be educated that these prejudices and inequalities exist and they should no longer tolerate it from their politicians and the press. The next time a local Editor writes or cartoons another sexually discriminatory or patently unfair article about females in politics, the public should respond vigorously and demand an immediate unqualified apology. The press should in fact actively report on this gender issue in politics and not let the sexists in politics get away with it anymore. In fact the press should go out of their way to report on the women in politics and their viewpoints especially where they are so grossly under represented. (Suggested case in point: check the media coverage for Langley MLA Rich Coleman vs that for Langley MLA Mary Polak.)

The same should apply to discourteous and derogatory behaviours displayed by male politicians towards female politicians. The sitting male councillors also have to seriously re-evaluate their attitudes and behaviors and change their methods and styles and become more open to other ideas, especially with the women on council where they are in a minority and even more so if there is only one. A sole aboriginal representative on council would be certainly guaranteed much more due consideration and respect than a woman by both council peers and the local press. Women should be equally treated with political correctness and due respect.

Political women like Richter, Stronach and Merkel, etc. presently in the arena should no longer accept the status quo. They probably worked twice as hard as their male counterparts to get elected in the first place. I’m sure they would agree with my observations yet they all probably remain mute on the double standard issue and are silently stoic because they are all similarly concerned of being labeled screaming antagonistic bitches using discrimination as an easy excuse. Bullshit. It’s time for women presently in politics, especially the articulate, gifted and strong women, to come out of the closet and tell it like it is. There is a double standard sexist treatment of them that must be stopped. Now. It's time for a radical change in attitude towards women in politics.

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