Conservative MP Michelle Rempel says she’s tired of having conversations with her female staffers about how to fight sexism, and that it’s up to people engaged in inappropriate behaviour to fix the problem.
On Monday Rempel penned a column on the subject of gender equality, sexism and her own struggles on Parliament Hill for the National Post, outlining what she calls the “everyday sexism” that she still encounters in her role as the elected official for Calgary Nose Hill.
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Rempel describes having her “ass being occasionally grabbed as a way to shock me into submission,” being called a “bitch” when she pushes back against a request or stands her ground on an issue, having her physical appearance linked to her ability to do her job and facing speculation about why she has no children.
“I’m fortunate, though,” Rempel writes. “I haven’t had to overcome obstacles that many other women face.”
The MP points out that she has a supportive romantic partner, a good job with good bosses, has never been in an abusive relationship, has never had to raise children on her own, and is both straight and white.
“So, who am I to tell other women how they should combat everyday sexism? In fact, who are any of us to do the same?”
Rempel says she finds herself mentoring young women in her office about how to push back against inappropriate comments or behaviours, but argues that real change must come from those whose attitudes are stuck in the past.
“If you read my anecdotes and thought, ‘She probably was emotional,’ or, ‘she’s too sensitive,’ you need to change your thinking,” Rempel concludes.
Rempel’s column was generally met with praise on Twitter.
Some users pointed out that even if they aren’t fans of the Albertan MP generally, they agree with her on this issue.
The issue of sexism on Parliament Hill came to the fore in late 2014 when two Liberal MPs were kicked out of caucus after two female New Democrat MPs accused the men of sexual misconduct. An anonymous former parliamentary intern’s account of harassment on the job also contributed to the discussion at the time.
As of December 2014, the conduct of MPs and their political staff became subject to a new harassment policy that covers interactions both at the office and at work-related social gatherings away from Parliament Hill.