I would like very much for this to be the last time that I have to speak about this issue at all, because I would like very much for this behaviour to end. But we do have to have these conversations, because we know that allowing it to continue whilst we are quiet about it often leads to much worse, including physical violence.
In my view, what is most important to know is that what I have experienced over the last two and a half years is not limited to the behaviour of one man or even to a very small group of men. It is also not limited to social media.
For the last two and a half years, on a near daily basis, I have received e-mails, phone calls, and messages via social media (tags, comments, direct messages) that have been hateful. Most often, the messages are some variation of “shut up.” Many messages are much worse and mention my children, the death of my sister, or some other aspect of my personal life. Sometimes, the messages are threatening and make me feel unsafe and worry about the safety of my children.
The messages are always from men.
The messages are always personal.
The people who reach out to me to discuss issues that are related to Regional Council rarely use the kind of language that I have become too accustomed to hearing and reading in the abuse and harassment that has been directed toward me. The people who reach out to me to discuss issues that are related to Regional Council most certainly never mention my children, my late sister, or any other aspect of my personal life.
Of the people who have directed this kind of hatefulness toward me, I cannot think of a single one about whom I had any particular feelings before all of this began more than two years ago. Many of them, I did not know. Some of them, I knew and did not harbour any particular feelings one way or another. If you do not like something I said before I was an elected official, so be it. If you do not like something about who I am, so be it. We are all permitted to be whole people. I am permitted to have thoughts and feelings outside of the time and/or scope of my role as a Regional Councillor, and you are welcome to not like them. It is also possible – in fact, it is far less work – to completely ignore the aspects of my life that you do not like or, frankly, to ignore me altogether.
As a politician, of course I want media attention. I will tell you, though, that I would much rather garner media attention because I worked hard to tighten up the Region’s Expense Policy or because I worked to ensure that the election of the Regional Chair was a transparent process or because I brought a motion to try to address a number of governance issues or because I am currently working on getting my colleagues to consider developing a Lobbyist Registry.
I can assure you that I do not want attention for being the target of hateful, misogynistic behaviour, and I would like nothing more than to stop having to talk about it. Until it stops, though, we do have to continue to talk about it, because – as I noted above – there is too long a history of this kind of behaviour escalating to physical violence.
It should not be hilarious to anyone that I do not feel safe. Statements like “no one should feel unsafe, but she is very opinionated” – which I have seen far too many times – actually mean that no one should feel unsafe unless she is very opinionated. It is my view that no one should feel unsafe at all.
Whilst I will continue to speak out about misogyny and other forms of hate, I would – again – like to be able to stop. I can stop when the people who engage in these forms of hate stop. In the meantime, just as I do not enjoy receiving all of the hateful messages I receive, I also do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, condone the sending of those kinds of messages to anyone else.
What I would really like is for all of us, regardless of what we think or believe, to continue to do things that we feel are important and which are productive and meaningful. Regardless of our differences, we can all get through life without putting energy into harming others.