Does the media perpetuate the sexualization of women in politics?

Does the media perpetuate the sexualization of women in politics?

Newspapers rank ‘sexy’ female members of Parliament

Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, proudly labels himself a feminist and has taken courageous steps in creating a gender-neutral cabinet and implementing a gender-sensitive budget.

Yet, our Prime Minister’s mishaps in the infamous elbowgate incident, caused journalists and the public to rage with fury. In fact, MP Niki Ashton, in a statement in the House of Commons, said, “I am ashamed to be a witness to the person who holds the highest position in our country do such an act. I want to say that for all of us who witnessed this, this was deeply traumatic. What I will say, if we apply a gendered lens, it is very important that young women in this space feel safe to come here and work here.”

This statement made by Ashton, as well as responses from other MPs, clearly demonstrate the House of Commons’ intolerance for any form of harassment or assault, and that safety for females is a top priority. However, since the beginning of the #MeToo movement in early October, the inappropriate actions of certain members have been brought to the fore.

Apparently, sexual misconduct is the unspoken reality of Parliament Hill, as members of Parliament, journalists, and political staffers alike have been expected to tolerate the inappropriate behaviour of their colleagues for decades.

 Canadian politicians, such as Ontario’s Progressive Conservative leader, Patrick Brown, and minister of sports and persons with disabilities, Kent Kehr, have resigned their leadership positions in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, however they are both still sitting members in their respective party caucuses while investigations are underway.

These recent allegations may be shocking to the average Canadian citizen, but sex is stitched into the daily operations of Parliament Hill. For example, until 2013, The Hill Times released a list of ‘Sexiest MPs in Ottawa,’ ranking both men and women for their physical features. Frank Magazine also used to release a ‘Hotties on the Hill’ list.

On her Twitter feed recently, former NDP staffer Lauren Dobson-Hughes shared her experience of sexual harassment, and how these lists can escalate sexual harassment on Parliament Hill. If this annual occurrence fails to infuriate, simply look to minister of the environment and climate change Catherine McKenna’s Twitter feed, and search for a day where she isn’t called a ‘Climate Barbie.’

While we cannot control the behaviour of individuals, the media must take responsibility in recognizing their misrepresentation of women. This means questioning policies over outfit choice, campaign strategy over relationship status, and professionalism over body shape.

If we, the media, continue to misrepresent women, it’s only natural that the policies and the people who create them will similarly fail to be ‘gender sensitive,’ rather than inclusive of all.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia via CC0

1 Comment

  • Anthony Lenarduzzi February 10, 2018 1:17 pm

    Elbowgate was such a weird occurence, though, glad to see things are finally looking different around sexual assault and parliament!

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