B’ys, Times Up
I believe Sherry Gambinwalsh.
I believe Tracey Perry. I believe Cathy Bennett. I believe Pam Parsons. Whether you voted for them or not, you should believe them too.
It’s easy to dismiss the harassment in government as simply “school yard behavior” or “locker room talk.” Surely we have larger issues to worry about: a struggling economy, Muskrat Falls, or our resource economy in oil and gas and our fisheries.
But this is not a trivial matter for many women in this province.
Harassment in the House of Assembly makes the front page, but it is accompanied by the Snelgrove retrial, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry stop in St. John’s, a wage gap of $0.66 on the dollar, women being the vast majority of minimum wage earners, no access to affordable childcare, the Rumbolt trial, and the devastation of the In Her Name Vigil for missing and murdered women. This is the deafening white noise that follows us through our days, and the correlation between the systemic issues of harassment in our provincial leadership is clear.
Instead of taking the time for a modicum of self-reflection after receiving news that a colleague has brought forward a serious complaint of harassment, or taking a day to speak to family, friends and trusted women in their lives to ask about any changes they should make to be a better man, an improved community representative, and a worthy MHA, we hear, “not me, not my problem,” not in their house.
Watching this behaviour is so incredibly infuriating and disheartening because there is a correlation between the poor status of women in this province and the behaviour of our male elected officials, including these MHAS.
Women know these men are responsible for decisions about when and where we can have an abortion, whether we have access to affordable childcare, if we deserve access to a nurse or legal counsel after a sexual assault, or action towards equal pay for women. And while male MHAS are making entitled statements about not returning to work, women and our children are dealing with imminent food insecurity and homelessness and violence and poverty.
In a time when sexual assault centres are overwhelmed with calls, when women’s centres are inundated with domestic violence survivors coming forward, how can we be expected to turn to any of these men, who refuse accountability, to make decisions about our lives or the supports and services we so desperately rely on.
Let’s call this what it is: entitled toxic masculinity.
Unless we have women in leadership who can be safe and working to their full potential, equal pay for women, women who are given equal opportunity to contribute to the economy, we will never have the innovation in leadership that we need to address all the broader issues in our province — those impacting women and our children directly, and issues that impact us all. Without women living at our full capacity, this province is doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
#Timesup for toxic masculinity to dominate our government. Women: it is time to run for office, to take up space in government offices and departments. We can no longer allow the status quo to be responsible for the critical decisions that affect our quality of lives and that of our children and communities. Reach out to Equal Voice, reach out to the Status of Women Council in your area. We will start running campaign schools.
We will support you. We are 52 per cent of the population in this province and we are coming. B’ys, #Timesup.
Jenny Wright Executive Director, St. John’s Status of Women Council/women’s Centre