Meeting Courage with Courage: Valuing Women's Lives in Politics

Of the fifteen OneCity Organizing Committee members, seven of us are women under the age of forty. Needless to say, the sudden resignation of Trish Kelly as a Vision Vancouver Park Board candidate has, as they say, hit close to home.

The seven of us are the daughters of women who, since the sixties and seventies, have fought for a seat at the table – and in many cases, won. We are recognized for our work and are valued for our participation in our communities. Many of us have partners who do their share of the housework, and most of us have or will take maternity leaves and other hard-won benefits. We see people like us in positions of power. We also know that there are fights yet ahead. Women working in and out of politics face judgment based on their appearance, age, family situation, gender identity and sexuality, far more than men do. As younger women, many of us have had to fight harder than men do to legitimize ourselves in the workplace and in our community lives. This struggle broadens our perspective, sharpens our compassion, and brings us together. We simply can not afford to remain silent on this matter. There is too much at stake.

The seven of us know that, should we decide to run for public office one day, we can expect to see any number of things dredged up, especially in the feeding frenzy that is social media. Perhaps it will be over some article we wrote in university; whom we dated, or whom we didn’t date; whether it’s okay for a woman with younger kids to enter into public life; images of us dancing on an art car at Burning Man; private photos that we took with a former partner; our hair, our weight, our clothes, or whether we’re shrill and angry when we assert our position on an issue. It takes a courageous woman to stand for election, to declare that her voice has worth, in the face of such attacks.

For real social change, institutions need to meet the courage of these women candidates with courage of their own – to stand with women through personal attacks, and to call out the attackers. At OneCity, we found it chilling that the decision-makers who hold power at Vision failed to act to affirm their support for Trish Kelly. Political parties need to say loudly and repeatedly that a woman’s (or anyone’s) appearance, private life, gender identity and sexuality do not diminish their worth as a candidate. In fact, progressive political parties need to fully embrace the diversity and sex-positive activism of women. We want to build a world where women candidates' whole lives are valued, where a woman’s history, experiences, and choices are recognized as making her the person she is today.

Alison Atkinson; Anna Chudnovsky; Cara Ng; Christine Boyle; Kyla Epstein; Mia Edbrooke; and Thi Vu. Members of the OneCity Organizing Committee

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