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Women, progressives lead sweep for change on St. John's city council

Posted on Sep 26, 2017


Hope Jamieson unseated Ward 2 councillor Jonathan Galgay in Tuesday's municipal elections in St. John's. She joins four other women who will now sit around the council table now that the votes have been tallied.


There was major upheaval on St. John’s city council Monday night, as voters elected six new councillors, marking a significant progressive shift.

One of the major upsets of the night was by Hope Jamieson, who defeated incumbent councilor Jonathan Galgay in Ward 2 by more than 300 votes.
Jamieson was jubilant, not just about her own win, but the total of five women who were elected to council.

 “I’m really excited about what we can build together,” Jamieson said.
“I think there’s a real potential for change, and the future looks really bright right now


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Two female Canadian politicians motivate amid babble of infant men: Paradkar

Posted on Sep 23, 2017

Shamed if you’re not white and blond. Shamed if you are. Three cheers for MPs Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Catherine McKenna and who tackled this duplicity.


Liberal MPs Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Catherine McKenna are two women in the public eye who rose up and spoke and inspired this week, writes Shree Paradkar.

Liberal MPs Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Catherine McKenna are two women in the public eye who rose up and spoke and inspired this week, writes Shree Paradkar.  (TWITTER/THE CANADIAN PRESS)  




Sat., Sept. 23, 2017


This was a week that saw men with fingers on nuclear codes reduced to blathering name-calling idiots, while women in the public eye rose up and spoke and inspired.


It was a week when some men acted like infants even while others tried to discredit women by infantilizing them.


Exhibit A for baby-men were Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in a tense exchange of brinkmanship, where — get this — Kim made more sense than the U.S. president. In a statement, Kim castigated Trump’s “unethical will to ‘totally destroy’ a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system.”


Then he responded with a threat to conduct “the biggest ever hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific,” and returned Trump’s name calling in kind.


In their defence, they offered the hollow comfort of hilarity.

“Rocket Man!” roared the vapid villain who had already reduced to dust the dignity of his American seat.


“Frightened dog. Deranged dotard,” raged the pipsqueak ruler of the kingdom of ashes, the wondrous creature who once called South Korea’s first female president “a crafty prostitute.”

At this, the wounded egomaniac summoned up his finest vocabulary.

“Madman,” he screeched.

You’re fired, Donny boy. In a war of words at least, Kim’s weapons possess longer range than yours.


Earlier in the week, the ever-mature president had retweeted a doctored GIF of himself swinging a golf ball and hitting his former rival Hillary Clinton on the back, leading her to take a tumble. Such power! Such machismo! See, here was a man to put women like her in their place.


Then there was the football fans’ derision directed at Beth Mowins, who made history this week by becoming the first woman to call a game on Monday Night Football. “Can’t stand the voice.” “Her voice is like fingernails on a blackboard,” “Your voice ruined it for me,” whined viewers.


There’s no point pretending this was personal preference rather than sexism.

As Rebecca Martinez, who teaches women’s and gender studies at the University of Missouri told the New York Times, “The comments, mostly from men … focus on the naturally higher pitch of women’s voices and ‘shrillness,’ all the while claiming their critiques of higher pitch have nothing to do with sexism.”


This is how women sound — different from men. This is how women look — different from men.


As with men, not one is without flaws. Unlike men, not one escapes ridicule.

Exhibit A of infantilizing women took place in Canada when Saskatchewan MP Gerry Ritz referred to our country’s environment minister as a “climate Barbie” in a tweet.

Of what confounding nature is this duplicity foisted on women? Shamed as inferior if you’re not white and blond. Shamed as inferior if you are.


Two MPs tackled both issues this week.


Women in Catherine McKenna’s position of having received sexist or racist comments are often counselled to click mute at this point — even by well-wishers.


Let it go, we are told. Happens all the time. Not worth it.


Sometimes, though, it’s the silence that’s not worth it when all it serves to do is maintain the status quo.


McKenna called him out.


“Do you use that sexist language about your daughter, mother, sister?” she responded. “We need more women in politics. Your sexist comments won’t stop us.”

Some 20 minutes later, Ritz apologized for using the word Barbie. “It is not reflective of the role our minister plays.”


If only we could also recalibrate the thinking that leads to such expression.

In New York to talk climate change with high-level diplomats, McKenna spoke about the incident to reporters.


“You know what’s really sad?” she asked. “That I’m having to talk about this.”


“I want to be talking about what I’m doing. But unfortunately we’re having this conversation. … We need to move on. I’ve got two daughters. There’s lots of young women who want to get into politics, and I want them to feel like they can go do that, and they can talk about the great work they’re doing — not about the colour of their hair.”


About hair.


There was Celina Caesar-Chavannes, the MP from Whitby, rising magnificently in Parliament Hill wearing her hair in braids in solidarity with women who have been shamed based on their appearance. She delivered a one-minute speech that was a marvel of composure and wisdom and defiance.


