Sunday, December 09, 2007

Attitudes Towards Women Aren't Getting Better, Apparently

When New Democrat MP Irene Mathyssen saw that Conservative MP James Moore was looking at a photo of a bikini-clad woman while sitting in the House of Commons and noticed that the image was visible not just to members of the House but also to visitors in the gallery, she rose and made a brief, composed complaint about it. Liberal MP Karen Redman rose and supported Mathyssen.

James Moore was outraged. Oh, not outraged that he had been caught displaying an inappropriate photo in the House of Commons. Outraged that some stupid prude of a woman would complain about it. The lowest of the low. Tarnishing the reputation of a red-blooded Canadian man. And besides, it was my girl friend. And (in perhaps the most irrelevant argument ever), my dog is in the photo too!

The men of the country crashed into the debate like the kettle drums in Beethoven's Ninth. This was the worst form of dirty politics. A smear. Don't old, ugly women know that young, pretty women like to appear semi-naked in photos? Doesn't that prove that all feminism is mean-spirited, humorless prudery that must be stamped out like brush fires in August?

In one of the more muted criticisms, Liberal MP Garth Turner wrote, "When a female MP stood one day last week and accused another member, a man, of viewing a babe on his laptop, it was a national story. The guy was ripped as a soft-porn pervert, before being revealed hours later as a blameless victim of a political smear."

I didn't see anything in Irene Mathyssen's statement to the House that constituted a political smear. She was respectful and she described the problem perfectly: the image could be seen by other people in the workplace and by the public. Nobody has disputed that fact. The only new information we got is that the woman in the photo is Moore's girlfriend.

Caving to pressure, Irene Mathyssen apologised. That didn't stop the criticism; if anything, it spurred men to even more nasty-minded attacks on women and their perceived political correctness.

A disturbing theme that ran throughout the men's attacks was that Irene Mathyssen and Karen Redman should be humiliated. Like this one: "They should both have to give lap dances to Peter Milliken." Yet another outraged male wrote, "She should be forced to stand in the House and issue an apology" (italics mine).

Another theme was that all rules against sexual harassment in the workplace should be abolished. For example: "The sensible response in the House, or any other workplace, would have been for her to avert her gaze, ignore the offending image and shut up."

Where are Jack Layton and Stephane Dion on this issue? Neither the Liberal nor NDP party web sites mention the event, much less stand up for Matthysen or Redman. (So much for "male feminists".)

How did Moore and Mathyssen sum up the experience? Moore, in Peter MacKay-style fake sorrow, lamented, "I hope nobody goes through what I did in the last 24 hours." Mathyssen, who truly had been raked over the coals, was more pragmatic, saying that her first step should have been to approach Moore privately and to ask him to stop displaying the photo in the House. But Mathyssen is not correct in that: When a woman perceives sexual harassment in the workplace, she should not feel that she has to approach the man privately.

The tragic thing about all this is that it happened in parliament, where Canada's laws and policies are formulated, and so it affects women and sexual harassment policies in workplaces across the country. We can't leave matters as they stand now. Someone needs to stand up and propose guidelines for laptop viewing in the House that are similar to current rules against displaying photographs. True, images of half-naked women are ubiquitous on the web, but that doesn't mean that it's appropriate to share photos of your girlfriend's buttocks with your workmates... especially not in full view of your colleagues and the public.

See also: Why we still need feminism

Note: James Moore is the same guy who boasted about his dirty tricks aimed to manipulate the Liberal leadership convention in 2006. See link.



Anonymous said...

Someone in your large office makes a comment you think is inappropriate. Do you:

A) Confront them about it and ask them why it was made and ask for an explanation


B) Wait until the Christmas party when the entire staff is gathered together and then get up and accuse the person in front of everybody?

This is not as much a case of did he or didn't he. This is purely a case of trying to further a political agenda and make sure you get as much milage out of it as possible.

Anonymous said...

Thank You. No other bloggers or Liberal Men seemed to get it. You do.

You are a credit to your gender the Liberal brand and bloggers. I have been disgusted by the male blogger response to this issue.

Thank-you again.

Anonymous said...

Sorry you're a woman. I thought you were a man. Oh well. I agree with you. Strike my last comment.

Kuri said...


Although I do believe the Liberal MP's name is Redman.

Anonymous said...

This is purely a case of trying to further a political agenda and make sure you get as much milage out of it as possible.

He said without irony. Nice to meet you too, Mr. Pot.

You know what this boils down to?

Men telling women to know their roles and shut the fuck up.

That it occurred in a white-male-dominated institution like Parliament and has continued largely unabated throughout the white-male-dominated Canadian political blogosphere speaks volumes upon volumes about why more women and visible minorities desperately need to vocally participate in the political arena.

But hey--it's nice to see the Grits and Tories were finally able to lay down the partisan gauntlet by gleefully engaging in unabashed misogyny.

Unknown said...

Thank you for telling it like it is. This is not "cheap political games" this is outright sexism. And it is bullshit.

I am sorry Mathyssen felt she had to appologize. This is an issue of sexism that became partisan because of lame attempts to score points.


Anonymous said...

Self-proclaimed intellectuals (Ruth Ellis Haworth loves her lengthy name, eh) are a dime a dozen these days; all overcompensating for their innate (perhaps genetic) ignorance with stale vocalization. I enjoy an occasional view of my sweetheart --- don't we all?