Opinion

Please Advise! Women Leaders Behaving Badly!

Thought they were immune to slippery politics? Dr. Steve's got your naivety pill.

By Steve Burgess 11 Aug 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

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'Har har, shaping a better world.'

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

I am discouraged. Once upon a time I thought greater participation by women in our political system would lead to a new brand of politics, a new era of empathy and openness. Now the example of B.C. Premier Christy Clark and ex-Alberta premier Alison Redford have shattered my illusions. Was I naive to hope that women could help shape a better world?

Signed,

Disillusioned

Dear D,

Naive? Oh, no. I don't think you're naive. I'm giggling about something else entirely -- someone showed me a YouTube video of a rabbit humping a cat last week and I'm still laughing. I'm certainly not laughing at you and your rainbows-and-unicorns dream of a better world shaped by the gender that gave us Sarah Palin.

But it has been a bad week for dreamers, hasn't it? The practices of former premier Redford have been revealed in all their dazzling extravagance and presumption -- notably the fake airplane passenger lists submitted by her staff so that the premier and her daughter could fly alone. Presumably any staff members attempting to take empty seats would be stopped by the premier's plaintive cry: "You sat on Boo Boo!" But psychologists insist imaginary friends are perfectly normal and healthy. Just so long as the pilot is real.

The auditor general's report blamed an "aura of power" for Redford's cavalier attitude. It's a pretty common attribute for political leaders. It just goes with a pantsuit now.

Hillary Clinton speaks of the "glass ceiling," and many prominent voices have argued for increased female participation in politics, which is an undeniably positive thing. But the argument that women are going to be better politicians overall, once offered by the likes of IMF president and former French foreign minister Christine Lagarde, is an eye-roller. There's a certain reverse bigotry to it, a suggestion that a particular sub-group is going to be immune to the evil influences affecting the majority.

It is often argued we need more women in politics to represent women's issues and fight the influence of ignorant morons like former Missouri congressman Todd Akin. But I hope a particular set of genitalia are not required to battle idiots. As part of the fight for equality, we need equal opportunity for women to become involved in politics -- the two just aren't necessarily connected. When women like Sandra Fluke become motivated by the pig-headed asshole-ishness of Rush Limbaugh et al. to get involved in politics and provide a voice for women, it's inspiring. There's just no guarantee women will do a better job of fighting for women's issues (see Palin, Michele Bachmann). It's not a fight that ought to come with gender qualifications.

Female politicians who represent themselves as solely devoted to the cause of gender equality will not be successful anyway. An activist is free to choose an issue and agitate. A woman in politics is, above all, a politician. In her race for California state senate, Fluke has crafted a platform covering a wide array of issues. That's what credible candidates do.

Politicians don't come much more political than Christy Clark. With her glib style and plan to balance the budget with magical LNG fairy dust, Clark is as slippery as a mackerel in a wetsuit. If they ever put her face on a new Mount Rushmore, it would have to be made of Jell-O. But if you really celebrate gender equality in politics, you have to applaud Clark's success. Free speech isn't only for those you agree with and neither is gender equality. More women in politics means more Premier Clarks, more nomination battles like Oakville North-Burlington, and probably more gender-equal abuses of power.

I doubt that it means more planeloads of imaginary friends, though. That one's likely being retired. Alongside crack videos, $90,000 cheques and paper bags full of money, it will stand as premier Redford's proud contribution to our political history. Progress!  [Tyee]

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