Robyn Benson, PSAC

Standing up: a week of strong women



Rosie Riveter.JPG

…and what still confronts them in politics. In 2013.

Julia Gillard, now the former Prime Minister of Australia, was dumped by her caucus earlier this week. Under Australian parliamentary rules, a caucus may depose its leader.

She was doing poorly in the polls, and an election is coming up in three months, so panic set in. But what caused it all?

Not, apparently, her actual achievements as Prime Minister, during which period she oversaw the passage of a comprehensive disability insurance scheme, the reduction of Australia’s carbon emissions between 8-11%, a comprehensive education overhaul, improvements in indigenous literacy, and an economy that grew by 14%.

Every step of the way, however,she was simply showered with abuse, belittled and ridiculed, for being a woman.

I won’t repeat some of the crasser public insults, which appear to pass for acceptable political discourse in the darker corners of Oz. Let her speak for herself:



And by all accounts that’s not even the half of it.

She paid the price for speaking out. Her support among women remained steady. But male support plummeted.

Can’t happen here? Well, something of the sort already is. The new Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, is a woman, and a lesbian. Here’s what she’s already been subjected to:

A male SUN columnist said the scrutiny of his colleagues would soon make Wynne “run screaming back to men“—managing to be both sexist and homophobic in one phrase. That comment has been excised since, probably more out of fear of backlash than human decency, but it’s likely a glimpse of what’s in store for her.

Two other SUN reporters, both female, have weighed in as well. Christina Blizzard spends a lot of time on Wynne’s wardrobe, a classic ploy to reduce a woman in leadership to her appearance.

Kathleen Wynne is slowly emerging from a severe pant suit chrysalis and turning into a giddy, girly butterfly.


May I repeat? It’s 2013.

Then there’s Sue Anne Levy, a right-wing lesbian, who read that Wynne was attending the flag-raising on June 24 that kicked off Pride Week in Toronto, and sent this vicious Tweet:

@SueAnnLevy: @Kathleen_Wynne Sorry I missed flag raising but was busy getting settled in at QP to keep an eye on all of your agendas, not just gay one.


We can expect a good deal more of this in the future. Why use dog-whistles when you have foghorns?

Finally, you may not have heard of Wendy Davis, a brave Texas lawmaker who faced down the Republican-dominated legislature with a lengthy filibuster against a law that would have dire consequences for women’s reproductive health by virtually outlawing abortion in the state.

A Texas legislator engaging in a filibuster must remain standing at all times, no bathroom breaks, no leaning on the desk, and stay on topic. The filibuster was actually about two hours short of the midnight cut-off, punctuated by points of order from Republicans—including a complaint that a fellow legislator had helped her with her back-brace. Apparently disabled legislators do not have the right to filibuster in Texas.

The remaining time was taken up with fierce procedural battles and a ruckus from hundreds of orange-clad spectators who crowded the galleries, engaging in their own “people’s filibuster.” Voting began after midnight, with an attempt to alter the time-stamp to indicate that it had begun before. But the legislators trying this on were caught at it, and the bill, at least for now, is dead.

The media largely ignored Davis’ heroic effort. CNN preferred to discuss the calorie count of blueberry muffins.

This is 2013. Or did I say that already?

I salute the courage of these women, and their steadfastness, standing up when so many would simply have given up. Win or lose, they did not waver. And that continuing, amazing display of inner strength empowers us all—women and men alike.


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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on June 27, 2013 8:30 AM.

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