Knitting comment ‘deeply offensive’
Keesmaat accuses deputy mayor of sexism
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.
Jennifer Keesmaat called Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong out on his “stick to knitting” statement in an interview Thursday.