The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) has issued a call to action ahead of the municipal elections in October.
The ACWS wants to help women who are running as candidates, and those who are already serving or considering a public role, feel safe and supported. It also wants to get rid of sexist and violent language and behaviours towards women in public life.
The “Lift Her Up” slogan was created last December in response to how female politicians in the U.S. as well as in Alberta were being treated. The ACWS first launched the campaign after demonstrators at the Alberta legislature started chanting “Lock her up!” in reference to Premier Rachel Notley last December.
It echoed refrains heard at many Donald Trump campaign rallies when the then- U.S. presidential candidate accused opponent Hillary Clinton of destroying email evidence in a congressional investigation.
“The shelter directors thought it was really important to come up something that was positive to counter balance and that was Lift Her Up,” ACWS executive director Jan Reimer said.
“That women’s role in public life should be celebrated, women’s role in family life and community should be celebrated and we know there’s still a lot of inequality out there that needs to be dealt with.”
The Lift Her Up campaign wants to positively influence the nature and tone of discourse during the election as well as call out any unacceptable treatment of female candidates and officials.
“With the municipal elections approaching, it really offered an opportunity to make sure we don’t have a repeat, that we’re not seeing demeaning, sexist language used as part of the campaign, that people are willing to make a commitment to say, ‘We’re not going to do this. We’re going to be inclusive. We want to create safe spaces for women in the election process, in the community and in families,'” Reimer said.
The ACWS also wants Albertans to ask municipal candidates about their policies and approach.
“It’s really important to build inclusive welcoming communities and Lift Her Up is certainly a part of trying to achieve that,” Reimer said. “We’d really like to encourage people to use the hashtag, ask their candidates what kind of commitments they’re going to make… ask the people who are campaigning for the school board, for your municipal council: are they prepared to lift her up? Ask them about it, tweet about it, start that conversation.
“And call people on their behaviour. Don’t let it go by if there’s demeaning, degrading, sexist comments or jokes made during the campaign. Stand up and say, ‘That’s not OK.'”
A study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union interviewed 55 female MPs in 39 countries. Over 40 per cent of women surveyed said they’d received threats of death, rape, beatings or abductions while serving their terms, including threats to kidnap or kill their children.
Almost half of those surveyed said they had been abused on social media. (Scroll down to read the study).
Another analysis between female and male candidates found Hillary Clinton and former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard received twice as many abusive tweets as 2016 U.S. presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd.
“Sadly though, there are more tools available for people who want to demean women because there’s all the different social media,” Reimer said.
“Back when I was active in politics, you might get people rolling down their car window or sending you a fax… maybe an email. There’s a lot more tools out there that help to proliferate that type of language and behaviour that you really don’t want to see. That is, I think, so discouraging sometimes for women who are looking to enter politics.
Despite a record number of females elected in Canada’s 2015 federal election, women still only make up 26 per cent of seats in the House. Currently, Edmonton has just one female city councillor.
“Social media can be very negative and demeaning towards women… We’re trying to provide a counter to that, to say: ‘Here’s some ways to Lift Her Up.'”