U.S. election 2016

Why Clinton's candidacy may not spur gender equality

Clinton becoming the Democrats' presumptive nominee is historic. But it may now be open season for the men who ruin politics for women.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton makes a speech during a campaign stop in Lynwood, California, United States June 6, 2016. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton makes a speech during a campaign stop in Lynwood, California, United States June 6, 2016. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

The good news is America finally has a woman candidate for the presidency and she has an excellent chance of winning. The bad news is I’m not convinced that is going to change very much.

Given the number of delegates and superdelegates now controlled by Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders would need a miracle, or, failing that, an FBI indictment, to usurp her as the official nominee of the Democratic party.

Which makes Clinton the first woman to win a major-party nomination for president. And, if the media keeps up its brand-new trick of repeatedly pointing out when Donald Trump is lying, Clinton is the betting favourite to occupy the Oval Office come January.

This would mean the United States, that global champion of progressive politics and gender equality, would be catching up with Argentina, Burundi, Canada, Gabon, Indonesia, Latvia, Liberia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and some 40 other countries. Well done America. You should be proud. (Now, can we talk about the death penalty?)

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced this is going to usher in a golden age of gender equality. The number of women inspired to run for office, be it for county dog catcher or senator, is not going to spike overnight. In fact, there’s even a chance it will decline.

This is because being a female politician is not a very attractive job, and the next six months are going to make that painfully clear to everyone paying attention (which will likely include most of the women in North America).

There is something wrong with men. I have suspected this for years, being one. But it took the emergence of social media to prove I was right. The unfortunate side effect of being able to instantly and easily share our inner thoughts with millions of strangers is that we have removed all the necessary barriers between our id and the unsuspecting public. And, now that our subconscious has been unleashed to frolic buck naked through the town square, it’s painfully obvious our poorly endowed instincts have the sensibilities of the village idiot.

Twitter, comment boards, Facebook and talk radio are filled with men who attack female politicians simply for being women. They pretend they’re angry about a specific policy or a scandal. But that’s just an excuse. If I thought Stéphane Dion had made a boneheaded decision selling light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, it would never occur to me to make my point by mocking the colour of his hair or his waistline. Similarly, if I were arguing with a colleague in the office, why would I tell him his ass looks huge in those pants? Unless, of course, I was spending a lot of time thinking about his ass.

I actually think this is why the trolls say what they say. The next time you see someone taking a cheap shot at a female politician, check out his profile. If he’s brave enough to put his real face online, you’ll almost always find these folks aren’t what my grandmother would’ve called “lookers.” You can easily imagine them sitting on the bleachers at the high school dance, making crude jokes about all the girls who won’t dance with them. Now they’re sitting on the sidelines of life, stuck in dead-end jobs, still unable to get a date, and they look at female politicians and they can’t help but tweet their anger, insecurities and fear.

The village idiots are getting noisier. This election will see Clinton loudly mocked for her looks, her clothes, her hair, her sex life, her family and her body. It won’t just be sad little trolls. It will be well-known pundits—even Trump himself has stooped to insulting Clinton, other female politicians and the wives of his political rivals.

It isn’t just an American phenomenon. Earlier this month, we watched Liberal partisans inundate NDP member of Parliament Ruth Ellen Brosseau with misogynistic attacks. The same sort of pathetic treatment has been doled out to Conservative politicians like Michelle Rempel, Lisa Raitt and Rona Ambrose. In fact, female politicians of all stripes are subject to a level of abuse that is hard to imagine unless you’re paying attention. And women are paying attention.

Hillary Clinton has proven yet again women can run to win. Ideally, her campaign should inspire millions of girls to follow in her footsteps, to run for office and bring with them some much-needed sanity to politics. But sadly, the lesson these girls may take away from the Clinton campaign is: why would they want to?