This week, famous actor Emma Watson gave an emotional speech before the United Nations in order to introduce a new campaign called “HeForShe“. This campaign is aimed towards getting men involved in stopping violence against women. She rightfully pointed out that gender equality is not just a women’s issue, but everyone’s. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms Watson on this subject, but I think the issue goes deeper than most give credit.
As I read about the speech, some events from the last few weeks echoed in my head — things that had happened during our current election campaign and how locally some have been doing a poor job of looking at the world as though we’re all equals.
It started on July 30 when Monaghan Ward Council Candidate Jocasta Boone posted a graphic to her Facebook page (since removed) quoting a constituent who implied he/she would support Boone because she wasn’t “an old white guy”. Given the fact that the graphic is now gone, I think this is proof positive that those involved in Boone’s campaign realized the bone-headed mistake.
Then, on September 2, Mike Lacey of myKawartha.com wrote an article asking if Maryam Monsef could be the next mayor of Peterborough. In it, Lacey explains that she has a disadvantage because of her age and lack of experience. While I’ll give you the fact that Monsef doesn’t have political experience, her age shouldn’t be a factor and printing it perpetuates the same ageism as Boone’s “old white guy” graphic.
Then, on September 10, Monsef’s Twitter account — which I don’t believe is run by Monsef anymore — tweeted out a link to a blog post that was so poorly written that I don’t want to link to it. In this anonymous blog post, the author says: “Monsef’s announcement immediately drew more attention and provoked more excitement than Bennett’s. Of course, young women with a hint of the exotic will attract more interest than balding old businessmen any day of the week”.
Now I’m a man and I’m insulted for Monsef because this statement basically says that support for her is almost a given because she’s young and attractive. It also refers to our existing Mayor as a “balding old businessman”.
This blog post also went on to insinuate that anyone that comes from wealth just doesn’t have the best interests of a city in mind the same way someone from a poor background would. Another sentiment that is so unbelievably full of crap that I think my computer screen started to smell.
Then The Peterborough Examiner ran a piece about how an “advocate” was upset over an “inappropriate” Facebook post that Monsef had made. Monsef had shared a graphic which read “RIP the 2,796 American people that lost their lives on 9/11 and RIP the 48,644 Afghan and 1,690,903 Iraqi that paid the ultimate price for a crime they didn’t commit & the tens of thousands of Palestinians who experience this every day”. This “advocate” was outraged, saying that this was insensitive to veterans and that Monsef needed to explain herself.
Well, here’s the thing “advocate”: it’s my opinion that if Monsef wasn’t a person of Afghan descent, you wouldn’t have taken issue with it. I think that the post on Monsef’s Facebook page highlights the often-forgotten victims of war and is not in any way anti-American, anti-Canadian, or anti-troops. I wrote on Twitter that if you find that quote offensive, than you need to reevaluate the statement and you likely yell at your television a lot; I still believe both of those to be true.
So here’s the deal, Peterborough: I look at the candidates running for council and I see people. I don’t see women or men, young or old, rich or not rich, white or ethnic. I see the content of people’s characters, their accomplishments, and the qualifications that they either have or do not have to run for office.
Is someone’s dedication and love for a community somehow linked to their age? Does the amount of money in someone’s bank account define their character as a human being? Does someone’s gender define if they’re qualified to be in politics? If you need to think about the answers to any of those questions, then I pity anyone who knows you.
This election isn’t about women and men running against each other and it isn’t about young people running against old. It’s about differing points of views running against each other. The sexism and ageism that has run rampant in this campaign so far is sickening and it’s not relegated to only white male offenders — it’s coming from women as well.
I think everyone needs to take a giant step back for a moment and think about their statements before they make them because, ultimately, if men and women alike can’t get past the colour of our skin, the money in our banks, or our genders, then we are all breeding intolerance and we fail miserably at living equally.