Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Best of Women: Minn Timi Mun Koma!

Achievement in Politics: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
This winter, I developed a surprising crush on the Nordic countries. Their European sensibilities, combined with their music scene and a Globe profile on Danish cuisine, left me hungry to visit the Northern countries - snack on their home-made Poptarts, swim in their icy waters, drink their strange brew, and flirt with their beautiful women.

When I started this series, I got an email from a buddy who alerted me to Iceland's Prime Minister, a dame by the name of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. He was like, "She's got an impressive resume!" which is true. She's also openly gay, and as such, is the first queer head of state.

Canada's female political leadership leaves much to be desired. We had Kim Campbell, the first woman PM and the person who ruined the Conservative party for years to come. We have Elizabeth May, who is the head of the Green Party - for some reason, I get the sense that May is the kind of person who gets snorted about around the water cooler in the Ignatieff war room. May's persistent me-too attitude regarding her party's place in the Canadian political pecking order is, frankly, to me, a little off-putting. I like the Green party's stance on a lot of issues (hello, I'm a pinko with a bike, of course I dig a party that posits sustainability as a principle), but May's style runs a little high on the ick-scale. In any case, this ain't about me - what I am saying is that Canadian women have precious few role models to look up to. Olivia Chow, maybe the most prominent female member of parliament, is best known for her marriage to Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP and proud owner of a very fine mustache.

(Full disclosure/weird story: I briefly dated a guy who worked at city hall, and I was invited to Jack Layton's house for their annual Christmas party. I accidentally dressed myself up like a prostitute [high leather boots and fishnets], ate 90% of their cheese platter out of sheer nervousness, and watched Jack sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" on their home karaoke machine. It was the zenith and the nadir of my life so far.)

IN ANY CASE. What I'm saying is that it's hard out there for a pimp, if you replace "pimp" with "politician/vagina owner." Dude politicos are free to wander in and out of office, never being noted for anything unless they get caught with underage hookers, are half-black, or once starred as Danny Devito's brother. Those are literally, like, the only reasons male politicians get talked about. Oh, and Rob Ford's a fatty.

But women are still being all "hmmm"ed over. Sarah Palin was a punchline even as she garnered support across the county. Condoleezza Rice got column inches about her shoes, a feat hitherto unmatched by male politicians. And in Canada, if the female political leadership were a landscape, it would be a tundra. This is embarrassing. In a country that's chill with gay marriage and has stopped caring about teenagers toking up in public, we can't get a female leader who can, you know, lead.

So it's no wonder I had to turn abroad to get some womanly leadership. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the lady who runs Iceland, is sort of fascinating. Her Wikipedia photo makes her look like a smart-girl private detective in some screwball HBO comedy, all big lapels and red lips, but she's Iceland's longest-serving member of the Althing (seriously, since 1978! This woman has a literal lifetime's worth of experience), and when she lost her bid for party leadership in 1994, she actually pounded her fists and said, "Minn timi mun koma!" This becomes far more stirring when translated into a language I speak: "My time will come!" Since Icelanders are awesome, this became an iconic phrase.

It's a fact that women get elected less frequently, serve on fewer boards, and aren't as politically powerful as their male counterparts. I hope that my generation changes this, that women who are now in their teens and twenties can look forward to the day that they're elected to city council, to parliament hill, to 24 Sussex Drive. When inclusion in national debates is a given, not a tooth-and-nail battle. When the commentary isn't about what we wear and who we're married to, but what we say and how we lead. Because our time is coming, but I don't know how soon.

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