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Women Politicians and Their Media Coverage: A Generational Analysis
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The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronique de Communication


Gertrude J. Robinson and Armande Saint-Jean
(with the assistance of Christine Rioux)
McGill University

     Abstract.  Beginning from the premise that gender
     is a fundamental factor of social organization,
     not simply a property of individuals, the authors
     explore the implications of this gender structure
     for women in historically changing twentieth-
     century Canadian political culture.  In a pilot
     study prepared for the Royal Commission on
     Electoral Reform, three generations of women are
     identified: the rare women in office before 1970,
     those born from 1940 through the baby boom, and
     those born after 1960.  By means of interviews,
     historical reconstruction, and narrative content
     analysis, the authors distinguish the self-
     perceptions of the three generations and the
     styles of media coverage that they have typically
     encountered.  The analysis finds that two major
     forces have shaped this media coverage: the
     evolving modern women's movement after 1970, and
     the minority status of women within all political
     parties.  It is argued that political culture has
     been created by men for men, although women have
     made a difference in political life, despite their
     sparse numbers.  The report concludes with
     reflections on the present political generation
     and with recommendations for a more egalitarian

                Theoretical Setting

     Issues of gender, politics and the media are complexly
intertwined, and their study up to now has been piecemeal.
This is because gender was previously viewed as a property
of individuals, rather than as a principle of social
organization that systematically affects a person's
behaviour and total life experience (Stacey and Thorne,
1985: 307).  Every step in a female politician's career, as
well as the description of her political performance by the
media, is therefore affected by her gender.  Our study will
address these interconnections and elucidate the ways in
which various kinds of social barriers affect media
descriptions.  The interlinkages will be investigated under
three headings:

     * the media implications of Canadian female
       politicians' minority status in all political

     * the changing media coverage of women politicians
       from the 1950s onward; and

     * future media narratives and the social challenge
       of women in politics.

     If gender constitutes a principle of social
organization, one must assume that different groups of
people living in different historical periods will come to
different understandings of social reality.  The notion of
political generation helps to pinpoint these different
understandings, because it raises questions about who, how
and when these understandings were developed.  Political
generations have been defined in two ways: in terms of a
"life cycle" and in terms of a "cohort" (Mannheim, 1952).
For our purposes the "cohort" analysis is more relevant
because it addresses the issue of stability in group
outlooks concerning the role of women in public life (Knoke,
1984: 192).  In the case of Canadian women politicians,
these outlooks, as well as their media descriptions, changed
as the three cohorts came into contact with the developing
ideas of the women's movement.

     The three different cohorts of women politicians who
were active in Canadian public life can be divided into
those who served before 1970, when they were a tiny minority
in provincial and federal parliaments (4.5 per cent) and
those who served after this time, when there was a rapid
growth in numbers.  The former, our interviews show, were
born in the 1920s, while of the latter, the second
generation was born around the outbreak of the Second World
War (1940s) and the third, after 1960.  Each of these
cohorts was thus born into a unique historical time with its
own identifiable set of media description practices.

     Women politicians' historical experiences, and the
social attitudes they engendered, can be correlated with the
rise of an important social movement, "second-wave
feminism," that affected the collective social outlooks not
only of North American readers and viewers but also of the
media.  Sara Evans (1979) explains that the women's movement
was so important because it provided both a theory
(patriarchy) and a method (gender analysis) that radically
changed women's understanding of themselves and their social

     The relationship between the three cohorts of women
politicians (who are differentiated by their birth dates)
and their media descriptions is determined by the women's
movement's understanding of itself at the time these
descriptions were made.  According to Francine Descarries
and Shirley Roy (1988), the second-wave women's movement
underwent three developmental changes during which its goals
were modified.  In the "egalitarian reformist" stage in the
1960s, well-educated, older professional women, as well as
younger activists, spontaneously joined together to analyze
the malaise that had "no name" (Friedan, 1963).  Action and
consciousness-raising groups focused on the meaning of
"equality" in the legal realm and the workplace.  Among the
1960s cohort of women politicians there were few avowed
feminists, because these women, lacking insider experience,
assumed that they _were_ being treated equally.
Consequently, first-cohort women politicians focused on the
implications of their own minority status and the relation
of women to the state.  In Canada, this decade was important
because it led to the 1967 appointment of the Royal
Commission on the Status of Women.  This Commission, for the
first time, focused attention on women's changing social
role and showed that women _were_ treated differentially.
In its 1970 report, 166 recommendations were offered to make
women more equal to men in Canadian life (Brown, 1989:

     From its focus on gender equality, the women's movement
in its second epoch (1970s) became radicalized and turned to
issues of systematic discrimination, goaded on by student
demonstrations in the United States and Europe, and the
anti-war sentiments engendered by Vietnam.  Feminist writers
of this period began to explain women's differential social
status in terms of a social and ideological system called
patriarchy, which assigns women to the private sphere of the
home and men to the powerful public realm of the state.  In
the family setting, women perform unpaid domestic labour to
maintain the household economy as well as psychological
services to maintain the family unit.  Women's groups began
to demand public-sector support for child care, and that
women have control over their own bodies in regard to birth
control and abortion.  For second-cohort women politicians,
it became clear that their minority status was not an
accident, but the result of a systematic lack of recruitment
into federal party structures and of access to equal party
support.  Consequently, they called for women's networks in
all major Canadian parties and for an active search for
women's participation in party caucuses and electoral

     By the beginning of the 1980s, the neo-conservative
backlash that coincided with the Reagan and Thatcher regimes
once again changed the emphases of North America's
second-wave women's movement.  With the demands for legal
equality promoted by many organizations across class and
gender lines (Hochschild and Machung, 1990), women's groups
were now focusing on various other aspects of the social and
political agenda.  From this period onward, it was clear
that feminism did not speak with a single voice.
Third-generation women politicians reflected these
diversities in their own party ranks, with the Liberal and
Progressive Conservative parties less open to change in
structures and and in personnel than the New Democratic
Party.  The "pluralistic feminism" of the 1980s was typical
of women politicians as well as the public at large
(Schneider, 1988: 9).  This outlook also penetrated media
descriptions, which were sensitized through media-watch
organizations, meetings with editors and demands from other
women's groups for fairer descriptive practices.

