There is much to be learned from the video clip exposed over the weekend of BC Liberal North Vancouver-Seymour candidate Jane Thornthwaite commenting on the physical appearance of Bowinn Ma, the NDP candidate for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.
During the Zoom roast for retiring fellow politician Ralph Sultan, hosted by the Liberals in September and attended by the party’s leader, Andrew Wilkinson, and other party members, including incumbent Sea to Sky MLA, BC Liberal Jordan Sturdy, Thornthwaite says, among other things: “Bowinn is a very pretty lady and she knows that she’s got ‘it.”
Most of the group stays silent or giggles
One lesson to be taken from this is that politics is a brutal game. It is no wonder more people, especially young talented women and minorities, don’t throw their hat into the vicious ring.
And, clearly, it isn’t just men who hinder women in the political realm. Sexism, like racism, runs deep in our society.
Another lesson is that being a silent bystander is the easy way out, but not the best one.
Speaking out is hard — and necessary — in perceived “backstage” spaces as much as clearly public ones.
There’s reason to believe incumbent MLA Jordan Sturdy, who has an independent and strong partner, Trish, and outspoken and self-assured daughters, didn’t agree with the characterization of Ma, and would never have said it himself — yet he remained mute.
Sturdy told The Chief, it was “certainly not my proudest moment.”
Most of us face these moments from time to time.
We need to have the courage to speak up.
And there is no backstage. “The truth will out,” as the saying goes.
Also, let’s address proper apologies, shall we?
While those involved on the video have offered versions of apologies, they were either slow to come or couched in explanations.
Robin Cook Bondy, a professor in the Communication department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, told The Chief apologies “should be offered quickly, sincerely, authentically, and show that steps are being taken to resolve the situation.”
“Excuses for behaviour aren’t typically well-received, as the audience wants to hear that some learning has come from the experience and that things will be different in the future,” she said.
She added that it is important for those in positions of political power to have a firm grasp on the social and political context within which they are operating. “Admitting to an err in judgment, expressing sincere regret, offering a heartfelt apology to those impacted, and demonstrating a thorough understanding of the impact of one’s actions can go a long way towards reconciliation.”
Indeed. Lessons for us all from the campaign trail.