What the Ardern, Sturgeon resignations show about the ‘tightrope’ women walk in politics – National

The recent resignations of two prominent world leaders, both women, have sparked a debate over “additional” pressure on women politicians and whether enough steps are being taken to remove the hurdles they face. I am questioning.

Last week, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon announced that he was resigning after more than eight years in office for acknowledging the “physical and mental effects” of his position.

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Sturgeon said the brutality of modern politics has taken a toll on him and he can no longer promise to give “all the energy” the job requires.

Her comments echo what Jacinda Ardern said when she stepped down as New Zealand’s prime minister in January, saying, “I’m no longer in the tank.”

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These recent resignations come as no surprise to Sarah Kaplan, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute for Gender Economics at the University of Toronto. The COVID-19 pandemic is a “very stressful” time for political leaders, she said.

“I’m surprised more leaders haven’t decided to step down,” she told Global News.

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Female politicians, including Canada’s female leaders, face “additional scrutiny and challenges” compared to their male colleagues, which can come at a cost.

Elizabeth McCallion, who is pursuing a PhD in political science from Queen’s University, said, “Being a female leader is harder in many ways because there’s this kind of balance between being a woman and being a leader. because we are walking a tightrope.”

“It’s not a welcoming environment for women,” she told Global News, because politics is deeply rooted in masculine norms, including heckling and aggressive behavior.

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Politicians and political commentators say it’s a worrying trend as women in public office around the world continue to face backlash, misogyny and personal attacks.

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Women are also increasing in the Canadian parliament, with women making up 30% of the House of Commons, but growth comes with challenges.

When former Liberal MP Katherine McKenna became Canada’s environment minister in 2015, it was no secret that her political obligations related to tackling climate change included defending herself as a woman. I didn’t.

Shortly after she became minister, McKenna began facing online harassment and was nicknamed “Climate Barbie” because of her blonde hair.

Harassment has also moved offline. Sometime in 2017someone mailed a Barbie doll to her office.

“It was really… annoying… because… I had a big job. was,” she told Global News.

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‘Reprehensible but not surprising’: Politicians of all kinds accuse Freeland of harassment

Last August, Alberta’s Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland was verbally attacked after stepping into an elevator at City Hall in Grande Prairie.

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He throws profanity at her, calling her a “traitor”, but one woman joins in and tells Freeland, “You don’t belong here.”

For Kaplan, the Canadian case showed that “there is definitely a problem with treating women leaders with respect in the Canadian context.”

Why do women leaders face ‘more stress’?

Kaplan said there is “additional stress” placed on women in male-dominated fields like politics.

I have a family in it research It suggests that balancing parenting and political careers can be difficult, especially for women.

McKenna stepped away from politics in 2021 to spend more time with her children and focus on climate change.

She said it was “really hard” to be away from her family for long periods of time and that she “felt very guilty” at missing out on her children’s events and activities.

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Click to play video: 'Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna leaves politics to focus on climate change'

Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna leaves politics to focus on climate change

Gender norms mean women are often expected to take responsibility for childcare, which is why it’s more difficult for women to pursue political careers, Kaplan said.

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Laurel Collins gave birth to a now 2-year-old daughter during her first term elected as MP for Victoria, British Columbia

An NDP critic on the environment and climate change said that both her mother and her partner’s sister helped raise the children, and that it would have been “impossible” for her to do her job without family support.

“My partner took 14 months off so he could travel to Ottawa with me and my daughter. Without it, I would have found it impossible,” she told Global News. rice field.

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NDP MP Laurel Collins stands during a questioning session in the House of Commons on Capitol Hill in Ottawa February 28, 2020.

Canadian Press/Justin Tan

Collins, like McKenna, Freeland, and many others, also faces her personal attacks on the job.

In 2020, while speaking in parliament on the rights of sex workers, one of her colleagues, a male Conservative MP, asked her if she had considered sex work.

“Now this is a question never asked by men,” she said.

Collins said Canada has a “long way to go” in tackling sexism in the political space.

“We must do more to support women’s participation in politics, remove these barriers and empower women,” she said.

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Conservative MP Michelle Lempel-Garner also noted the “additional weight” women should carry in politics. in Substack’s post The day after Ardern resigned, she compared questions she asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with questions she asked New Zealand Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Ardern has not attributed any part of her decision to the sexism she faced in politics, and I am reluctant to do it on her behalf,” she wrote.

“In fact, unlike Ardern, Trudeau has been asked if he has a baby as a qualification to determine his suitability as prime minister, and if he has met other world leaders because of his age. There was no need, and sex.”

She said the journalist told Prime Minister Ardern and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin that the purpose of the Finnish leader’s first visit to New Zealand was because they were “similar in age” and that “a lot of common things happen.” .”

“We are meeting because we are prime ministers,” Marin replied.

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Ardern, Marin shoots reporters’ question about why they’re meeting: ‘We’re prime ministers’

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, who has been in federal politics for nearly two decades, said she has changed the way she tackles misogyny.

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“I don’t think I’m dealing with it with anger. I’m dealing with it with solutions. Sometimes it’s a little ironic, but solutions,” she told Global News.

“It would have bothered me seven years ago, but now it reacts in a completely different way.”

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Ms Vecchio, chair of the Commission on the Status of Women and Conservative critic of women and gender equality, said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it particularly difficult for women leaders at all levels to balance work and personal lives. I said it’s getting harder.

“This is a time, especially for women, to try to find that balance. Especially as a leader, balance the health of your family and yourself, and the balance of your leadership, whether it’s your country or your community… myself,” she said.

“Trying to find that balance is very difficult.”

Click to play video: 'Canadian government officials face surge in violent threats'

Canadian officials face surge in violent threats

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Representatives moved to a hybrid model, allowing MPs to effectively participate in debates as long as they are in Canada.

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The committee last month recommended that the practice introduced in 2020 be made permanent.

Having more representation and supporters could also help prevent women from being “chosen” and facing political attacks, Kaplan said.

“We need male politicians to stand up and say, ‘This is unacceptable,’ and set their own tone in a way that I don’t think they are,” she said.

“And I think there is a lack of awareness of the difficulties facing female leaders and the need for male leaders to rise up.”

— Using files from Reuters

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