Friday, April 13, 2007

In the News: Belinda Stronach is leaving federal politics

Last Wednesday, April 11, Newmarket-Aurora M.P. and former Liberal minister, Belinda Stronach announced that she was leaving federal politics to resume employment with auto parts giant Magna International Inc.

She had left the family business in 2004 to run for the Conservative leadership, which she lost to now PM Stephen Harper. As a Conservative MP, Ms. Stronach embodied dissent in the party by supporting reproductive rights and same-sex marriage. In 2005, she unexpectedly crossed the floor and joined the Liberals, who offered her a position as Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. Her bold move was vigourously criticized, both by the media (the National Post called her a "blonde bombshell" and many Conservative MPs publicly called her a whore and a prostitute), while Stephen Harper's lieutenant, Peter MacKay, whom Ms. Stronach was dating at the time, made various distasteful comments that (unfavourably) compared her to his dog.

(Recently, Mr. MacKay, who apparently still can get over the fact that Ms. Stronach dumped both his political convictions and himself, despite his new fling with Condi, called her a "dog" in te House of Commons.)

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Canadians will miss Ms. Stronach's presence in federal politics. (Well, the non-mysogynistic portion of us.) For once, we were blessed with a female politician who did not seem to be apologizing constantly for being wealthy, professionally successful, young, physically attractive, unmarried, and – yes! – ambitious and opportunistic.

From a very young age, girls and women are indoctrinated into thinking that competitiveness, assertiveness and power are male attributes, and that women in positions of authority rather lead their people by being maternal, by seeking to make compromises between competing interests, and so on and so forth. Female leaders who do not conform to this model are considered cold, “bitchy”, ruthless and manly.

Women who work in traditionally male fields understand only too well that the latter – “feminine” - approach will not make them a better litigator, for instance, or get them promoted. Nor will being nice and low-key all the time. At the same time, however, they are often aware that they could be criticized and shunned by their peers and superiors should they rather choose to conform to the former – “masculine” – model.

Too often, we see female politicians bowing to the pressure, and apologizing for having a life of their own, for wearing too manly – or too feminine – clothing, or for being “visibly” wealthy or “opinionated”.

Girls and young women drastically lack assertive and self-confident female role models, both on the political scene and in the workplace. They need to be told that despite what the whole world might say, despite the unfair, uncalled for and degrading treatment that they may face one day, they are allowed to be ambitious and opportunistic in the pursuit of their personal goals and desires.

I am saddened by Ms. Stronach's leaving federal politics, but I rejoice at the thought of another strong woman leading a large corporation on the path to prosperity.

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To learn more about Belinda Stronach's professional and political background, have a look at this article.
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You can want to write to Ms. Stronach (free of charge!) at:
The Hon. Belinda Stronach, M.P.
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
or by email at:

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