Some of you may remember though it was ages ago in internet years, that Scott Gilmore wrote an article which single-handedly solved the problem of women in politics or the lack thereof. Well, not quite. He was willing to circulate our responses for free, so I hope he makes sure this makes the rounds. I had said that I didn’t work for free and so would only post something if Macleans or another publication payed me. However, my original rebuttal, which is below, just got me into university so I am feeling generous. Thanks for that Scott! I really appreciate it!
So Scott, assuming I used all your helpful* tips and used this to step up to the plate what’s next? I have my wonderful network, my buckets of donations, my oodles of time, and of course my boundless confidence. I have pried open all the doors nailed shut for women. Here I am running for office. Let’s talk about what it is like to be that woman running for office.
Should we start with the sexual harassment? The online stuff is only the beginning. There are the hands you remove at parties the volunteers you keep at a distance or turn down. There are the men who recognise you in public that you have to manage to put off politely.
How about the interactions you are always second guessing. Is he standing too close or am I imagining it? Is he buying me a drink to be kind or because he wants something? Is he offering to volunteer because he believes in me or because he wants to get in my pants? Is the donation just a donation or does it come with strings?
How about how every time you get dressed you have to think through every possible reaction? Do I look too young? Too matronly? Is this neckline too old? Is my eye makeup too dark? Will I look too different with my hair down? Is this lipstick too bright? Are these heels too high? If I don’t wear heels will I look too short next to the men?
How about being hyper aware of how you speak? and walk? and sit? and stand? Am I coming off to masculine? Too aggressive? Too feminine? Is my voice too high? (having a feminine voice can make people think you are less capable) Am I holding myself assertively? Am I walking too fast? Am I standing tall enough?
All of these are real questions I asked myself during the campaign, and I am sure if I thought hard enough about it I would have more. I am a woman who stepped up to the plate. I did so with no party behind me, without any political experience or a built in team. I put in a lot of hours, and honestly do not know how I could have done it without parents who were willing for me to use their credit card and feed, house and clothe me during the campaign. As well as friends and family who put in an incredible amount of hours or a media buzz that was bigger than what I would have gotten had I not been 18/19.
I don’t know how much of my own money I spend on campaign-related things that I felt I couldn’t count as campaign expenses. I know I spent about $4000 as a campaign budget. I know I had more donations than a campaign my size could have reasonably expected. I know I had a great dollars to votes ratio. I know I got more votes than an 18/19 year old with her laptop and parents credit card should have gotten. I know 8th place in a city like Toronto is actually great.
I also know I was busier than any of peers. That my relationships friends, family, romantic suffered. I know that my grades dropped about five percent. Lots of things really really sucked about the campaign. I ended it exhausted and frustrated and honestly with my optimistic heart a lot emptier. Politics is not easy. It is not easy as a man. It is less easy as a woman. Less easy as a personal of colour. Less easy as someone without lots of money. Less easy as young person. Less easy without a party. If you tick multiples of those boxes you have your work cut out for you.
Was my campaign good for Toronto and Canada as a whole? I believe so. Was it good for me professionally? Almost certainly? Was it good for me personally? Only time will tell. But I do know that while lots of people felt inspired by my campaign, lot of young women also felt like they couldn’t do what I was watching.
So the next time you give advice think it through. Assuming your advice is any good, which I address below, what happens next? Is it any good for the person who follows the advice? Because, unfortunately while women running for office is good for the greater good, it is kind of shit for women right now. Call me when your advice is worth following.
*helpful being a subjective term
Below is my unedited university admissions essay. Thanks for getting me into university Scott!
There seems to be a think piece every other day about why female representation politics is so low. That female representation is at 25% in politics is widely accepted as a problem, but why it exist and what we should do to solve it are where the arguments begin.
Scott Gilmore suggests in Macleans that the issue is not sexism, but women. That women are not stepping up to the plate and unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices. Assuming this is true, the question is why?
Scott Gilmore suggests in Macleans: “No network? Build it. … No money? Raise it. … Lack confidence? Find it. … No time? Make it.”
Women have networks, just not political ones. Political networks are almost exclusively men, building a network within a boys club is hard. Many men are okay or even happy with the status quo. Few are looking to support women outside the system, which is where most women are. Can women do it? Yes, but it is harder. Since fundraising is directly tied to your network, raising money is that much harder for women as well.
Scott suggests that looking at the men you will be running against will bolster your confidence. Looking at a list of powerful men and probably a male incumbent is unlikely to bolster confidence. In fact, I would say it’s likely to dash it, male incumbents are notoriously hard to beat.
Let’s use a Harvard study on their professors to talk about time. Among tenure-track professors, women are spending more than double the time their male counterparts are on housework. Men report an average of 20 hours a week and women an average of 40 hours a week. The gap is smaller for professors, not on the tenure track but still significant. Women literally have less time. The data here shows that, at least at Harvard, women are not having a step up to the plate problem, men are.
One of the researchers, Claudia Goldin said about the study: “The data shows not just that women feel the most stress, but probably that they are the ones responding to the crises with their children and their parents.” Study after study shows that in heteronormative families, the buck stops at women.
What example are women’s campaigns setting? During women’s campaigns, we see media commenting on looks and family. We see harassment, propositions, rape and death threats, and worse. When a female candidate speaks out against this, she faces further harassment and criticism, she is making something of nothing or taking away from her campaign. Not to mention racism, the feeling that women should wait their turn, stick to women’s issues or the expectation that for women to succeed in politics they must be more masculine.
Mike Moffat said it best, “[women are not running] Because it’s not in their self-interest.” Perhaps women are not stepping up to the plate, but women have valid reasons for not doing so. If you want women to run for the office make it not, taking one for the team, make it a rewarding career choice not just for her but those around her.
Gilmore, Scott. “Why Women Must Run for Office.” Macleans.ca. Maclean’s, 28 Nov. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/women-need-to-step-up/>.
DeLuzuriaga, Tania. “Survey Finds Faculty Satisfaction Rate at 81 Percent.” Harvard Gazette. Harvard University, 21 May 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2014. <http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2014/05/survey-finds-faculty-satisfaction-rate-at-81-percent/>.
Moffatt, Mike (MikePMoffatt). “@Scott_Gilmore Because it’s not in their self-interest.”. 29 Nov 2014, 17:05 UTC. Tweet