Gender politics

Alison Redford’s departure as premier of Alberta was predictable. Of course, she brought it upon herself by charging personal items to official expenses. But even without such behaviour, the good old boys would have done her in at some point. It’s not easy being a woman in charge of men, least of all Alberta Conservatives. Little has changed in the macho Alberta legislature since the 1970s when Peter Lougheed and Don Getty and others who’d all played football together were in charge.

As recently as last summer a new world order had supposedly arrived; there were six female premiers. Then Nunavut’s Eva Aariak announced she’d had enough, Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Labrador walked the plank, and now Redford’s gone. Only Quebec’s Pauline Marois seems to have full command. Pushing her star candidate, Pierre Karl Peladeau, away from the microphone was both bold and wrong. No man could have done that to a female candidate and survived.

Female politicians seem to do better at the municipal level where there are no mean-spirited male caucus members to deal with, only voters. It’s interesting that Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey is quitting provincial politics to run for mayor of Brampton. So much for the big time.

When will men, whether in a political party or corporate office, respect a female leader? I’ve been watching this issue for thirty years and I can’t say I’ve seen much progress. When a senior woman recently left a major Canadian corporation, the story was put about that she was so crazy and they wanted to see her gone so badly that she wasn’t even given the traditional office from which to look for work. Whether the story was true or not, that’s what the boys said. 

The current debate to ban the word “bossy” speaks to this very issue. Men can be the boss, but women leaders are bossy, and therein lies the problem. Men who get bossed in the privacy of their own home don’t want to be bossed by a woman at work. The office or the legislature is the last refuge of male supremacy. Men ain’t going to give up those bastions anytime soon.

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