Thursday, November 23, 2017

A recap of Metro Conversations #4: Gender in Politics

Last night was the fourth in a series of Metro Conversations. This conversation was called “Nasty Women”: Gender in Politics. The M. Wright Art Gallery Room in Port Coquitlam was packed with people who came to talk about the challenges and barriers women face just become of their gender, and how we can make things better.

Last night's Metro Conversations in Port Coquitlam. Select image to enlarge.

Councillors Laura Dupont and Glenn Pollock from the City of Port Coquitlam, Bonita Zarillo from the City of Coquitlam, and Mayor Nicole Read from the City of Maple Ridge were the panel members.

The following video is of last night’s conversation. The audio is crystal clear; there should be no issue hearing all the participants.

Nasty Women: Gender in Politics

Nasty Women: Gender in Politics, featuring panelists, Mayor of Maple Ridge, Nicole Read, Councillors Laura Dupont & Glenn Pollock of Port Coquitlam, and Councillor Bonita Zarrillo of Coquitlam.

Posted by Metro Conversations on Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I’ve had a few people say some mean-spirited things about me since being elected. What’s been said about me pales in comparison to what some people have said about Mayor Nicole Read. Mayor Read read some comments from social media about her out loud last night. It was truly distributing to hear. She noted that strong women are called a host of nasty names while strong men are celebrated. Disagreeing about policy is one thing, attacking people because of their gender is another.

Council Zarillo talked about the “old boys club” in local government, giving an example. After the end of council meetings, she said that her fellow council members would go to the mayor’s office to have an after-council drink. This made her uncomfortable, and wasn’t something she wanted to do. She said that she stopped going to this after council session for awhile, but that by not going, it alienated her from the rest of council.

Councillors Pollock’s main message was how men in power can support women in politics, and women who would be interested in entering into politics. He noted that there is not enough women who put their names forward to run in the first place, and that this must be addressed. Councillors Dupont talked about the need for women to work together, and the importance of having conversations like this one to ensure that we continue to move forward to having governments that are representative of our population.

Some of the people who attended the conversation talked about the challenges of being a visible or sexual minority, and how combined with being a woman, adds additional barriers in politics.

One of the key takeaways for me from the conversation was the power of language. It can be used to build up or tear down people, and is as powerful as physical acts. Talking about people respectfully is certainly a step in the right direction. People in power also have an obligation to call out others who use language that disempowers.

I strongly recommend that you listen to last night’s conversation. It was insightful.

1 comment:

Frankly Speaking said...

This is an issue I have long been interested in and have paid attention to in 40 years of covering municipal politics. I think there are fewer barriers to women being elected today then there were 40 years ago, but there is much more nastiness in general - much of which is directly attributable to social media, and indirectly to TV, movies and American politics. I don't think having a drink in the mayor's office after a meeting is a barrier in any way - discussion after a meeting is a good way of easing tensions and building collegial relationships. If someone chooses not to go to that, that is their decision. A pro-active way to handle it might be to arrange for another after-council gathering place, say in a coffee shop, and ask the mayor for help in setting it up. In Langley, both Iris Mooney and Muriel Arnason, the first women elected to City council and Township council respectively, faced significant barriers in being elected and in doing their jobs. I wrote about this in a column for The Langley Times earlier this year: