By Elizabeth Renzetti,
Imagine, for a second, that you’re walking down the street with your kids or your dog and someone who doesn’t like the way you do your job decides to hurl abuse at you. This probably seems inconceivable, if you’re a teacher or a lawyer or a baker or a construction worker.
However, if you are a politician – a female politician, specifically – it could be part of your life. This week we learned that Catherine McKenna, the Liberal Environment Minister, is sometimes accompanied by security, after the constant abuse she suffers online spilled over into real life (while she was with her kids going to see a movie in Ottawa, a man hurled an expletive at her and called her “Climate Barbie.”) The incident made international headlines – not the kind we usually associate with our friendly country. It was, perhaps, the wake-up call people needed to understand the situation that many women in politics face.
I’m Elizabeth Renzetti, a columnist and feature writer with The Globe and Mail, and I’ve long been interested in the ways that women are discouraged from seeking a life in politics. Over the years I’ve interviewed politicians and aspiring politicians and academics who study politics, and one thing is clear – the abuse that women take, online and increasingly offline, is getting worse.
It’s not an issue that follows partisan lines, either: the abuse cuts across party politics. The former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose wrote that she had been “mocked, dismissed, insulted, threatened (including with sexual violence), underestimated, cyber-bullied, sexually harassed, disrespected and ignored” because of her gender. Women in politics tend to have hides thicker than suitcase leather, but we cannot and should not become inured to threats that require them to have security guards by their sides, which happened with both Alberta MLA Sandra Jansen and former Alberta premier Rachel Notley.
Click here to read the full article published by The Globe and Mail on 13 September 2019.