Elizabeth May's comment on NDP's women candidates 'sexist' says advocate
Elizabeth May, former leader of the federal Green Party, in a file photo (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Adrian Wyld).
VANCOUVER -- As B.C. wraps up its provincial election, federal MP Elizabeth May is attracting heat for a comment condemning the NDP’s women candidates.
On Oct. 23, May posted to Twitter saying, “Be kind. Don't elect any idealistic climate concerned women to an NDP government to whip their votes and crush their dreams. Vote Green.”
Her comment was a come-back to another user's tweet encouraging people to vote for the NDP’s Kelly Greene of Richmond-Steveston. The tweet in support of the NDP includes a video of Greene speaking with the NDP’s Bowinn Ma.
Ellen Woodsworth, an advocate for women in politics, says May’s comments are sexist and disappointing.
“You're saying if a woman is running … that she's going to automatically do what that party does without having a mind of her own,” said Woodsworth, a former Vancouver city councillor and the current co-chair of the non-partisan Women Transforming Cities.
“I think that's really sad. I think it's not doing what we need to do, which is to motivate, encourage and support women to run, and as they decide to run to really be there for them and give them as much support as you have because it's a really grueling path,” she said.
Woodsworth said she thinks May’s comments are in reference to frustration from some voters and candidates that the NDP has not cancelled the Site C dam project.
“There was strong hope that (the NDP and its candidates) would be speaking out,” she said.
“(But) there's a lot of good women (running) who've got strong records on environmental issues, and some of them are running for the NDP and some run for the Green Party,” Woodsworth added.
Ma took to social media and replied to May, calling her comment “crushing.”
“Portraying (us) ... as naive, helpless, delicate women who need to be saved from the Legislature is not kind. It's patronizing and holds women back,” reads Ma’s tweet.
A leader like May, who is the former leader of the Green Party of Canada, needs to be encouraging other women to run, Woodsworth said.
“I think it's really critical for women in a leadership position, like Elizabeth May ... (she) would want to be encouraging women to run for any party and I know that some of the women running ... are outstanding.”
Other women, some of them frequent commenters on B.C. politics, also weighed in, calling the comment “awful,” bad modelling of feminism, and pointing out that there’s no B.C. Green candidate running in Richmond-Steveston.
May’s comments come at the bitter end of an election marred by several incidents of sexist and racist comments, including BC Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite’s comments about NDP candidate Bowinn Ma, which made national headlines.
May’s comments, as well as Thornthwaite’s, show that women can enact sexism as well, Woodsworth said.
“I've got many scars on my back from being attacked by women,” she said.
“Our society is very sexist, it's racist, and anybody who goes into the political fray has to try to stand in a very principled place and ... recognize how difficult it is for other women, other diverse women, to put themselves forward and to run and give them that support,” Woodsworth added.
“If you disagree with them politically, fine, state your disagreements, but don't undermine them.”
However, at least one person commented on Twitter in apparent agreement with May, saying that they were disappointed with what they see as Ma’s lack of criticism on the Site C dam project.
Women Transforming Cities is trying to encourage more women to run for municipal government in B.C.’s 2022 municipal elections.
Only 16 per cent of mayors in Canada are women, Woodsworth said, and of elected councillors, women only make up 25 per cent.
“We encourage women and encourage diverse women to think seriously about coming forward and running for political office,” Woodsworth said.
In a recent tweet, the organization encouraged women to start planning their run several years in advance.
“Think you want to run for school board, council, or mayor in your city in B.C. in 2022? Start now. Talk about it with your friends and family. Make a plan. Now is a great time,” it reads.
CTV News Vancouver has reached out to May for comment.