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Catherine McKenna is nobody's Barbie, in spite of backwards rhetoric

Sep 21, 2017

 

Gerry Ritz's sexist comment is reminiscent of previous remarks heard by female lawmakers. More than 30 years ago, Sheila Copps, former Liberal MP and deputy prime minister was told to “quiet down, baby” in the House of Commons by Progressive Conservative MP John Crosbie. Copps snapped back that she was “nobody’s baby,” which eventually became the title of her memoir.

 

Gerry Ritz’s tone deaf retro-idiocy was not only sexist, it was also a slam against climate change activism itself, writes Judith Timson.

Gerry Ritz’s tone deaf retro-idiocy was not only sexist, it was also a slam against climate change activism itself, writes Judith Timson.  (ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS)  

 

Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna asked Gerry Ritz on Twitter: “Do you use that sexist language about your daughter, mother, sister?”

Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna asked Gerry Ritz on Twitter: “Do you use that sexist language about your daughter, mother, sister?”  (ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

 

 

By JUDITH TIMSON Current affairs

Thu., Sept. 21, 2017

        

 

You would think a mature adult male politician — and here I obviously have to exclude the current president of the United States — would know enough in 2017 not to use a silly sexist slur against a female politician. Especially one who has more power than he does.

 

But no. Gerry Ritz, 66, a conservative MP from Saskatchewan and former Agriculture Minister under Stephen Harper, laid a real egg this week on Twitter, derisively calling Liberal cabinet member Catherine McKenna, minister of the environment, “climate Barbie.”

 

He rightfully got a load of Twitter whoopass for his sexism, including from McKenna herself who tweeted: “Do you use that sexist language about your daughter, mother, sister? We need more women in politics. Your sexist comments won’t stop us.” 

 

Scheer finally did so, saying in a statement to the Star that Ritz’s remark was demeaning. “As a father of three daughters, I want to ensure that gender-based stereotypes have no place in Canada or Canadian politics” he said late Wednesday.

OK. I confess. I called Ritz a “jerk” on Twitter. But never mind — he is already profoundly irrelevant.

 

Were Ritz headed anywhere further in politics, the outrage might continue. His tone deaf retro-idiocy was also a slam against climate change activism itself. 

 

The Liberals are apparently planning to fundraise off his ill-chosen remark. according to The Canadian Press, an email from McKenna already went out to potential donors referencing Ritz’s now deleted tweet and talking about promoting “a more inclusive society.”

 

They should be vigilant, but wait until there are more examples of egregious sexism from the post-Harper Conservatives. The smartest thing they did after all was to make Rona Ambrose their interim leader. 

 

Going nuclear on Ritz’s unoriginal “climate Barbie” insult evokes another kind of retro feeling for me. More than 30 years ago, was once told to “quiet down, baby” in the House of Commons by Progressive Conservative MP John Crosbie. A prominent feminist activist, Copps snapped back that she was “Nobody’s baby,” which eventually became the title of her memoir. 

 

How far we haven’t come, in some regrettable respects. And how vigilant we have to be the world over, especially in the U.S., where President Donald Trump’s hideous sexism recently included retweeting a doctored GIF that showed his golf ball smashing into the back of his defeated rival Hillary Clinton, knocking her flat as she entered her plane. 

 

Trump will no doubt be incensed to learn that Clinton’s new book What Happened is already breaking sales records in its second week. Watch for more petulant offerings from the Demeanor-in-Chief.

 

Still, I find it hard to keep up any sustained moral outrage when the word “Barbie” is in play. Some long ago remarks I made about Barbie herself would be deemed a sexist outrage today.

 

As a doll, the former anatomically unbelievable blond has cleaned up her act. She now comes in many skin shades and even diverse sizes. 

 

But Ritz’s slur got me thinking about how politically relevant Barbie could be if she embraced our current hot button issues. 

 

Instead of a wan attempt to diminish McKenna — and punish her for being blond as well as brainy and powerful — we could co-opt Barbie for our own progressive uses. 

Think Climate Change Barbie and her gal pal Storm Surge Skipper. They could be decked out in white coats when they’re testing ocean samples in the lab, bright puffy jackets when they’re racing against time to stop the Arctic from heating up. Hip waders when they’re too late and another catastrophic flood is underway. They could carry hampers full of rotting vegetables as all our food sources dry up.

 

Sexual Consent Barbie. Well, maybe she could be introduced for teens. Dressed in unisex jeans and a T-shirt that says “Only Yes Means Yes.” 

 

Handmaid’s Tale Barbie. Oh come on, those red cloaks are perfect Barbie doll material, along with a sign that says, as it did in both Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, and Hulu’s recent Emmy-award winning series based on it: Nolite te bastard’s carborundorum Roughly translated to “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” For good measure, Handmaid Barbie could also carry a second sign, one seen at the Washington D.C. Women’s March last January: “THINK . . . while it is still legal.”

 

That of course brings up Protest Barbie. With a pink pussy hat and a Girl Power T-shirt. Or a sign seen carried by a toddler held high on her father’s shoulders in London, England during their women’s march: “Babes Against Bullshit.”

 

Black Lives Matter Barbie. I will leave it to the movement to choose the outfit and slogan. Trans Rights Barbie. Immigrants Add Value Barbie. The list of exciting new progressive possibilities for Barbie is endless.

 

Including this absolutely necessary addition to our Progressive Barbie Collection: That would be Troll Fighter Barbie. She has a mute button bigger than the Ritz. 

 

Judith Timson writes weekly about cultural, social and political issues. You can reach her at judith.timson@sympatico.ca and follow her on Twitter @judithtimson

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Thanks also to the Government of Canada (Status of Women & Canadian Heritage) for their financial support.