Women are more likely to push for policies that disproportionately affect women, child care, elder care, equal pay, issues of inclusivity and social justice. I will accept that, although the evidence is scant.
All of these statements may have varying degrees of legitimacy, but, overwhelmingly, the most successful female politicians I have encountered in the past 25 years found this success by playing hard and tough under traditional (men’s) rules.
If women politicians practice the craft so differently, bring a softer focus, why, when you do a Google search on the Liberal leadership pre-convention frontrunner “Sandra Pupatello” and “pit bull” do you stop counting the references from fatigue at 38 hits?
The women who have risen to the top of their craft were among the toughest persons of either gender I have ever encountered.
I watched Hillary Clinton, reputedly the world’s most admired woman, battle Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination south of the border for eight months in 2008, refusing to fold, rising from the political dead zone time and time again.
You don’t think she could play by the traditional, bare knuckles rules? Then you weren’t in Myrtle Beach, S.C., debate room the night when she accused Obama of representing a slum landlord in inner city Chicago.
You want to know what it’s like to cross Hillary Clinton? Ask Republican Ron Johnson, who pushed her a little too hard last week at Congressional hearings on the Benghazi attack on the U.S. consulate.
Hamilton Liberal Sheila Copps rose to deputy prime minister, but she was as tough and partisan a politician as any generation produced, using the traditional trifecta of championing her hometown, belittling her opposition and delivering pro-Liberal bromides at every opportunity.
Polarizing? Yes. A Rat Packer? Yes. But read her resume.
She may be forgotten now, but Deborah Grey, the Harley-Davidson-riding, steely woman from rural Alberta endured a lonely vigil for two years as the first and only Reform MP, ostracized, mocked and diminished.
She became the party’s deputy leader, then its interim leader, and when Stockwell Day became the leader of her party, Grey was the first to bell the cat, leading a caucus revolt that finally forced Day out.
The title of her memoir, Never Retreat, Never Apologize, Never Explain, doesn’t sound like the softer, more empathetic touch that women, we are told, bring to politics.
All these women endured attacks that touched on gender.
Clinton was branded manipulative and accused of manufacturing tears on the eve of a crucial primary.
Copps was “shrill.” Grey’s intelligence was questioned by her opponents.
All eyes are now on Kathleen Wynne, but the gender question has already played out across the provincial canvas in Alberta.
She will need to be a leader and her gender is irrelevant. As it should be.