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Belittling Belinda

We're told she's a 'blonde bombshell heartbreaking attractive dipstick whore.' Nothing gender specific, of course.

By Shannon Rupp 18 May 2005 | TheTyee.ca
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How could she?!

The joke about Hollywood is that it’s high school with money, and the same could be said about politics.

Take Belinda Stronach’s leap to the Liberals. It’s being discussed in terms usually reserved for gossip about the popular high school girl who ditches her not-quite-as-appealing boyfriend and his loser pals.

A headline search on the day she dumped the Conservatives yielded this gem from the Toronto Star: "Stronach leaves boyfriend as well as Tories."

Yeah, that’s the news: she ditched her erstwhile boyfriend, Peter MacKay. The story came from Canadian Press, the wire service noted for its accurate reporting and deadly dull copy. True-to-form, they got the facts right and missed the truth. Subsequent news stories noted that she and the Conservative deputy leader were "on a break," which is code-speak among women for "I’m ditching you but I want you to go quietly and not make a scene." I’m guessing Stronach had figured out weeks ago what the rest of us already knew: she wasn’t just in the wrong clique, she was slumming.

Wives and hussies

Some media seem to think this story is just the lure for capturing the People-reading riff-raff normally preoccupied with the Brad-and-Jen break-up. The Star’s follow-up story was headlined: Break with party breaks a heart? Parliament Hill romance on rocks/Peter MacKay goes into hiding. Over at the National Post, Stronach is dubbed "Blonde Bombshell." Now, I’m betting on "Blonde Ambition" showing up somewhere -- has anyone spotted it yet? If so, please send the clip: I have a pricey lunch riding on it.

As astounding as the tone of the news coverage has been, it’s got nothing on the adolescent woman-hating quotes coming from Harper and the boys -- and you’ll note it was all boys belittling Belinda.

A pissed off Harper told a news conference: "I told my wife only a few days ago that I thought it had become obvious to Belinda that her leadership ambitions would not be reached in this party regardless of whether or not we won the next election."

Translation: Harper’s (nameless) wife is a good little helpmate standing behind her man and supporting his career not like that driven hussy Stronach.

"There’s no grand principle involved in this decision, just ambition," Harper said.

Imagine that: an ambitious politician -- who’d a thunk it? Is Harper saying he isn’t ambitious? Or is he saying it’s okay for men to be ambitious but not women?

I’m guessing it’s the latter because Stronach’s femininity is clearly on trial here.

The basic points

The commentary hit some classic woman-hating points.

1. Belinda is not deferential. She’s being taken to task for having the audacity to make a career decision without consulting her boyfriend. Not her husband, you’ll note, or even her life-partner. No, she’s being pilloried for not consulting the guy she used to date. This after she had the nerve to run for leader.

2. Belinda is not standing by her man. (See number 1.) Although it’s curious that the Conservatives would bring up the issue of loyalty given that they seem to have misunderstood their role as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. I would think that loyalty automatically dictates that they not get into bed with Gilles Duceppe’s Bloc Quebecois. That way lies social diseases, like separation. And I think it’s fair to say that it’s wrong to pimp out Canada just so Harper can have an early shot at power.

3. Belinda is a slut. "I said that she whored herself out for power, that's what she did," said Tony Abbott, a Christian fundamentalist minister and Alberta MLA. Saskatchewan Tory Maurice Vellacott told the Regina Leader-Post that "Some people prostitute themselves for different costs or different prices."

"Whoring oneself out for power" -- that’s practically the definition of a politician. And it appears to be a fair description of Harper’s Conservatives, given their canoodling with the Bloc. I’m not quite sure why the Tory boys feel a need to sling this mud, except for the opportunity to label a woman promiscuous. Maybe it’s that fundamentalist Christian influence? I’ll bet someone somewhere in Toryland used the term Jezebel too.

4. She’s a dimwitted slut.

“I think she sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick,” said Ontario MPP Bob Runciman. “An attractive one, but still a dipstick.”

"I've never really noticed complexity to be Belinda's strong point," Harper said. Really Stephen? She out-maneuvered you: what does that suggest about your grasp of complex issues?

5. She’s a heartless, manipulative slut. "My heart's a little banged up but that will heal," MacKay confessed to CBC. "I had no idea. I knew she was unhappy."

You were on a break? You knew she was unhappy? But still, you had no idea? Uh-huh. And these clowns have the audacity to claim Belinda’s not too bright?

Her last name is Stronach

And while we’re on the subject, why does everyone and his dog -- from reporters to voters -- feel entitled to call Stronach "Belinda?" Harper is Harper, Martin is Martin, and Duceppe is That Separatist Bastard -- but female politicians are often referred to by their first names. Generally, that’s how one addresses children, servants, and other inferiors while figures of authority are entitled to be called by their surnames -- or would that be sir-names?

It’s obvious that Stronach saw that rare, perfect opportunity in which her career ambitions matched her political obligations and she seized it -- arguably the sign of a good politician. She could serve her constituents by supporting a budget that’s in their best interests, serve her country by blocking the Bloc’s opportunity to separate, serve good Canadian liberal democratic values by defending the rights of women and minorities, and serve herself a cabinet position -- albeit in a government on the verge of going down.

To an outsider her move looks both savvy and responsible -- which, frankly, is a rare sight among Stephen’s Conservatives.

There’s no getting around the sexism in Belindagate which, ironically, reinforces exactly what Stronach says about the Conservative party. They’re not inclusive. They’re indifferent to women’s issues, which explains their failure with women voters. They don’t understand the complexities of Canada -- or complexities of any sort, judging by their comments.

Too young to govern

To this I would add that their reaction to Stronach’s defection reveals again that Stephen’s Conservatives are unfit to govern: they’re incompetent as politicians, and just plain, ordinary, garden-variety stupid as people.

Exposed as power-hungry hypocrites, all the Conservatives can do is raise the spectre of sexist stereotypes as their defence?

Oh yeah, that’s just what we need: a bunch of guys with the mindset of socially and intellectually retarded teenagers running the country.

Politics may be just another case of high school with money, but if Stephen’s Conservatives want to get their hands on our dough we should require that they at least pretend to be intelligent adults. That would start with putting a ban on the sexist cracks.

Shannon Rupp is a frequent contributor to The Tyee and writes for many other publications.  [Tyee]

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