EDMONTON – Grade 12 student Eunice Gatama has a dream of, one day, working with the United Nations.
Like thousands of others, Gatama listened to Sandra Jansen speak in the Alberta legislature on Tuesday.
As a budding politician, what she heard upset her.
“It made me feel really disappointed,” Gatama said. ” We’re still using the cliché comments like, ‘go back into the kitchen. You’re a woman.'”
Jansen has been the target of abusive, sexist online attacks during her run for the PC leadership and subsequent decision to cross the floor to the NDP.
In her Tuesday speech, Jansen read some of those comments; things like: she “should stay in the kitchen where she belongs,” or “Now you have two blonde bimbos in a party that is clueless.”
On Wednesday, Jansen said she had been given a security detail because of some of the threats she received.
Amidst all this, Jansen’s biggest fear “is that young women are watching this and they’re making the decision not to go into public life because of what they’re seeing right now.”
So, Global News decided to speak with two young women and one young man about just that.
Gatama was joined by Olivia Ostapowicz and Navneet Chand for the discussion. All three are Grade 12 students at Archbishop MacDonald High School.
All three want a career in public service and these reported comments and attacks bother them.
“Knowing that if I do enter that field, there will be some concerns and there will be some issues… That’s a concern,” Chand said.
The recent attacks directed at Jansen aren’t the only ones, of late.
Premier Rachel Notley has repeatedly been the target of misogynistic and violent social media posts.
The attacks have not been limited to women, either.
Wildrose MLA, Derek Filderbrandt received a tweet calling him a “terrible human being. Please go kill yourself.”
All three students expect attacks if they enter politics. But there’s also a tone of defiance coming from them.
“It doesn’t scare me off at all. It makes me want to go into politics even more,” Ostapowicz said. “You have to prove them wrong.”
“I am worried about it,” Gatama said, “but they can say what they want. That’s not going to stop me.”
The three students also believe time may lessen the quantity of online attacks.
They say today’s youth are taught far more about bullying and respect than other generations were. As a result, Gatama feels as today’s youth grows up, they could dilute the hate-filled comment sections.
“I’m surrounded by people of my generation and we’re different from the older generation,” Gatama said.
Indeed, it seems some of the recent offending messages may be linked to an older demographic. One of the tweets directed at Jansen calls her a “dumb broad” that belongs with “the rest of the queers.”
Open the writer’s Facebook profile and there’s an earlier post describing how she looks forward to her grandchildren teaching her more about Facebook.
“I think we definitely are more well-adjusted to it,” Ostapowicz said.
In the meantime, the students say all that can be done is to keep talking and teaching. The recent outrage helps.
“I do feel like this has fuelled those passions to show that there are actions that can be taken,” Chand said. “Let’s go forward with them.”
“You have to teach the younger generations, the kids getting into elementary school right now, junior high, even high school kids,” Ostapowicz added. “It’s not too late for any of us.”
While all three hope for the best over their careers, there’s still some pessimism for right now.
Gatama summarizes those emotions in just four words: “Be prepared for hate.”