It’s too bad that Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott didn’t know about The Cooper Review before they took on the Prime Minister. Created in 2014 by comedian Sarah Cooper, the website provides a satirical look at office and business life. While not focused exclusively on women, some of the cleverest work tackles the sexism and glass ceiling that many women come up against in their employment.
Cooper has recently published a book called “How to be successful without hurting men’s feelings,” that sets out several strategies for GAWF (getting ahead while female). The book also includes blank pages for doodling while men are talking in meetings and a set of wearable moustaches when all other attempts to be one of the boys has failed.
“Nine non-threatening leadership strategies for women” makes some suggestions for women who want to get ahead without upsetting the men in the workplace:
- Use lots of emojis and exclamation marks in emails so you don’t come across as too clear or direct. This will make you seem more approachable.
- Encourage mansplaining, no matter how much more you know about something than the man who wants to tell you all about it and even if you were the one who taught him what he now wants to teach you.
- When sharing an idea, don’t say “I have an idea.” That’s too threatening. “Overconfidence is a killer . . . downplay your ideas.” Try something less threatening, like “I’m just thinking out loud here. . . “ and use words like random, dumb and crazy to describe your idea.
- Never challenge a sexist comment. If you can’t just enjoy it, then at least contribute an awkward laugh.
If only JWR had taken note and included some smiley faces in her texts about SNC-Lavalin and listened more carefully when the PM explained that, because he was an MP from Quebec, Lavalin had to be made happy, she might still be in the caucus and cabinet.
It’s 2019 now
Sexism in politics is hardly a new story, and the treatment of JWP and JP in recent months only serves to confirm what we already know. However, many of us had expected better from a PM who identified himself publicly as a feminist and started his term by creating a cabinet with gender parity because, in his words, “it’s 2015.”
Despite his commitment to women’s equality, his government has failed to move forward on such ideas as an end to night sittings and remote votings which, while particularly benefitting women MPs with responsibilities for young children, would help everyone in the House of Commons create work/personal life boundaries. Little action has been taken on ongoing sexual harassment of women MPs or to set guidelines to eliminate the sexism that some MPs seem to think is a necessary component of heckling.
Some of the criticisms levelled at both JWR and JP were distinctly sexist and the PM either took too long to condemn them or did not condemn them at all. JWR was accused of being self-centred, ambitious and difficult to get along with for actions and statements that, had she been a man, would have been accepted as part of a politician getting the job done.
Liberal MP Jati Sidhu commented that JWR “couldn’t handle the stress” of her position. While he eventually apologized, his remarks show that there are still some who subscribe to stereotypes about women who challenge the status quo.
Bill Morneau, when commenting on JP’s resignation from the cabinet, noted her close friendship with JWR as the reason. While there is plenty to admire in an act of solidarity, these remarks were intended to minimize the seriousness of the resignation and to deflect attention away from the substantive content of Philpott’s letter.
We deserve more than just words
“Canada may not be as committed to gender equality as the Prime Minister wants the world to believe. . . the problem with running on a feminist agenda is that when two of your strongest female cabinet members resign, you face something of a feminist reckoning.”
Jody Wilson-Rabould, Jane Philpott and Celina Caesar-Chavannes all challenged the PM’s public face and paid a big price for doing so. Now, it is time for Trudeau to learn his own lesson and take action on his promise that his is a feminist government.