The Problem with Political Sexism: No One Understands the Importance of Education

Three decades ago, when I was 12, a friend and I decided to start a friendship with another girl. As some preteens do, we went to the mall to do fun things.

We both loved to play pranks, including cutting the cable to the television we received at the mall and using it as a slingshot to send silly string all over the store. We almost hit someone, as we were shooting off stuff that was too small for our reach. There was also the time we stole a big group gift card for a month’s worth of dessert we could not afford, ending up as “douchebags” at the next possible mall.

Imagine how upsetting it must have been for the kid who just wanted to be friends with her best friend. But what was more shocking was that in the schoolyard, we were “sluts” as our friends slapped us on the ass.

Our parents didn’t tolerate the two of us “hanging out” in the way society would prefer. We were forced to spend long hours after school working in a local factory. These factory jobs were hard but essential for our future survival, in our impoverished country. But these factory jobs weren’t respected by the education department; teachers didn’t believe our parents’ vision for us. They didn’t understand the importance of hard work, the value of studies and the importance of learning by doing. The teachers blamed our parents for our bad job habits.

I needed a level of education that a 12-year-old girl could not possibly get in Canada.

My own mother believed in education, but because education was not respected by the education department, there was no career path for her to choose. My mother was moved from factory to factory. At 21, she was the lowest paid worker in the factory and the youngest.

I needed a level of education that a 12-year-old girl could not possibly get in Canada. Canadian Education — Canada’s national education system –“requires a high school diploma” so her very own age was ridiculous, too. In short, Canadian education viewed this “slut” from the schoolyard as a ripe ripe ripe fruit. She was supposed to be a tomboy, mindlessly working away to do manly things without thinking about her future. For a while, I thought that being able to read, write and understand English in Canada was extraordinary.

Canadian education expected me to obey a social doctrine that people like my mother didn’t care about at all. That my parents meant that my two brothers and I would be sexually abused or run-away or less than smart because we were girls. My brother, with his perfect ESL, was twice my age. We were considered adults despite being five years younger than my family. But when I arrived in Canada I was put in the same grade as an 8-year-old with a student teacher.

“You should do your homework,” my teachers would yell at me. I would smile politely and nod. But I was enraged that a grown man could point a finger at me and yell “work!” at me, while suggesting that it was my fault. And I, as a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Canada, was in a strange culture where I had to have homework that my peers could not understand. I had to continue to follow that culture until I could master it myself. As I got older and in the hands of more competent people I was able to let it go. I no longer wanted to follow this social dictum, because it spoke to my inferiority complex. I was aware of all that sexual abuse, like the others I knew of. Some of it was done by teachers and they didn’t put a finger to their mouths.

Whatever one thinks of women who choose to seek political office and think they’re either better, younger or sexier than most men, they are role models and a beacon of hope. To some they must be treasured for their intelligence, their intelligence is something we all should emulate.

Very few politicians today are as intelligent and would understand that we can all learn from one another as scientists, as military leaders, as accomplished businesswomen. I would like to see leaders across Canada — and not just Toronto — put aside the sex-symbol stereotypes and let women lead their different communities with what they have been taught in school.

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