As mentioned by Wonder below, the Wall of Femmes descended upon Toronto last weekend. Since Ontario recently held a provincial election, the streets were still filled with election signage. We were quite dismayed to see this sign for the usually more enlightened NDP.
As you can see, the sign depicts an NDP orange platform stiletto, with the slogan "Pump up the vote." Here, the sign was placed underneath a more traditional sign showing the smiling face of Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath.
Clearly the Ontario NDP is trying to capitalize on the gender of their leader. The actual message they're trying to send with this sign is less clear. Are they saying one should vote for Ms. Horwath because she's a chick? With sexy shoes?
Considering that women in politics must face the additional challenge of having their every wardrobe choice analyzed by the media and even by their colleagues in a way that men do not (see this recent story about BC Premier Christy Clark's cleavage), the Ontario NDP and its leader should understand that posters that link female politicians to sexually charged footwear only exacerbates this problem. Posters like this encourage us to pay more attention to women politicians' gender identity and sexuality than their politics, and reduces their candidacy to the novelty of being "the chick."
On another level, the use of a stiletto heel to represent Horwath's "femaleness" is problematic on it's own. Using a sexualized symbol like this to illustrate femaleness suggests that sexiness is the defining characteristic of femaleness, and in order to be recognized as female you must be sexy. Further, the use of one symbol (whether sexualized or not) to represent the idea of "femaleness" ignores the enormous variety of qualities, skills, experience and lifestyles that are spread across half the population, and instead reinforces to the viewer that there is only one way to be female in our society.
Why is the Ontario NDP objectifying their leader and diminishing women in general in this way? Why focus on her gender at all? After all, we don't go out of our way to point out that male politicians are men.
In honour of Sarah, Toronto resident and Friend of the Wall, who suggested a more gender neutral way for the Ontario NDP to keep their slogan of "Pump up the vote," I submit this new poster. There ya go, NDP, FIXED IT FOR YOU!
Saturday, October 15, 2011
The femmes were out last weekend in Toronto, at the pedestrian overpass at Roncesvalles & Queensway with new recruits to boot. We painted some classic women who are already on walls around Montreal, but we also added the imitable Montreal unionist and general amazing woman, Lea Roback, among others. Go check it out and be inspired!
It was rad introducing our world to our Toronto feminist buddies, so watch out, they are sure to extend the message further around T.Dot.