‘Sexist’ meme tweet by Jason Kenney draws criticism, spokesperson calls outrage ‘contrived’
A recent tweet by United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership candidate Jason Kenney has garnered criticism from other Twitter users, including one “spectacularly unimpressed” Calgary political scientist.
But Kenney’s camp says what’s “truly offensive” is the NDP’s imposition of new taxes, including a carbon tax.
Kenney tweeted a meme Monday afternoon criticizing the NDP for its implementation of the carbon tax.
In the meme, a man and woman (portrayed as a couple) are seen walking on a city street, with the man turning his head to look at another woman passing by. The woman portrayed as the man’s girlfriend is looking at him with an unimpressed expression on her face.
Many users replied to the tweet, calling it “unbecoming” and “gross,” and saying the tweet was objectifying women.
One of those users was political scientist and University of Calgary associate professor Melanee Thomas, who posted that Kenney’s tweet was “oh so very sexist.”
“I was spectacularly unimpressed,” Thomas told Global News Tuesday. “It’s pretty rare for a politician in this context to out themselves as this sexist.”
Thomas, who was a candidate for the NDP in the 2004 federal election, focuses her research at the university on gender and politics, Canadian politics and elections.
She said the tweet not only objectifies women, but the nature of the meme can also be offensive to men.
“It projects women as objects and assumes that men will just have their head turned by whatever is on the street, even if they’re in a committed relationship,” she said.
“The objectification of women is one thing but the portrayal of men is also offensive.”
Tweet came across as ‘tone deaf’
Thomas also said Kenney’s tweet doesn’t help the newly-formed party as a whole, which is struggling to establish an identity and is having trouble with branding.
To some, Thomas said, a tweet like this one could come across as “tone deaf,” from a politician who “isn’t aware of gender dynamics.”
“It’s worth asking, ‘Who is the audience for this?'”
Users critical of Kenney’s tweet also created their own memes to highlight other points of contention that follow him around, including his stance on Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) and LGBTQ rights.
Kenney came under fire in March for comments suggesting parents should be told if their children join GSAs in school.
“It’s interesting to see where the critics identify the weaknesses for this particular politician,” Thomas said.
“It’s easy for people to define Kenney as a social conservative – that’s not going to win a general election.”
Thomas added that the tweet is “devoid of leadership,” as it criticizes an NDP policy without giving alternatives to potential voters.
“The other message with [the tweet] is he’s not offering up a decent solution — that’s not sufficient for someone who wants to be premier.”
Thomas said according to her research, about one in five people will endorse sexism.
Kenney’s communications director defended the tweet Tuesday in an email.
“Albertans are growing tired of the continuous contrived ‘outrage’ on social media,” Blaise Boehmer said.
“What is truly offensive is the NDP imposing billions of dollars in new taxes on Albertans as well as a carbon tax that they didn’t even mention during the last election.”
Boehmer also referred Global News to an analysis of the meme on what he called the “fairly liberal website” Vox.com.
Out of hundreds of comments posted as of Tuesday afternoon, the overwhelming majority were critical of Kenney’s tweet.
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