Saturday, December 17, 2005

Polite society and a woman's place

If you can't stand the heat . . .

I love argument, I love debate. I don't expect anyone just to sit there and
agree with me, that's not their job. --
Margaret Thatcher

During tonight's debate, in response to a question about the lack of civility in the House of Commons, Jack Layton and Paul Martin concurred that if you want parliament to be more civilised, the answer is to elect more women.

Maybe we could make Question Period one big coffee klatch. We could all bring our knitting, and when things are going bad we'll share cheesecake or ice cream and when we're done for the day we can do the group hug thing. We could discuss movies or books instead of politics, because in politics people disagree and that would be mean. We can't have mean. No, not with ladies present. --What a shockingly sexist attitude.

Some of the nicest people I've ever met were men and many of the nastiest were women. Rude comes in both genders and is irrelevant to an ability to govern. Polite people would elevate the tone of the house -- not just polite women.

Paul Martin actually suggested that women he's met have said to him that they would consider running for politics except for the behaviour in the House of Commons at Question Period.

Most women I've seen in action in the House could hold their own -- and anyone who can't doesn't deserve to be there. Diane Albonzy, Rona Ambrose, Sheila Copps, Elsie Wayne, Libby Davies, Deborah Grey, and even Carolyn Parrish -- strong women have served this country without fretting over the verbal sparring that occurs when the government has to face its critics during QP.

Too many people have a misguided notion of what QP is all about. It's all theatrics. The questions are submitted ahead of time and the answers are well-scripted by research teams. It's raucous and generally unproductive -- but it isn't what 'makes this government work'. All the work is done behind the scenes in committees etc.

The suggestion that women would elevate the tone might have been an attempt at flattery, but it reeks of paternalism and condescension. It stereotypes woman as gracious and sweet -- virtues yes, but hardly universal to the gender and the implication by two political leaders, that these qualities are exclusive to women and might somehow transform the workings of the House, does a great disservice to the gentlemen and strong women who already participate in the governance of this country and manage to do so with good manners.

The most shocking thing about this, is that while Jack Layton and his members do seem to try to maintain dignity and decorum in the House, the most vilely offensive comments most often come from the Liberal side -- and more often than not they are directed at women on the Conservative side.

Women, though perfectly capable of all aspects of governing -- are not the answer to changing the timbre of the House. If we want members of parliament to be respectful to one another, they must first be respectable. With our current governing party, this is not the case.

Scott Brison for one, has proved to be as uncivilised out in the real world as he is in the House. It isn't a matter of gender, it's about manners. I'd much prefer the antics during question period to having a sitting MP tell a member of his constituency that she could kiss his ass. Politics is a dirty game but it's this sort of trash talk outside of the House the Liberals should be worried about -- and if he's so concerned about the sensibilities of women -- why has Martin remained quiet about this ignorant remark made to a woman by one of his Cabinet Ministers? Why has there been no apology forthcoming?

And while we're at it, why was it a woman (Jean Augustine) who was asked to step aside in favour of Michael Ignatieff?

Women don't need a patronising attitude from two liberal political leaders in order to be confident about our abilities to serve in government -- we need to be given strong roles where our voices will be heard. The NDP, the Bloc and the Conservatives all realise this and have given women significant and prominent roles. Of all the parties, the one severely lacking in that department is the Liberal Party.

More talk, less action -- the Liberal way of governing.



The Arabian Knight said...

One of the reasons why I don't comment on your blog anymore is because I sounded like a broken record after each post :)
"Right on!"
"Excellent point!"
"Hit the nail on the head"

So, for future reference just pick one of the comments above, and consider it a comment from me. ;)

I'm surprised no newspaper has given you a column already.

Robyn said...

Your comments are dead-on. Being a woman myself, I just rolled my eyes when Layton and Martin tried to stroke women's egos in the debate last night. And like you I felt it was patronizing and full of bs. Neither men, nor women, have a monopoly on politeness and I've been shocked at the rudeness of people of both sexes before.
Furthermore, when Layton says he's going to get more women into parliament what does he mean? Making a rule that riding associations can only elect female candidates to run for their party? Affirmative action?

ndp nadine said...

canadianna, perhaps you've heard of something called testosterone. It's a biological fact that men have a greater proclivity to being rowdy and loud and obnoxious than women. It's the nature of the beast and that's all Jack was alluding to. I wasn't offended at all.
Having greater gender balance in politics is important to deal with women's issues that have gone ignored. The NDP has the most gender balanced caucus and it's no coincidence that important women's issues have been addressed only with the influence of the NDP.

valiantmauz said...

Oh the hilarity. Clearly Mssrs. Martin and Layton haven't spent time in an exclusively female environment, or they'd know we can be just as tough, just as rude, just as cruel and just as offensive as men.

Why not just follow the example of leaders like Ed Broadbent and John Tory, gentlemen both? A little self-restraint goes a heckuva long way ...

Wasn't terribly impressed with the "debate" - everytime I watch one I wind up screaming at the television: "You didn't answer the question! What about the QUESTION, dammit!?"

Canadi-anna said...

NDP nadine - As valiantmauz noted, women can be just as rowdy, just as rude - hormones are an excuse for bad manners for either sex.
Gender balance, when it's orchestrated, is not balance at all. It's simply a pretense at equality, not the real thing.
Both genders, when they enter the House of Commons should be expected to behave with dignity.
More estrogen isn't going to solve things, higher expectations are.
valiantmauz -- I agree. When the blind woman who hadn't worked in years asked how income tax cuts could benefit her -- he totally ignored her circumstances (not making enough to pay taxes) and instead suggested ways she could find a job and pay her own way -- that might be a good thing, but it didn't answer the question and made assumptions about her situation.

Raging Ranter said...

Despite my being impaired by surging testosterone, I once again must agree with you. (Takes five minutes to trash living room, returns to computer.)Has anyone listened to the repulsive, vile character assassination Belinda Stronach has been spewing about Stephen Harper lately? All because he dared to put her in her place a few times during caucus meetings; something she probably hadn't experienced in years.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the arabian should get published.
ndp nadine ..have you heard of pms? I get tired of hormones being used for excuses. I appreciate the differences between men and women...that is not the problem with the House of is about manners.VF