Top Ten Sexist things I heard as a Parliament Hill intern
Read about Rob Ford's Former rival, a political candidate, accusing him of sexual assault, then the unfortunate #AskTrudeau event where politics was sold as a date brought back terrible memories of my time as an intern and political staffer. I hope women one day will be seen as individuals in Canadian politics, and not objects that are feminine.
I didn't expect to be objectified and dehumanized the moment I stepped off the university campus, and this objectification destroyed my life. I have a degree in public policy, studied media relations, but was unprepared for what I saw on the Hill. I never felt I was an immigrant, female, or person of colour in university, but I had found that this created a triple-pane glass ceiling for me on the Hill. Here are my top 10 worst soundbites:
1) "The parliament is not a place for women. It is a men's locker-room, where it is all about whose THING is bigger," my boss (who was twice my age) said on my second day on the Hill as an intern, pointing his erect penis.
2) "I love it when Muslim women walk around in Lebanon with a huge cleavage and a small Koran hanging between her tits," said the same boss, as he tried to pat my arms and I escaped.
3) "Asia is a great place to get a girlfriend like in Korea my friends say because Asian men oppress women. So even an ugly man can get beautiful women because we don't beat them up all the time." Same man, as he tried petting my shoulders as I escaped. He would always mix up where I was from.
4) " WASH THE DISHES YOU LOWLY INTERN" as he handed me his moldy coffee cup collection. With all the mold and bacteria had acquired, it had more culture than a museum.
5) On my second week in parliament as an intern, from my first boss, “Did you know women can’t sue for sexual harassment on the Hill. It is the one place except from sexual harassment laws as no woman has ever won an action.” I don’t know if he is right on the legal side, but as a lawsuit is career suicide, most ambitious women I learned keep quiet.
6) "You know the previous intern went out for dinner with me. You should too..[or else]" former boss. (I politely declined, he felt hurt, retaliated.)
7) "Jasmine, there is a committee meeting you should observe! GO!" As he watched Star trek movies, I went, took notes, handed them to my boss. Later, he told a colleague: "The budget lockdown I went to was fascinating, so here are my notes," He passed my work as his own.
8) "Wow, you immigrated from [country x]... do you wear hijab (wink wink), because I have a fetish for women who wear hijab (wink wink). I find it very sexy when a woman wears hijab (winking on steroids)..." me: "No?! I do not wear hijab." This is from a former colleague, a staffer.
9) "Consent is sexy," same former staffer as I was pushing him away when he was grabbing my breasts and trying to twerk against my buttox. I was inquiring about work, and he took it as an opportunity to try to get me to drink stay up late (he thought my Pepsi was rum and coke), used waiting for a bus at his place as an excuse for him to try to grab me and make moves on me. As I sat down in the living room, he said he'd get his laptop and came back in his underwear! I was so shocked I just sat there. He tried touching me inappropriately, and I kept pushing him away. When that didn’t work, he said … but consent is sexy, so you should consent to this.
10) A Parliament Hill labor union response of a woman who faced harassment/discrimination: "Unfortunately, under our collective agreement you were still under the probationary period, and that allows an MP to terminate the employment without cause. So, we do not see an opportunity for a grievance in your situation."
There was an amazing piece in Salon Magazine against the discrimination of women that applies so well to the parliament. I hope one day there would be a law that everyone reads this passage each time a new person is hired or there is a volunteer in the office.
" Now, you established people, listen up. You will occasionally meet younger people who go out of their way to speak with you at professional events, ask you interesting and sometimes personal questions, and hang on your every word. Those are not puppy-dog, crushed-out eyes staring up at you. These are eyes hungry for a professional break. These people are not trying to sleep with you. They are trying to get hired by you."