Column: Clark still facing that double standard

It would be nice to think that by now, politicians, male or female, could be judged on their abilities, their vision, their values and so on. Gender should not be a factor.

But, sadly, we’re not there yet. In fact, it’s probably worse than ever. Just ask our premier.

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Christy Clark has been making the seasonal rounds, giving quick interviews to newspapers, television stations and radio stations around the province. Politicians do this every December.

Last Thursday, for some reason, Clark found herself on an FM station in Courtenay. About 90 seconds into the conversation, the radio dude said the following:

“Andrew from Comox wants to know what it’s like being a MILF?”

Now, MILF is not the kind of term that would normally appear in this newspaper. In the past decade, we have printed it seven times — and six of those times, it was used as an acronym for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an outfit active in the Philippines.

That’s not what Andrew from Comox had in mind.

We can’t print the precise wording behind his acronym MILF. Roughly, it means Mommy I’d Like to Have Sex With. The question was not only highly inappropriate, it was vulgar as well.

Clark responded by saying she took it as a compliment, and said it was better to be a MILF than a cougar. (A cougar being, of course, an older woman on the prowl for young prey.)

A short interview with a radio station in the Comox Valley would normally be forgotten before it ended, but bloggers and political observers are doing all they can to ensure that this one stays alive.

Clark’s answer is being cited as yet more proof that she degrades women, that she is an embarrassment to women, and so on. That two-sentence exchange has, it seems, given the Clark-haters enough fuel to carry them well into the new year.

Personally, I think she did the best she could with an unexpected, inappropriate, insulting, stupid question. She answered it quickly and moved on.

That’s not good enough for the critics, who have had time — something Clark did not have — to think of all sorts of things that Clark could have said or done.

But all of those suggestions are irrelevant. For those who hate Clark, the question was just about perfect. No matter how she answered, she could be raked over the coals for saying or doing the wrong thing. There is no answer that would have satisfied all the critics.

It all gets back to the cold reality facing women in politics: The double standard is still alive.

How many of British Columbia’s male politicians have been asked, live on the radio, such a question?

How many male politicians are expected to represent, in some way, all males in the province? Yet an alleged misstep by Clark, we’re told, degrades all women.

How many male politicians get complaints about their hair or their wardrobe? Women get that nonsense all the time. Clark couldn’t even get eyeglasses without people looking for a deeper meaning.

Before Clark was elected leader of the B.C. Liberals, astute observers were able to determine that she was female. Yet a few months later, she was in the news because someone complained about her cleavage.

Wow, breaking news from the seventh grade: Women have breasts.

And now, someone in Comox has realized that women have sex appeal. He said Clark’s a hottie, and now Clark’s in trouble for it. Bizarre.

When will this nonsense end?

There is no shortage of reasons to criticize the premier — but let’s base our thinking on what she has or has not accomplished, and what she says she will do. Isn’t her vision for the province more important than her appearance?

It’s another reminder that women in politics face more and tougher challenges than their male counterparts. Need we wonder why it’s so tough to convince women to run?

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