They said it -

They said it


“Every time I stand up in the House of Commons and speak I look around and I can see it, this surprise that a young, attractive woman is saying something important and intelligent.” –NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan

“Mr. Speaker, my understanding about going into a country to assist it militarily with the hope that the country will establish itself is the reason that we are in that country right now, which is to assist it during the military phase.” –NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan being important and intelligent in the House of Commons, Sept. 26

(Cheap shot, I know. What really bothered me is that when asked if she is treated differently by male parliamentarians, Ms. Sitsabaiesan told the Star “Sometimes I get asked more about my lipstick rather than what’s coming out of my mouth.” Are we really, really supposed to believe that middle-aged male colleagues are asking her about cosmetics?)


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They said it

  1. With a prime minister who is made up to look like Marie-Antoinetteby a stylist who accompanies him everywhere he goes, yes and seriously, I believe there is a number of middle-aged men in the HoC who are concerned about cosmetics.

  2. Why is Rathika angry at the middle-aged male ?
    It was the image-conscious, power-hungry, controllers of the NDP Leader`s Office who air brushed the cleavage from her.
    Her anger would be better directed to the prudish, unattractive, and jealous members of her own Party then to the middle-aged males of the country who almost certainly appreciate any kind of cleavage.

    • For anybody out there who doesn’t believe it; the thing about the cleavage is true.

    • Interesting.  I didn’t get “anger” from that quote, more, I don’t know, bemusement.

      • Blue K lives in different reality than most of us, as best I can gather from his rants based on hypothetical and unsubstantiated events.

  3. Yet another white male, age 18-49, living in north America, claiming to understand how a disadvantaged group experiences life.

    Go on then, have at me….

    • …..having a little trouble following you. Are you saying that Ms.Sitsabaiesan who refers to herself as a ” young attractive woman ”  is feeling disadvantaged to Mr. Cosh who has never referred to himself as young or attractive or even that he is ” saying something important and intelligent “?  The problem is with the NDP brass who airbrushed the photo—you have simply fallen into her trap of blaming the white male population of the country for her Party`s Prudishness.

      Ms. Sitsabaiesan needs to wear whatever she pleases, tell the NDP prudes to keep their hands off her cleavage, and  wait a few more weeks (years ? ) before she announces she announces she is a young attractive woman saying something important and intelligent.

    • Are we really, really supposed to believe Colby picks and chooses when to understand metaphors?

  4. Everytime someone responds negatively to my witty, insightful, and profound comments here on Macleans, I’m amazed.


  5. I didn’t take away from the Star piece that she was accusing male colleagues of asking about her lipstick, so much as the media and public in general.  And I don’t think it’s unfair to say we generally place female politicians under a different microscope than the men:  family, children and appearance are still considered to be relatively more germane lines of appraisal for women in public life.

    She might be a bonehead (EDIT: having read more of the hansard passages, she’s clearly not a bonehead… perhaps not at Churchill’s level of eloquence, but not a bonehead) – and certainly sounds self-absorbed (who on earth goes on record calling themselves attractive and intelligent?) – but I don’t think this particular woman’s utterances constitute a fair basis for questioning the male-biased political culture in Canada.

    • The more I think about this, the more I feel some sympathy for Sitsabaiesan.  The context of her statement was being asked about her boobs, for goodness sake.

      There are certainly cases where gender bias is incorrectly identified as an obstacle in many social arenas.  But at what point are women supposed to shrug it off and ignore it?  Where is line between gender differences being benignly recognized and enjoyed, and women being marginalized?  I can only imagine how hard it is to avoid seeing sexist bogeymen at every turn, knowing that sometimes they exist.

      She wasn’t being asked why her input as an MP was being ignored or something similarly generic.  She was speaking to her treatment as a woman MP, and was only being asked because someone tinkered with her t*ts in a photo.  Her response was rather restrained, one could argue.

      • Just because you are not paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t actually out to get you.

