Ahead of the 41st general election, Nova Scotia’s Liberal Party is being accused of misogyny and double standards after a female candidate says she was forced out of the race over “boudoir photos.”
Robyn Ingraham was acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in the district of Dartmouth South. But on Saturday, she said in a statement posted to her Instagram page that she would no longer be vying for the seat, citing mental health reasons.
However, in another statement posted Wednesday evening, she said she was told by the Liberal Party to lie about her reasons for leaving.
“I posted the statement of lies. I posted because I was worried how this would look on the team that worked so hard to get me on board,” she said.
“But after sitting with the fact that I let myself and those around me down by hiding behind my mental illness to save something bigger than I — I was furious.”
‘This screams gender inequality’
According to the statement, Ingraham had been open with the Liberals during the application process about her “time in front of photographers lenses.” She said she has used a number of platforms to post pictures of herself, including Instagram, Tumblr and OnlyFans.
“I explained that I love to show off the artwork on my skin, and I have no problem taking boudoir photos alone and with my friends,” she said, adding that she provided an “extensive list” of her past and present social media accounts, provided tax statements and paid for a criminal background check.
“I explained to multiple people over the course of my application that if/when my photos were to come out, there would be a teachable moment for the community and province,” said Ingraham.
“This screams gender inequality from all angles, why should I be ashamed of my body and what I decide to do with it?”
Ingraham, who works as a barber, explained that as a small business owner and someone whose business was shut down due to COVID-19, she needed to look at other revenue streams.
“Having a platform to post photos and videos on that charges a subscription fee, among other features, seemed like a fast way to pay my bills and put food on my table,” she said. “Although, I shouldn’t have to explain myself. This platform is LEGAL. ”
She said roughly six hours after the party announced she was acclaimed as a candidate and posted a headshot, she received a call from a Liberal Party contact who told her the boudoir photos had resurfaced.
Ingraham said they asked if she ever “had sex for money.”
“No. I haven’t — but they shouldn’t have to ask and I don’t think they have the right to,” she said.
She said she was told to call the communications director, where she “explained myself for the 10th time, and told them all about my mental health.” She was led to believe “everything was fine,” she said.
But the next day, an hour before she was set to meet with Liberal Leader Iain Rankin at the Alderney Market, she received a call telling her that the surfacing of her photos has made the “higher ups” worried.
According to Ingraham, the party sent her a statement for her to post, which she did. But it’s clear that didn’t sit well with her.
“All I want is for the real story to be out there, and for those to know that though my mental (illnesses) have hindered me in the past — they are not responsible for this,” she said.
Global News has reached out to Ingraham for an interview.
Rankin had previously told CBC News that Ingraham made the decision to step down, and on Thursday, he insisted that his understanding of the situation was based on her initial statement, when she blamed her departure on her mental health.
“I certainly wasn’t part of any conversation with her, I have yet to meet her,” he said. “I’ve read the statement that she originally put online and then I’ve read the subsequent statement recently and then I’ve reached out again, so respectfully I’d like to have that conversation first.”
He said he has reached out to Ingraham twice, and left her a third voicemail this morning.
Rankin said he was “disappointed” to read “some of the things” in her second statement.
“It’s unfortunate that she feels the way she does, and nobody should feel that way. All I can say is that the Liberal party embraces people from all backgrounds,” he said.
Rankin’s government has been previously accused of sexism after MLA Margaret Miller resigned in May over alleged “misogynistic” and “atrocious” behaviour by a recent hire in the premier’s office.
Former Premier Stephen McNeil was also criticized for employing Kyley Harris, who had pleaded guilty to assaulting his partner, during the last provincial election. Harris eventually stepped down.
In a statement, Nicole Mosher, the Progressive Conservative candidate for Fairview-Clayton Park and the president of the PC women’s caucus, said what happened to Ingraham was “disturbing.”
“A young woman was bullied by the powerful men of the Liberal Party into resigning as a Liberal candidate. Not only was Ms. Ingraham forced out as a candidate, she was also told to lie to the public about the true reason for her departure,” she said.
“Thousands of Nova Scotians suffer in silence from mental health challenges. The fact that Iain Rankin and his advisors thought it was convenient to blame Ms. Ingraham’s departure on her past mental health challenges is not only a flagrant lie, it also trivializes the very real pain that Nova Scotians with mental illnesses face every single day.”
Mosher, who pointed to Rankin’s two DUI charges from the early 2000s, said Ingraham’s ousting was a double standard.
“We also cannot ignore how fundamentally misogynistic the Rankin Liberals have once again been exposed to be,” she said.
“While I may disagree with Ms. Ingraham on political issues, I stand in solidarity with her as fellow women in politics when it comes to blatant acts of sexism.”
In a tweet, Claudia Chender, the incumbent NDP candidate for Dartmouth South, said she was disappointed after reading Ingraham’s statement.
“It was good to see a candidate like Robyn put her name forward,” she said.
“Sadly her story is not surprising. The misogyny and double standards that exist in politics (and life) are alive and well in Nova Scotia. She deserves better.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston expressed his concern when asked about the issue Thursday. He said he sees a disturbing pattern emerging.
“When you couple the comments from Margaret Miller who had all kinds of concerns about misogynistic behaviour in the premier’s office, there’s a pattern there that people should be concerned about,” he said.
New Democrat Leader Gary Burrill said his party is committed to ensuring women and gender-diverse candidates are a central part of politics in the province.
“Considering the climate of misogynistic attacks on women candidates, it is incumbent on political parties to stand up for anyone facing attacks to ensure more people from a diversity of backgrounds are able to successfully run for office,” Burrill said in an email Thursday.
— With files from The Canadian Press