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What Is Kaputall?

Oxford defines Kaput as "broken and useless; no longer working or effective" - similar to our unbalanced economic system. This is a page dedicated to the intersection of capitalism and social, political, and environmental problems.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Women in Politics in the Modern Era

I've written about women and politics before numerous times. I've commented generally on the relationship that women have with power, as well as the attention given to the death of Thatcher last spring. Needless to say, it's an issue I find quite interesting.

I'm back writing about this again because there have been two developments in the past few weeks with women and politics. This post will serve to analyse some trends regarding women and politics.

Last week Québec went to the polls and the Parti Québécois was decimated. More than failing to form a governemnt, party leader Pauline Marois was defeated in her riding of Charlevoix by a sizeable margin. Marois, who suffered through eighteen months of minority government without gaining traction, gambled on the controversial Charter of Québec Values.

Less than two weeks earlier Alberta's premier, Alison Redford, resigned amid a spending scandal. While there were serious issues with the Progressive Conservatives, her resignation was still rather shocking, highlighting the degree to which the party has a propensity to take down its own in situations where the leader loses even just a small amount of broad popular support.

While both these women have been shown the door for rather practical reasons, it's worthwhile to look deeper into the complex dynamics that surround women who choose to enter politics.

Canada has had an influx of women not only into politics generally but into party leadership and ultimately government leadership. In the past few years female premiers have been in power in half of Canada's provinces and territories. In some cases the leader of the opposition and the premier are both women. While these are certainly great victories for women in politics, this isn't the full story.

The real question right now seems to be around whether or not women can remain in power rather than simply attaining it initially. Why is it that women are entering politics and raising through the ranks only to come crashing back down soon thereafter?

This is a valid question and one that I've heard some philosophising over. The general idea that I feel is that women seem to be more succeptible to public scrutiny than their male counterparts. Both women and men seem to be likely to have a negative opinion of a female politician, in particular comments about being weak, indecisive, or unintelligent, which of course corresponds to typical misogyny.

It doesn't help that, in many cases, women are still very much outsiders when it comes to politics. Redford was new, a "Red Tory" who didn't belong to the party elite. She was in many ways not a representative of the party, but she was fresh. This served to give her an edge but it likewise brought her down. Marois, however, has a different issue, notably the last of the proverbial old guard of the PQ. To many she was the last of a kind, a cabinet minister under numerous PQ leaders and the last great sovereigntist. Again, this was both a rallying cry for her and ultimately her downfall after opposition parties led a scare campaign against the referendum.

Women have, largely, not been viewed as complex individuals. This is something that we can note in popular culture such as films and television, but also exists in real life, especially when women are in the spotlight. I'd argue that, at least in some part, this allows for women to be torn down for things that men would not be.

Men, I'd contend, have the freedom to have complex existences. Take, for example, Rob Ford. People are able to separate his personal life from his policies. Women, seemingly, are not afforded that lattitude. The connection is a bit of a stretch but as a society we love to tear down people who are successful beyond their social status - people of colour like Obama, women like Rihanna, young people like Bieber. It's easy to dislike them and many people want to tear them down just for being successful - famous, wealthy, or powerful.

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