Former park board candidate Trish Kelly takes aim at sexism in politics

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      According to former Vision Vancouver park board candidate Trish Kelly, an upcoming public forum tackling sexism in politics is about “holding a hope”.

      “I want to show that it can be better, that just because it didn’t work for me to run in this election doesn’t mean that women should feel that they can’t try,” she told the Straight by phone.

      Kelly stepped down as a Vision Vancouver candidate in July after a video surfaced of her reciting a sex-positive monologue. The performance was an excerpt from a play she wrote for the 1999 Vancouver Fringe Festival and was what she described as the funniest part of a “pretty dramatic” theatrical work.

      “When I found myself in a position where I was being told that my history as a sex-positive activist and artist was going to become part of a smear campaign, and that I wasn’t going to be electable and I was going to harm the chances of others on my slate getting elected, my impulse was to see how, as an activist, I could use this moment to further the systemic issues,” she said.

      “It seemed to me the most powerful thing that I could do with that attention was to get us talking about these bigger issues, which is: why is it difficult for a woman to be sex-positive and run for public office or have sexual agency and be nonapologetic about that?”

      Kelly is among the speakers planned for a sold-out forum on Friday (October 3) at SFU Harbour Centre. The event will also feature Lyndsay Poaps, former park commissioner and founder of the young women’s campaign school Frontrunner; the Museum of Vancouver’s Hanna Cho; trans filmmaker Gwen Haworth; and Oxfam Canada global gender-justice campaigner Kelly Bowden.

      Kelly sees her experience as a clear example of some of the challenges that female candidates face.

      “There’s quite a dichotomy of, on the one hand, you’re expected to be completely transparent and yet there’s a very low tolerance for anything that falls outside of the normal range,” she said. “And I think that that’s just elevated by being a woman, because there’s still so many stereotypes about what ladylike behaviour is in our society.”

      She noted it can also be challenging for women with families to enter politics.

      “I think we see less women at the city-council level, partly because of the demands on time, and we as women are still expected to shoulder the majority of the work as caregivers in our families, so that makes it very difficult for women to seek public office,” she said.

      As part of her activism, Kelly wants to bring attention to the barriers faced by women, queer people, and candidates from marginalized backgrounds in running for office.

      Other potential topics she has in mind for future forums include addressing accessibility for people with disabilities in entering politics and the potential challenges that an “online footprint” can pose for young candidates.

      “If it means that more people are talking about and affirming that we want female candidates and we want candidates from marginalized backgrounds to take the risk and come forward and seek public office or other forms of leadership, then some good has come of this,” Kelly said.

      “That’s what I hope.”




      Oct 1, 2014 at 1:27pm

      The reason that it's difficult for you, Trish Kelly, is because mainstream politicians are faced with the reality that our version of democracy is a popularity contest pure and simple.

      The electorate, by and large, has little specific or even general knowledge of the issues that their representatives will be addressing. By definition, half of them are below average in intelligence. The rest, eh. Most of us don't care, aren't curious, consider political platforms and policy implications to be about as interesting as math.

      When in fact, it *is* as interesting and important as math.

      So instead of promoting you on your professional competence, which is beyond the interest and ken of most of us, the political machine advances people who are "electable." Good teeth and posture, quick on their feet, exudes a certain charisma and aura of leadership, pretty smart yet folksy enough to be relatable (not an egghead, wonk, geek or nerd).

      And certainly not sex-positive. Why, that implies you don't love our savior Jesus Christ more than yourself. Why, that implies that you believe women parts are yours to do with as you wish. Why, that makes us *think* about your women parts. Jesus did not have women parts! He was a virgin, therefore good!

      So, how do we get over this? I'm not sure. I don't particularly want to go in the opposite direction and vote for a leering horndog or something. But if we can somehow mature as a society and vote for people because we (a) like what they have to say and (b) believe they can deliver and (c) will do an impartial, professional job even (or especially) for the people that did NOT vote for them and that do not even like them... well... this democracy thing has a shot of being useful, eventually.

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      Oct 1, 2014 at 1:35pm

      ps as if my rant was not long enough, I am returning to say that this anonymous internet gadfly of no particular importance does fully support what you are trying to do. I do think that it is nonsense to be taken off the slate for some funny/sexy performance piece you did - Ronald Reagan was not disqualified for playing an evil person in The Killers. I can understand why it happened because Vision is generally pretty canny, it's just too bad for them, you, and us.

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      Oct 1, 2014 at 1:45pm

      "But if we can somehow mature as a society....."

      Good grief (eyes roll upward).

      Trish Kelly was supposed to be running to improve society as a whole and now she's spending her time on what happened to her personally. Being an activist is easy. You just complain and hold everyone else accountable for not giving in to their demands. When she was on the other side of the fence and would be the target of malcontents, she crumbled. She wasn't political material to begin with.

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      Oct 1, 2014 at 1:58pm

      Don't blame the electorate. She should have actually stood for election to actually see whether or not she was electable. No-one knows if she would have been successfully smeared or that the slate would suffered. If we are being told all the facts (which isn't certain) she was placed in an unfortunate position by Vision - her party of choice. No-one was stopping her standing for election for any other party or as an independent and actually most of the feedback from this shitshow was in support of her. Too bad she decided to play the victim rather than go for it. Not a good look for a politician. Maybe she's probably better off in the activist peanut gallery. Too bad.

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      Oct 1, 2014 at 2:22pm

      OMG you are still my favourite new commentator since Alan Layton found something better to do with his time. But yeah, I think society can mature a bit - in the sense of voting for people based on projections of how well they can make decisions within their areas of responsibility. I do think that she was knobbled by concerns related to values/purity/nice girlness. And why can't she complain about it? And how is activism on the issue only going to benefit her? It would benefit... society!

      Eye roll that, you cynical cynic!

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      Oct 1, 2014 at 2:53pm

      "knobbled by concerns related to values/purity/nice girlness."

      There's nothing to suggest that's true, even if it makes a nice story. And if true it's not the electorate who are to blame, it's Vision. If she really wanted to make a difference she would have stood anyway. Instead she caved and the media will forever cast her as a self-victimising, one-issue activist ala Brigitte dePape. There's probably a future for her milking this for a few years but it's not too compelling to most voters who mostly didn't give a hoot about her video.

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      Oct 1, 2014 at 4:11pm

      Uh oh! Trish Kelley's 10 minutes of fame are up. If it's not about her, she's just not interested.

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      OMG / RUK / Alan Layton...

      Oct 1, 2014 at 10:44pm

      you guys/gals all rock :)

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      Oct 2, 2014 at 8:05am


      Lol. Cynicism is my specialty. That's why I'm always drawn to TGS - easily the most cynical of the rags. They can find something horrific in every story. If you're white and looking for a good bout of guilt, look no further than the pages of The Georgia Straight :)

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      sex positive?

      Oct 3, 2014 at 2:00pm

      maturity != intelligence
      sex positive != quality or character
      diversity != better (or worse)
      lack of support for an individual != discrimination

      ... a whole lot of unsupported implications in this fictionary.

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