Knit­ting com­ment ‘deeply of­fen­sive’

Keesmaat ac­cuses deputy mayor of sex­ism

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - TORONTO -

John Tory’s deputy mayor Den­zil Min­nan-Wong is be­ing crit­i­cized for what’s be­ing called a sex­ist com­ment con­cern­ing de­part­ing chief plan­ner Jen­nifer Keesmaat.

As quoted in the Toronto Sun last week, Min­nan-Wong, who has pub­licly feuded with Keesmaat be­fore, said he wants the next chief plan­ner to “stick to the knit­ting” in per­form­ing the role at city hall.

Keesmaat called Min­nanWong out on the state­ment in an in­ter­view on CBC’s Metro Morn­ing on Thurs­day.

“I’m not going to mince words. He might as well have told me to go back to the kitchen. And just so you know, I’ve never been there. I’m not a very good cook,” she said. “I think it’s a deeply of­fen­sive com­ment.”

Min­nan-Wong is­sued an apol­ogy hours later af­ter be­ing con­tacted by a re­porter.

“I ex­plic­itly stated that I was not com­ment­ing on the cur- rent and re­tir­ing chief plan­ner,” Min­nan-Wong said in an email about the Sun col­umn. “How­ever, I un­re­servedly apol­o­gize to Ms. Keesmaat or anyone who may have taken of­fence to com­ments I made that were taken out of con­text.”

He went on to say the next chief plan­ner “needs to fo­cus in on plan­ning and im­prov­ing the man­age­ment of a large plan­ning depart­ment.”

On Twit­ter, sev­eral coun­cil­lors resur­faced the Sun ar­ti­cle Thurs­day morn­ing to de­nounce Min­nan-Wong’s com­ments.

“Chief Plan­ner @jen_­keesmaat has done great things to make TO more walk­a­ble, liv­able, vi­brant!” wrote Coun­cil­lor Mary-Mar­garet McMa­hon. “No need 4 sex­ist com­ments @Den­zilMW #Knit­ting.”

“How can Mayor @JohnTory con­tinue to sup­port deputy mayor?” asked Coun­cil­lor Mike Lay­ton.

“Mayor must not stand for these sex­ist com­ments from HIS hand-picked team.”

Tory was asked last week whether he agreed with Min­nan-Wong’s state­ment.

He said “knit­ting” has a “very broad def­i­ni­tion” and went on to equate “knit­ting,” or the es­sen­tial el­e­ments of the chief plan­ner’s job, to city-build­ing. He then praised ex­am­ples of Keesmaat’s work in that re­spect.

“If that’s knit­ting, which I be­lieve it is, then I guess Ms. Keesmaat’s suc­ces­sor will have Jen­nifer Keesmaat lots of knit­ting to do,” said Tory.

In 2012, Min­nan-Wong said the med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health Dr. David McKe­own should also “stick to his knit­ting,” as quoted in The Globe and Mail.

Other politi­cians have fallen afoul of the phrase. In 2006, Peter MacKay, then deputy leader of the Con­ser­va­tive party, told Nova Sco­tia MP Alexa McDonough to “stick to her knit­ting,” CBC re­ported. Af­ter she ac­cused him of mak­ing a “sex­ist slur,” MacKay apol­o­gized.

It’s not clear the anal­ogy is nec­es­sar­ily sex­ist, an ex­pert notes.

“Be­cause the phrase ‘stick to one’s knit­ting’ was pop­u­lar­ized by Tom Pe­ters in his book about ex­cel­lent lead­ers, you could ar­gue that it isn’t sex­ist,” said Rieky Stu­art, an as­so­ci­ate at the non-profit Gen­der at Work.

I’m not going to mince words. He might as well have told me to go back to the kitchen.

Vince TaloTTa/TorsTar news ser­Vice

Jen­nifer Keesmaat called Deputy Mayor Den­zil Min­nan-Wong out on his “stick to knit­ting” state­ment in an in­ter­view Thurs­day.

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