There’s Sexism in Canada, and a Blogger to Call It Out

Canada has a different political system from the U.S. but despite the fact they lead the U.S. in ratio of women elected to office those women experience many of the same problems involving media sexism. Which is why British Columbia resident, communications consultant and political campaign junkie Diamond Isinger started blog, Madam Premier, and is tracking all the worst tweets and online comments directed at female premiers (which is sort of an equivalent to being a governor in the U.S.). She also tweets at @diamondisinger.

We interviewed Isinger to find out more about her project and what she’s found so far:

NICI: When did you start this project and what made you want to start it?

Isinger: I started gathering examples a few weeks ago and officially launched the project last Tuesday evening.

I decided to start this project after seeing a lot of nasty sexism online. I spend a lot of time using the internet and social media for both personal interest and work, and I noticed an uptake in hateful sexist posts recently -- possibly because female premiers have had an uptake in their political success in recent times.

NICI: For those who don’t know Canadian politics very well, a premier would be like an equivalent to a governor of a state?

Isinger: Our premiers are the Canadian equivalent of a state governor. They lead our provinces & territories, which are equivalent to states.

We have 10 provinces and 3 territories. Of those 13 total provinces with premiers, 6 of the premiers are women - British Columbia's Christy Clark, Alberta's Alison Redford, Ontario's Kathleen Wynne, Quebec's Pauline Marois, Newfoundland & Labrador's Kathy Dunderdale, and Nunavut's Eva Aariak - almost all of whom have been elected within the last 2 years, thus the "uptake."

NICI: What's been the reaction you've seen since you've started? Has anyone tweeted back an "apology" or any acknowledgement that they felt ashamed about what they posted?

Isinger: There's been an incredible reaction to the project! As of [Tuesday] nearly 31,000 page views, a lot of media attention, and a fantastic dialogue that's been sparked on- and off-line about the continued prevalence of sexism in Canadian politics. In general, it's been extremely positive, with only a handful of predictably nasty comments.

I've received only one message from someone whose tweet I re-posted. They were polite and respectful and simply disagreed that what they had said online was sexist.

NICI: Have you noticed any of the tweets coming from members of the media? Have any media types gotten in trouble for what they've said on their Twitter feeds about women? (of course you just started this last week, so it’s early).

Isinger: I've noticed some people with high follower-counts use sexist language, though often in a more subtle way. Media is also included in that category -- both online and in published commentary, pundits and journalists often undermine female politicians with gendered language, whether they're conscious of it or not.

I can't think of any online-specific examples of media getting in trouble for sexism, but here are a few related items:

- a TV news story that I was quite appalled by awhile back, where they consulted a stylist & psychologist about Premier Christy Clark's wardrobe & lifestyle.

- a radio host caused controversy by asking Premier Kathleen Wynne about her pant suit.

- another radio host caused controversy - and got fired! - for asking Premier Christy Clark how she felt about being a "MILF."

NICI: That's some excellent work calling out online sexism. Continuing to point out the egregious (and ubiquitous) nature of sexism and how its imposed on female leaders is the only way the public will notice there's a problem. You can't change what people won't even acknowledge is happening. This is why "naming it" is a very important first step. It's a great project.

Published by Rachel Larris on 02/19/2013

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