January 28, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 65  

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Has Belinda Stronach’s coverage been sexist?

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

The recent launch of former Magna CEO Belinda Stronach’s campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada has spurred a great deal of media interest, but how are critics receiving her?

“Some of the media attention surrounding her is typical,” said women’s studies lecturer Kim Verwaayan, adding that how Stronach looks and what she is wearing is part of a long history of how females in the public eye are identified. “This is what Belinda Stronach is experiencing.

“There are some politicians who are calling for more attention to her platform,” Verwaayan said, adding this is a “good” thing, as Stronach should be elected based on her ideas, not her hairstyle.

Paul Nesbitt-Larking, professor of political science at Huron University College, said he was concerned there was a lack of fair media coverage. “I’m kind of anxious at the way she’s being treated in the media. There are comments being made about her that are pretty cutting and unkind — some of them have been sexist.”

“Canadian politics has not been very welcoming to women, especially at the federal level,” said Western history professor Monda Halpern. “Women have had more success locally rather than nationally. She’s in for a fight.

“Politics for women has been an uphill battle — they just haven’t had the resources or money. The political sphere has a long way to go in making women feel welcome in national politics,” she said.

Halpern also referenced Kim Campbell’s short reign as prime minister in 1993, saying there are many cases where female politicians have inherited faulty political parties and then been only to be blamed for the ensuing disasters.

Nesbitt-Larking noted a trend in Canadian political history that may, however, work in Stronach’s favour in the upcoming race.

“The first thing to remind ourselves of is Canadian political parties have always been leader-centred; this gives an advantage to a leader who can come along and inspire people with something bold and new,” he said.

—with files from Anton Vidgen



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