I leave you with her words as your motivation:


“It has come to my attention that there are young girls here in Canada and other parts of the world who are removed from school or shamed because of their hairstyle.


“Mr. Speaker, body-shaming of any woman in any form from the top of her head to the soles of her feet is wrong.”


“Irrespective of her hairstyle, the size of her thighs, the size of her hips, the size of her baby bump, the size of her breasts, or the size of lips, what makes us different makes us unique and beautiful.


“So Mr. Speaker I will continue to rock these braids. For three reasons. No. 1, because I’m sure you’ll agree, they look pretty dope. No. 2, in solidarity with women who have been shamed based on their appearance.


“And No. 3, and most importantly, in solidarity with young girls and women who look like me and those who don’t. I want them to know that their braids, their dreads, their super-curly afro puffs, their weaves, their hijabs, and their headscarves, and all other variety of hairstyles, belong in schools, in the workplace, in the boardroom and yes, even here on Parliament Hill.”


Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar


"We're working as if this is our time": Sharpe

Posted on Sep 22, 2017

Renee Sharpe and other young candidates in the St. John's municipal election are running campaigns that prioritize social justice and environment issues, arguing the city cannot reach its potential when many are left behind. Photo: Renee Sharpe / Facebook.


Many are watching closely as residents of St. John’s prepare to vote in an election that could result in a dramatic change in how municipal politics are conducted in the capital city, and subsequently how the city’s future is determined.


With 10 women running for council—more than any other election in at least the last two decades—and a number of young candidates running on progressive policy issues they say have been underrepresented on a council that lacks diversity, several candidates and observers say St. John’s is at a crossroads.



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

Posted on 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

The World’s Most Powerful Woman Won’t Call Herself a Feminist

Posted on Sep 16, 2017


Success for Germany: A campaign poster for Angela Merkel, who appears likely to be re-elected as chancellor next Sunday.


Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters


TORGAU, Germany — Angela Merkel has spent her political career playing down her gender: shunning a feminist label, offering modesty, caution and diligent preparation as an implicit contrast to male swagger. The chancellor seems to be coasting to re-election next Sunday as the most powerful woman in the world.


But to the crowds who waited out a downpour in a flower-bedecked town square here to hear her stump speech at a campaign rally, she is simply their leader, her gender immaterial.


Her success raises a question newly relevant after Hillary Clinton’s loss: Is this stealth strategy the most effective way for women to gain and wield power? Mrs. Clinton campaigned as a woman who would make history by shattering the highest glass ceiling; in response, a misogynistic backlash gripped segments of the United States.


By contrast, Ms. Merkel avoided dwelling on her historic first and cultivated a resolutely boring public persona, easing her ascent to lead a nation that long held conservative attitudes toward women. Men underestimated her, at their peril. Modest she may be, but also unhesitating in her pursuit and exercise of power. Her climb to the top and her 12-year tenure have proven her a masterful political practitioner, one who has seized opportunity, eliminated opponents and sustained popular support.


“She learned to cloak her purpose in a veil of blandness,” said Constanze Stelzenmüller, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has observed Ms. Merkel as a journalist. Ms. Stelzenmüller, herself raised in West Germany, said Ms. Merkel’s experience surviving East Germany’s authoritarian rule gave her the skills to navigate the male political world she entered as the two Germanys reunited. Ms. Merkel, she said, learned that “you shut up, put up, and watch out for an opportunity, all the while trying not to get hurt.”


Ms. Merkel’s upbringing in East Germany, where most women worked and the state proclaimed gender equality even if patriarchy ruled at home, contributed to a resolution not to make a fetish of feminism. Eager to avoid being reduced to any one label, she expressed surprise that during her 2005 run for chancellor, journalists should ask her about being Germany’s first woman in that job. And at the Group of 20 meeting Ms. Merkel hosted this year, a moderator asked guests who included Ivanka Trump whether they saw themselves as feminists. Ms. Merkel didn’t raise her hand.


Yet she prevailed in Germany’s most stridently masculine party, said Bernd Ulrich, a columnist for Die Zeit who has known her for 20 years. She was a protégée of the long-serving chancellor Helmut Kohl, who referred to her as “mein mädchen,” my girl. Men in her own party derisively nicknamed her “Mutti,” or Mommy, meant as an insult but now adopted by the public as a token of trust. Ute Frevert, Germany’s leading gender historian, observed that Ms. Merkel has resisted all attempts to pigeonhole or condescend to her. (She also declines most interviews.)


“She’s the least motherly person you can imagine, though people want to build a feminine image of her that’s easier to digest,” Ms. Frevert said. Ms. Merkel and her husband, a chemist, do not have children. “But she doesn’t fall into that trap. She doesn’t smile and have a little girly instinct. She’s not a woman playing a man, either. She seems to be gender neutral in a way.”