  6. Oh no… in B.C. we have “Cleavagegate”, lol!!!
    ______ Here’s what David Schreck, a former NDP MLA and adviser to Ujjal Dosanjh, told The Province about that tweet: “I was watching question period and noticed the premier was showing a lot more cleavage than normal. I”ve got nothing against cleavage, but there”s appropriate dress for appropriate occasions. And I thought the way the premier was dressed was inappropriate for the legislature.” “It could be that I”m just an old fogie, but it was my wife who originally raised the question,” he said.

    • Yes, David you are an old fogey.  Dictating female dress code – isn’t that what the Taliban does?

  7. And, rather than cherry pick one convoluted sentence, perhaps it would be fair to read a bit more of what she said during that debate…

    “The New Democrats supported the Canadian military mission and its extension in June in order to ensure that civilians were protected from the Gadhafi regime.    Members have heard a bit of my story before. I fled a war-torn country myself. I wanted to see international support go into my homeland but we did not see any of that. When we in the House were able to provide Canadian support with other international forces, I was happy to know that the Libyan people would get some support.    I and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party sincerely thank our military personnel and diplomats for their hard work in accomplishing the job that they did so well in Libya.    The Gadhafi regime was committing many humanitarian violations, including the threat of going door to door and killing people. The regime was using rape as a weapon of war.

    Through our support for the extension of the mission in June this year, the New Democrats were successful in adding a number of amendments to address the atrocities that were being committed, including rape.    The acknowledgment that rape was being used as a weapon of war in that amended motion was quite groundbreaking. I really commend every member in the House for acknowledging that and for finally recognizing that rape was being used as a weapon of war. 

       For many years, hundreds of thousands of women have been in this situation in many countries around the globe. They have been suffering in silence. Once again the women are suffering in so many ways. Not only did they witness their towns and villages being torn apart, but their families were torn being apart. Women experienced many violations of their bodies as well. It is important for me to recognize and acknowledge once again members of the House for recognizing that.    It is significant for the House to acknowledge that, but in order to continue to help these women we need to focus our efforts on a civilian mission, one focused on rebuilding, on education and on providing the help that families need. 

       The conflict is coming to an end. Even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence mentioned this earlier. Reports that came in today from the Libyan National Transitional Council indicate that its forces have advanced into Sirte, which is one of the regions that the parliamentary secretary was concerned about earlier today. National Transitional Council forces have made significant advances in this region and the Gadhafi regime is being ousted further, as was mentioned earlier.  

      The trauma that is endured by women, children and all people in a conflict zone outlasts the conflict. Our men and women in uniform suffer post-traumatic stress disorder when they come back home but children especially suffer when they are forced to be in a conflict zone.    I know from personal experience the psychological and physiological effects that war can have on a child. As a young child I was forced to be in a war zone. I was shot at. A child never forgets the sound of guns blazing. 

         It has been over 25 years since I experienced war but I remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday. I know that the children who are experiencing it today in Libya are experiencing the same or worse than what I experienced. Being shot at and hiding in my mother’s little store with my grandfather and my sisters, I know how much it affected me and affected my development.    What we need to be focusing on right now is the development of these children. How we can provide that type of humanitarian relief to the people in Libya? It should be about providing our expertise. We have so much civilian expertise and resources for providing that type of assistance toward the rehabilitation of the people of Libya and, of course, creating that democratic institution and allowing for the country to have its own set of governance. 

       Experiences like mine illustrate why we need a robust civilian mission in Libya right now. We need to help these families and to help people deal with the psychological and physiological effects of war.    Our position reflects the reality on the ground in Libya today, just as our support for military intervention in February and June reflected the needs at the time. At the time, we needed to extend the military mission, but right now we need to focus on the humanitarian aspects of rebuilding.    Now that the Gadhafi regime has been toppled, the focus for most people in Libya is post-conflict transition. This means things like rebuilding infrastructure, rebuilding and developing the democratic institutions, rebuilding and developing for the people and the health of the communities.    We need to ensure once again that it is Libyan-led reconciliation and reconstruction that happens in that country. It is not for Canada or anybody else anywhere in the world to tell the Libyans how to govern themselves. They need to figure out a self-governance model. It is not for us to dictate to them.    That, unfortunately, was what happened in the past when international forces went into a country to support it and then, somehow, stayed beyond the military intervention to protect the civilians and ended up dictating terms to the local people.     I am pretty sure that many of our colleagues in this House on both sides will agree that is the old kind of politics for global affairs. The new kind of politics is really about creating that Libyan-led initiative, that local-led initiative so that the people of Libya can actually own that government and ensure they are a part of it.   

