Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Red Pumps and the BC Budget

Just when you thought that society was moving past traditional gender roles.... Open up the pages of the Vancouver Province.

In a disgusting and ridiculous story about the upcoming BC provincial budget, a writer suggested that Liberal Finance Minister Carole Taylor had learned her lesson from her last budget speech. No, the lesson had nothing to do with the balance between debt repayment, tax relief and social spending. (Heaven forbid we should spill policy ink on the pages of the Province.) No, the lesson had nothing to do with her delivery of the speech, either. It had everything to do with... wait for it.... HER CHOICE OF FOOTWEAR. (?!?)

In the opening lines of the article, Michael Smyth -- a knuckle-dragging man who could only be described as such in the most generous terms -- wrote,

"Trying to guess what's in the budget is always a dangerous game, but there's one budget-day prediction that's been a rock-solid, take-it-the-bank lock for a year now: There was no way Carole Taylor was going to wear those $600 Gucci pumps again. Taylor's choice of footwear last year was one of her few gaffes in an otherwise polished performance as B.C. finance minister. Selecting gold-buckle pumps from the Ivana Trump collection for her traditional budget-day shoes wasn't exactly a stroke of populist genius. No surprise, then, that she's adopted the oh-so-fashionable environmental theme this year to avoid another political bad-shoe day. She'll table the 2007 budget this afternoon while standing in the same pair of 16-year-old 'recycled' high-heels she wore back in 2005."

When's the last time you heard anyone comment about the cost and style of Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's thousand-dollar suit? (They're actually quite nicely tailored, by the way. Check it out.) I wonder why no one suggests he should 'dress down' when making a budget speech on cuts to welfare programs.

You study this type of gender-framing in the media -- mostly in the abstract. You tend to shrug off studies that suggest women are treated differently by journalists and editors. (It's easy to write them off as 'feminist' -- a term which, somehow, has been tainted as meaning 'less than scientific'.) Guess what: those studies are right. Check out Linda Trimble's award winning paper on "Who Framed Belinda Stronach".

When you teach about gender-framing, you hear students remark -- "Yeah, but that only happened in the old days of news reporting. We've come a long way since then." Guess what: we haven't.

Congratulations Mike Smyth and the Vancouver Province: you've just assured yourself of a permanent place in the required reading lists of every gender-politics course in the country. And you've earned the shame of every man who deserves to call himself one. Even someone from the Calgary School has to appreciate that.

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