It is an image she worked hard to foster. Ms. Merkel was mocked early in her career for frumpy dressing and frowsy hair; a car rental company ran an ad depicting her with windblown hair in a convertible, saying she had finally found the right hairstyle. So she adopted her current tidy bob and an unvarying uniform: a bright jacket (chartreuse at the Torgau rally) and sensible pants. She joked that in one of her first government jobs, as environment minister, she realized that people were staring at her shoes instead of listening to what she had to say. To prevent that, she made her wardrobe so predictable that a flurry of articles about the low-cut dress she wore to the opera in 2008 is one of the rare mentions of her clothing in the press.


“There was no etiquette for women in power,” said Sylke Tempel, editor in chief of The Berlin Policy Journal. “So she stopped the whole discussion of her looks.”


Nor did she challenge the men around her, until their own stumbles allowed her an opening. After 16 years in power, in 1999 Mr. Kohl and the Christian Democratic Union party were rocked by a campaign donation scandal. She placed an open letter in a newspaper calling on Mr. Kohl, her longtime mentor, to resign. A few months later, she was elected chairwoman of the party.


“She came to power by an act of breathtaking ruthlessness,” Ms. Stelzenmüller said. “If anything, it was Shakespearean in its aggression and calculation. Her route to power is lined with the political cadavers of a dozen and a half of these princes.”


Like many women who have advanced in politics, most recently Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, she took over at a time of crisis, when few men wanted the job. “She was selected by the boys because they were afraid to fail; they decided to choose her because she could fail,” said Angelika Huber-Strasser, a managing director at KPMG Germany. “And then they will sort it out, and one of the boys will take over.”


The boys had tended to be leaders like the physically imposing Mr. Kohl, or Gerhard Schröder, famous for his machismo and his four marriages. Now its first female chancellor runs Germany with a deliberately unshowy and sometimes maddeningly cautious style.


“There’s no need to shout or behave like an ape,” said Ellen Ueberschär, president of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, who has participated in several citizens’ groups Ms. Merkel convened to discuss women and power. “She’s not seducible by the symbols of power and that gives her power.”


It is a tactic that some women in Germany’s overwhelmingly male corporate world have come to emulate. Hiltrud D. Werner, the only woman on Volkswagen’s management board, said Ms. Merkel’s leadership was often invisible, because she painstakingly built consensus behind the scenes and avoided claiming credit for ideas she often originated.


“Very often we say, it’s enough for us women that things get done,” Ms. Werner said. “I don’t wait until the board meeting to confront my eight male colleagues with an idea. I speak to everyone up front in person to see what the obstacles and arguments are so I can incorporate them into my presentation. Very often this is more successful than the big bang.”


Ms. Merkel, like many women who have had to prove themselves, does her homework. When asked during the campaign how she handles “alpha males” like Vladimir Putin, she answered simply: “For me it’s always been important, and I won’t deviate from this, that I try to be as I am, and that I’m well prepared for the substance.”


Mr. Putin, knowing that Ms. Merkel had once been bitten by a dog, brought his pet Labrador into a meeting with her in 2007, and Ms. Merkel visibly tensed. But Mr. Ulrich said that attempts to intimidate her ultimately fail: “She’s afraid of dogs, but not of men.”


Indeed, at the Torgau rally, she faced down a small, mostly male group of protesters from the populist, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party. “It’s a Hillary moment,” Ms. Tempel said. “They hate everything she stands for.” The protesters blew whistles at a deafening pitch throughout her stump speech. Ms. Merkel continued serenely, pausing only to note how lucky they were to live in a society that allows protest. When she was splattered by a tomato at another rally, she calmly wiped it off her jacket.


Such unflappability is one reason so many voters simply do not focus on the fact she is a woman. Asked whether she thought being a woman had influenced how Ms. Merkel governs, Ute Oskrowski, a nurse from Dresden, shot back, “What kind of question is that?”


In the wake of the protests at the rallies, Jana Hensel, a prominent German novelist, wrote Ms. Merkel an open letter, asking her to publicly confront the men who belittled her, as an example to the writer’s own son. And Mr. Ulrich said that Ms. Merkel’s very reluctance to spell out her achievements and governing philosophy could risk diminishing her legacy, since successors could backpedal.


So what lessons does her long tenure hold for women who aspire to lead? Melanne Verveer, who worked for Mrs. Clinton when she was first lady and was an ambassador at large for global women’s issues in her State Department, said she has reluctantly concluded that the subtle path to power is the surer one, for now. That’s the only way for women to come across as effective and yet not appear threatening. “I wish it weren’t,” Ms. Verveer said, “but it is still very much the case.”

UBC students who sat in House of Commons on Women’s Day share their stories(The Ubyssey)

Posted on Mar 24, 2017

Click to read: https://www.ubyssey.ca/news/women-participate-in-house-of-commons-takeover/

A Daughter of the Vote (Curiosities)

Posted on Mar 24, 2017

Click to read: http://curiosities.sheridancollege.ca/a-daughter-of-the-vote/

Hillary Clinton lost, but she leaves an important legacy (The Globe and Mail)

Posted on Nov 15, 2016

Click to read: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/hillary-clinton-lost-but-she-leaves-an-important-legacy/article32862019/