I’ll be the first person to admit I don’t really understand a lot about politics. The main thing I know about Danny Williams is that he does something with the IceCaps (not even the good kind that you drink, the hockey kind), and the most I ever knew about Kathy Dunderdale was information I gleaned from the @KathyDunderdal3 Twitter account.
However, I do know a thing or two about being a woman. As a white female, I already have significantly more privilege than many other people who identify as female. I am a student at a university, I am fortunate enough to work two jobs, and I had a very solid upbringing that gave me the drive to always seek more out of life. I occasionally wonder if this is the way that the women I see in North American politics were raised: feeling blessed to be able to obtain an education and never feeling like there were any careers or opportunities that were off-hands to them.
However, despite my fortune, I also know how it feels to be ostracized, often by people who might not even realize they are doing it. There is still blatant sexism evident in my life, and the lives of many other women regardless of their race, creed, or age. I know how it feels to be in a room full of men, knowing I am capable of holding my own in a conversation or argument, yet being completely silenced by those around me. I know how it feels to be afraid to walk alone at any time of the day, not just the nighttime, because assault does not conform to a certain time frame within the day. I know how, despite the confidence that I could do better in a fight than many of the males close to me, the simple presence of a man might silence the idea of another person attacking me. I sometimes wonder if this is how the brave women in politics also feel: knowing their opinions and ideas are silenced in a world vastly ran by men and feeling safer to surround themselves with men to avoid personal or physical attacks.
I compare the reign of Danny Williams to that of Kathy Dunderdale. When Williams was premier, I cannot remember a single person ever attacking his looks or his clothing choices. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever heard people criticize male dress code, except for perhaps Don Cherry, whose bizarre outfits are all a part of his shtick. I also do not recall Williams’ drive being criticized; his “my way or the highway” perspective was perhaps the population’s favourite part about him as premier.
On the opposite hand, I frequently see people criticizing Dunderdale’s hair, weight, or even her clothing choices. Although this sort of critique never made it into the media like the way that Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin often experienced, it still does not denounce the way that Dunderdale has been ostracized in the past. While aspects that were seen in Williams’ were heralded, the same qualities seen in Dunderdale made people think she was a, in lack of a better word, “bitch.” I really have to wonder which aspect of our now-retired Kathy’s reign people enjoyed attacking more: the way she was absent and unheard of throughout many issues our province underwent, or her fashion choices. In a world where people claim that “anything is possible” and “women are completely equal to men”, there is certainly a huge difference between the ways women of power are treated compared to men.
I’m not saying women never make bad choices and don’t deserve to be called out on them, as Dunderdale certainly made mistakes in her time as premier, just as every leader before her. However, it would be nice to see a woman in power be treated in the same manner as a man in power, and be judged on the same criteria. I know in the world of politics, or any position where you are prominent in the media, there is bound to be criticism and mockery. However, it would be nice to be able to consider going into politics as a woman without knowing your every choice and opinion would be sidelined.