The alleged surrender of a young liberal candidate in Dartmouth South based on boudoir photos posted online is a double standard rooted in sexism and puritanism, says a professor at Mount Saint Vincent University.
Meredith Ralston is a professor of women’s studies researching women in politics and a book called. wrote Slut shaming, whore phobia and the unfinished sexual revolution.
“When I first heard about the whole situation it was partial disbelief and, you know, what year are we in? Have we been taken back to the 1950s?” Ralston said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Maritime noon.
On Saturday, the same day the elections were called, Liberal candidate Robyn Ingraham announced that she was dropping out of the race in Dartmouth South. At the time, she mentioned the intensity of the campaign, the time it took and the impact the campaign had on her mental health.
But on Wednesday night, Ingraham released an open letter explaining that the Liberal Party told her to resign and blame her mental illness. She said a party official told her that her boudoir photos, posted online, made “senior officials” nervous.
“That screams gender inequality from all angles,” she wrote in her open letter. “Why should I be ashamed of my body and what do I choose to do with it?”
Ralston said the Liberal Party’s treatment of Ingraham “shows the extent of the bitch shame we still have in society, especially among those in power or those who guard the door for potential politicians.”
While political parties say they want diversity in candidates, the Ingraham case shows that there are limits to what types of diversity are accepted, Ralston said. She added that posting intimate photos on the internet is not uncommon among younger people.
“It’s a generational problem,” said Ralston. “And if you want young people to show themselves up, but then they’ll be ashamed of things they’ve done in the past, that’s a great deterrent for women to show themselves off.”
Ralston said there seemed to be a double standard as Nova Scotia Liberal Party leader Iain Rankin recently announced – at the request of a reporter – that he had previously been charged with two drunkenness offenses.
“Rankin did something illegal, he took responsibility for it, he published it and it seems to be going away,” Ralston said. “The fact that she has done something that is not illegal – that is actually legal – but is still seen as somehow inappropriate for a politician, just tells us how far we have to go to normalize differences.
Rankin says he wants more information
When asked if Ingraham was told to resign, Rankin told reporters on Thursday: “I was certainly not part of a conversation with her.” He said he wanted to “know more about her story” and tried three times to contact her but got no response.
“It’s unfortunate that she feels the way she does and no one should feel that way,” he said. “All I can say is that the Liberal Party includes people from all backgrounds … I will continue to advocate justice and diversity and will continue to try to find candidates with different backgrounds and different life experiences.”
Rankin said he was disappointed with some of the things in her open letter.
When asked whether she could be welcomed back as a candidate, he said: “Possibly yes.”
Claudia Chender, the NDP candidate in Dartmouth South who has also served as her party’s critic for the women’s status advisory board, said she was not pleased with her potential rival’s departure and that Ingraham’s statement won over her on Wednesday night found .
“There are just two degrees of what is expected of you as a woman. I’ve seen it, I would say my colleagues have seen it … It’s not surprising,” she said.
Chender said Ingraham has the right to choose what to do with pictures of her own body, and that shouldn’t preclude her political life.
“We’ve heard a lot of stories about inappropriateness, but when they bond with men they seem somehow more forgivable than when they identify with women or women who identify and I would say the definitions of inappropriateness are very different “, she said.
Nicole Mosher, the PC candidate from Fairview-Clayton Park and president of the PC women’s committee, said in a statement that she stands in solidarity with Ingraham as a woman in politics “when it comes to blatant acts of sexism.”
“Rankin’s double standards are now fully visible,” the statement said. “Nobody should forget that Iain Rankin himself was originally given the green light to run for the Liberals, despite the fact that he has behaved in far worse ways in the past than anything Ms. Ingraham is alleged to have done.”
Mosher asked Rankin to apologize to Ingraham.