     New Democrats really do not support yet another extension of the military mission in Libya. We do believe that it is time for Canada to focus on the humanitarian aspect: to provide our civilian expertise in the country and resources for, once again, humanitarian assistance; help with institution building; the democratic development; and, as I said before, the softer, less tangible aspects of war. We have so much expertise and so many people who have the expertise to provide the assistance in helping the people rebuild the country. Canada’s focus today should be on helping the people who are now effectively in a post-conflict zone, rather than furthering the military mission.”

    • Sounds important and intelligent to me.

      • I agree.
        Now if only the brass at NDP headquarters ( who seem to be in constant campaign propaganda the past few months, no matter what the circumstance ) had said that about her then that would be the end of it, but No, they airbrushed her photo, for whatever reason, to make it appear she had a uniboob.

        if you are having trouble identifying the NDP brass as the real villain in this story, may I  suggest you try this exercise:
        Try to imagine the reaction of the media and Wherry in particular if a similar action had been taken against one of the Conservative MP`s.
        I suspect a round the clock candlelight vigil would now be underway at the door of the PMO.

        • The hypothetical universe is a constant source of disappointment to us all.

          You seem to have missed the point of Cosh’s piece, and the particular angle I’ve been criticizing.

          Also, I think the responsible office or individuals remain unknown.  I could be wrong, so feel free point out evidence supporting your claim (not that it really matters in the context of this discussion).

          • Your point seems to be that we should be talking about something more substantial, important, and intelligent about the lady then her cleavage. I`ll agree with that but also pointing out that it would not be wise to get sidetracked about the gender issues. The whole  ” women getting no respect in the workplace ”  theme would never have come up if the original photo had been left alone.
            My hypothetical analogy was simply to point out the spin the OLO was putting on a story they wish would go away.

          • No, my point in this instance is that you’re full of sh*t.

  8. She should dress appropriately at work, that’s common sense! Then she will be treated with more respect.

    • Define what you mean by appropriate, please.

      • I consider cleavage to be inappropriate for work.  It looks unprofessional.   I would view it similarly as a man with the top two or three buttons of his shirt undone.  Acceptable for casual events, but not a parliamentary head shot.

        • I think it’s fair to say there’s some heavier cultural baggage placed upon a woman’s cleavage than a man’s chest.  But I take your point.

      • Not revealing clothing, and that goes for either a man or a woman.

        If I show to work with some kind of cleavage or a very tight dress, I can assure you I am treated 100% different that when I wear something appropriate, and I am a girlie girl, I like pretty clothes, high heels, etc. It is just common sense, where you work and with who you are working with.

        • Using “common sense” as part of a definition is fairly sketchy, and usually tells us more about that individual’s biases than the phenomenon she or he claim to understand.

          What makes high heels okay, but cleavage bad?  What’s the difference between tailored and tight?  Why should I respect a co-worker who plays up her “girlie” status?

          Again, who gets to decide?

          • And perhaps more importantly, why should the level of respect we accord an individual be based on any of this?

          • Because this is the world we live in, this is society, weather we like it or not!

          • @claudialemire:disqus :   (you wrote:  “Because this is the world we live in, this is society, whether we like it or not!”)
            Wow.  Just wow.

            I’ve worked with my fair share of men who held women to be lesser people .  There is simply no way a woman can be considered a competent equal (or superior), to these guys.  Men who generally divide women up into potential f**k objects versus daughters/mothers/etc.   Men who toss “bitch” around at any sign of a woman showing strength.

