Niki Ashton, what kinda feminist are you?


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Oh, Niki Ashton. You're the picture of contradictions.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/05/2016 (2384 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Oh, Niki Ashton. You’re the picture of contradictions.

On one hand, your message to women is suck it up, buttercup. On the other hand, it’s a loud demand that we take the sexist treatment of women in politics seriously.

Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.

THE CANADIAN PRESS / HO-HOUSE OF COMMONS Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeauis shown near Opposition whip Gordon Brown in the House of Commons on May 18, 2016 in what has become widlely known as #elbowgate

Ashton, the NDP MP for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, became the rather public voice of aggrieved female politicians last week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s meltdown in the House of Commons. (One of my colleagues described it as a “dad” moment, with the father walking toward the recalcitrant child saying, “You, get in the car.” But I digress.)

The PM quickly apologized, not once, but three times, for grabbing Conservative whip Gord Brown by the arm so he could take his seat and a vote on a motion could take place, and in the process, jostling NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest.

Ashton has called it another example of gender-based violence. “I want to say that for all of us who witnessed this, this was deeply traumatic,” she said to her Commons colleagues. “What I will say, if we apply a gendered lens, it is very important that young women in this space feel safe to come here and work here.

“He made us feel unsafe and we’re deeply troubled by the conduct of the prime minister of this country.”

Excuse me?

Did you happen to notice NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s face of rage at any point in time during the incident, Niki? If you want to talk about being afraid of violence, I’d also say that having to physically restrain the NDP leader as he screamed “You are pathetic” at the PM would be pretty scary to watch. The blame doesn’t just belong in the Liberal camp on this one.

Brosseau was obviously shaken up. I have no doubt she was upset, but it was hardly from an accidental elbow to the chest — the kind that happens regularly on a crowded bus in the middle of rush-hour traffic. It’s because there were two men acting like alpha males and making fools of themselves (and holding up some mighty important debate on doctor-assisted suicide at the same time).

And while public opinion has rightly responded by chiding Ashton for her hyperbolic response, the point I find most galling is that the previous week, the young, privileged, and childless MP chastised the PM’s wife, Sophie Grégoire, after Grégoire suggested she could use a little help in keeping up with the demands placed upon her as part of a very popular and photogenic couple.

Grégoire was merely speaking about the challenges facing the wife of a prime minister. She wasn’t going on strike until she was immediately assigned staff. She just told a journalist she was feeling overwhelmed by demands from the public and she could use some assistance as she used her dining room table as an office to juggle her workload — which frankly sounds familiar to most women.

Ashton went on the attack. “Hearing statements like that certainly doesn’t speak to the reality that Canadian women face and the kind of struggles that, you know, that they’re undertaking day in, day out,” she told reporters.

“Certainly, the kind of statements we heard from the prime minister’s wife, you know, speak to that disconnect with the reality that Canadian women face.”

Way to stand up for your sisters there, Niki. You’ll stand up for women when they’re in the NDP, but not when they’re Liberal.

Nice to know what kind of feminist you are.

Shannon Sampert is the Winnipeg Free Press perspectives and politics editor.

Twitter: @paulysigh

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