            But hey, it’s all common sense, right?  I guess I’ve wasted my time all these years calling guys out on those attitudes (and I have, often at the cost of alienation from some coworkers).

            If you can’t go to the wall for clothing (of all things), I shudder to think what other inequalities and abuses you would cheerfully tolerate in the name of going with the flow.  

          • Claudia, how do things ever change in society with such an attitude?  You just accept whatever climate is out there; you feel no power to change things ever?


    • Heck, I clicked “like” instead of “reply” by mistake, and I do NOT like this comment.  Claudia: we’re women.  We have breasts.  The photo of her that was airbrushed showed an attractive woman who like me, and I assume you, has breasts.  Most certainly she was not wearing a push up bra or a low-cut blouse or anything sheer.  I find it amazing that people — ie men including Cosh — feel the need to comment on what was NOT showed in the picture, and in Cosh’s case, as Sean has pointed out, go out of his way to cherry pick an inane sentence from amongst the 30 – 40 sentences she said at the same time that are indeed important and intelligent.  Why: to declare her a brainless bimbo? 

      Perhaps women in politics should wear burkas, so that the paunchy middle-aged men they work with — and who write about them — can concentrate better.  Or perhaps women should be forced to have double mastectomies before running for office — so men don’t focus on them.  For heaven’s sake, be sure to keep the heat high in the HoC so no nipples show through the clothing.  And anyone in a short skirt — rape ’em!  You know they’re asking for it.  And you know, there’s also that monthly period thing when we’re just raging maniacs — really it’s pretty clear we should not be anywhere near power or decisions at the best of times.  Better off barefoot and pregnant, avoiding abortions at all costs, and having a nice dinner ready when the men get home.

      And I’m honestly disappointed that you, also a professional woman, would make such an inane comment without bothering to look at the photo being discussed.  You’re usually better than that.

      • I generally agree with your sentiment here.

        To be fair, Cosh really didn’t comment on the original photo, or pass judgment on her attire.

        And the rape’em line is a bit too far for me. But I do generally support your line of critique.

        • Somebody noticed! How delightful.

          • You’re delighted Sean noticed you didn’t actually comment on the photo; are you equally delighted that he’s called you out on a lack of journalistic integrity for pulling a sentence out of context to make your point?

            “rather than cherry pick one convoluted sentence, perhaps it would be fair to read a bit more of what she said during that debate…”

          • Of course I am delighted. Giving our commenters a place to respond to idle jokes with meltdowns about “journalistic integrity” keeps them away from places where their deranged arrogance might do real harm, like dog kennels or landfills.

          • Ah, it must be hard being so much more clever than your readers. 

          • Yes, I noticed.  Occasionally, I can rise close enough to your heights to at least grasp the frigging point of your piece.

            So, failing the chance to rip me a new arsehole on the basis of being a typically slack-jawed member of the commenting masses, I’m curious to see how you’ll rip into my earlier critiques.  :)

          • Not at all. You managed to prove that my blog entry, which is specifically labelled a “cheap shot” in the text, was a cheap shot. This puts you in the top intellectual decile quite easily.

          • Oh, and I’d like to preemptively note that any substantial shortcomings in the content of my comments are obviously jokes.  Totally deliberate on my part.  

          • And if Cosh is, in a subtle way, calling Sean a twit and a $hithead, I would say Cosh is almost always right.

          • Actually Blue, Sean he places (perhaps not undeservedly) above most of us — “the top intellectual decile” after all. It’s folks like you and I who continue to read his poorly written tripe and provide Macleans’ with ad-views for it that he calls twits and $hitheads, after all, we’re supposedly unable to prove that his posts are what he calls them.

            In my defence, I’ll confess I’m unable to do so because I don’t bother reading his garbage when I can avoid it — coming in here only because of Sean’s comments in disqus. I wanted to see context.

          • You wrote:  “Not at all. You managed to prove that my blog entry, which is specifically labelled a “cheap shot” in the text, was a cheap shot. This puts you in the top intellectual decile quite easily.”

            Fair enough, Fonz.  :)


      • Here. Here.  It’s 2011.  I’m old enough to remember not being allowed to wear pants to school – it was considered ‘unlady like’.  Men will always lust after young women – it doesn’t matter what they’ve wearing.  It’s up to them to control themselves.

        • Now that brought back memories – first time activist for me – we organized the whole high school to walk out until the principle changed the rules.  We won.
          Geez I’m getting old, lol.

      • It doesn’t matter where you work if you are not dress appropriately, you are not going to be treated properly. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman.

        • Point found at the side of the road: no sign of Claudia.

      • We’re sort of on a tangent to the article here but I love a good debate.

        The “we have breasts, get used to it” argument is inane.  I consider
        professional clothing for all genders to include sleeves and to cover the
        chest.  I fail to see how this is sexist or misogynistic.  It’s not like I want
        or expect women to flatten or hide their breasts: showing skin though is not
        professional (for men too!).

        If anything, men are held to higher (and very narrow) social standards about what is appropriate for them to wear in a work environment.  So why are we not allowed to hold women to certain standards of dress?  

        If one of my male employees showed up to work in a sleeveless shirt I’d make him change.  So don’t try to pull this “women are victims” garbage here because it doesn’t fly.  Save it for the real thing.

        • If one of my male employees showed up to work in a sleeveless shirt I’d
          make him change.  So don’t try to pull this “women are victims” garbage
          here because it doesn’t fly.

          That’s an interesting point.  If I showed up at work in the summer in a top with no sleeves and shorts that exposed my knees I might get a talking to, but a woman in a sleeveless top and a skirt to her knees wouldn’t get a second glance (well, she might, but not from the perspective of the bosses thinking her outfit was “inappropriate” or “unprofessional”).  Where I work anyway, I believe that the men are held to a MUCH stricter standard of dress than the women.

    • Who decides what’s appropriate? 

      • Apparently men who can’t stop staring.  And tweeting.  And writing stupid columns from their powerful pulpits at MacLeans.

        • To be fair, women often participate equally in a lot of this nonsense.  I’m not sure we want to hang the entire complex of gender roles and restrictions on men.

          • Yes, Claudia as case in point, for example.  I agree with you; many women buy into this even more than men — it’s that moralistic judgement and a way to feel superior.  Make no mistake about it: girls are still socialized to feel competitive with other females.  Competitive for male attention especially.  It’s awfully easy to suggest that everyone should dress “appropriately” but as you ask, exactly what is appropriate and who decides. 

  9. @JanBC

    Your common sense!

    • Common sense once held that women weren’t people in the eyes of the law.

  10. “Mr. Speaker, my understanding
    about going into a country to assist it militarily with the hope that
    the country will establish itself IS the reason that we are in that
    country right now, which is to assist it during the military phase. I
    may be a little off but my understanding is that we want to help the
    Libyan forces develop and they would be the ones providing the real
    services to the Libyans. Our forces and our experts, I am sure, would be
    there to provide the support and the resources for the Libyan forces.
    However, our role should be to help them help themselves rather than
    dictate in their own country.”He said some of it…Being a women you often find that when you do get a chance to speak at length you’re not understood. Perhaps it’s because women don’t have as many opportunities to speak at length on topics that are important!  That’s why I take the time to listen carefully when a women who holds an important position society speaks. I thank Cosh for directing my attention to this young woman’s moment in the sunshine. I like what she said! She doesn’t want Canadian soldiers killing Libyan soldiers and perhaps her expressed wish, coming as it did in the place where expressing her wish there might actually make it come true, will come true! I think Cosh is an ass for linking to her doctored photo in the manner that he did. As a woman I can identify with her angst over projecting feminity. My sister, who was a georgeous young woman at 21 (believe me…) actually wore non-prescription glasses to work to temper the sexualized attention she got hour by hour. It’s clear that Cosh has a soul. He’s not as mean or sexist as other political pundits. He could have empathized with our fledgling MP rather than pointing to her tits as he did.Karen