     In the 1980s, the political recruitment of women
politicians reached about 20 per cent, and party
restructuring haltingly began.  Our interviews suggest that,
for the first time, a new breed of third-generation
self-declared feminist politicians was being elected.  In
contrast to the other two cohorts, many of these women
viewed politics as a career for which specific
qualifications were necessary.  These qualifications were
not acquired through long years of party work, as before,
but through scholarly, legal or business training.  Militant
feminists, the original trail-blazers, have vanished from
the public scene as new types of leaders consolidate and
extend the social equality agenda of the women's movement.

     In addition to the cohort analysis, this study also
incorporates a second type of analysis, the "minority"
approach, to explain the differential party status of the
three cohorts of women politicians.  It draws attention to
the fact that internal party structures and the "culture" of
politics were created by men for men.  They are thus neither
easy to penetrate, nor comfortable to work in for women
aspiring to hold office (Brodie, 1985; Bashevkin, 1985).
Therefore, the kinds of barriers that major and minor
parties place in the way of women candidates become an
important index of the type of social change that has
occurred since the 1950s.  The three generations of women
politicians that have entered politics since then have very
different attitudes toward power.  While we have more
detailed interview material on the outlooks of the first two
generations of women politicians, the third generation,
which takes feminism for granted, is the most interesting to
speculate about because these women will become the "new
look" candidates that the Canadian public seems to be
looking for in the 1990s.  Their new understanding of how to
organize and how to become active moulders of new people-
and environment-friendly legislation will be important to
contemplate in the final section of this study.

     A third type of analysis that we have used in this
pilot project can be loosely called a narrative analysis.
In this analysis we have probed both the _context_ of the
media descriptions and the _patterns_ these descriptions
have formed.  Such an analysis permits us to link the
changing media portrayals of women politicians to the
historical periods in which they occurred.  These periods,
we will show, have themselves been marked by the women's
movement's changing agendas.  To establish the context of
media descriptions, we interviewed both male and female
journalists concerning their descriptive practices, and
inquired whether these were affected by gender.  All of the
professionals commented that they used the same descriptive
practices vis-a-vis all interviewees.  Women journalists,
however, were more apt to remark that they were particularly
interested in highlighting women politicians' professional
backgrounds, which were rarely noted by their male

     Since this is a gender study, we began with the
assumption that gender is an important descriptive
characteristic that generates different kinds of narrative
patterns for female and male politicians.  Three different
kinds of narrative styles can be distinguished: the
traditional "first woman" approach, the currently used
"special interest" mixed approach, and a future
"egalitarian" discourse, which will invoke not gender but
competence as the major characteristic by which both male
and female incumbents will be judged.  Time constraints
precluded a general comparison of the _amount_ of male and
female coverage, although it would be interesting to provide
this in a larger, future project.  We derived our narrative
patterns from a corpus of reports covering the 26 political
actors we had identified in the three cohorts.  This corpus
comprised a total of about 250 newspaper and magazine
articles distributed over a 30-year period.  Each of these
articles was subjected to a simple content analysis that
recorded the following three characteristics: choice of
adjectives, nouns and personal characteristics associated
with women politicians; gender focus - type of headline
used; and topics associated with women politicians.
Together these characteristics provide the basis for the
three kinds of generational stereotypes that we were able to
isolate and that are the subject of the rest of the study.

     The generational, minority and narrative analyses
indicate that media descriptions are not merely _passive
mirrors_ of the Canadian scene, but that media institutions,
and the journalists associated with them, are _active
participants_ in the struggle for social change.  We will
demonstrate how the media can, and do, through the way in
which they describe public issues, retard or advance the
cause and legitimacy of some groups of people and not of
others.  In this process, media institutions and their
outlooks themselves undergo change.  In the course of the
past 30 years, the women's movement has been one of the
major forces that, together with media-watch and consumer
organizations, have drawn attention to the media's need to
overcome their gender biases.  As a result of these
pressures, the media, which used to denigrate women's
political contributions in the pre-movement era, have
modified their narrative approaches in the direction of
feminist demands.  In spite of these changes, however,
feminist analyses and their paradigms remain marginalized by
the media, as the 1980s' post-feminism rhetoric indicates.
Precisely because the styles of media descriptions are so
important for a democratic understanding of the public
world, pressures for narrative change have to be maintained
until all public officials, irrespective of gender, receive
the same egalitarian focus and balanced handling that social
fairness in a democracy demands.

The Media Implications of Women's Minority Status
in Canadian Party Politics

     Much has been written about the minority status of
women politicians in Canada, and the Royal Commission on
Electoral Reform and Party Financing has heard about this
issue from other researchers.  Suffice it to remember, here,
that at both the provincial and federal levels, the election
of female representatives was insignificant until 1970.
During the last two decades, however, women have made
substantial gains, so that as of 1988, they represent 19.5
per cent of all candidates and 13.2 per cent of all federal
laws.  On the provincial level, the representation of women
politicians varies between an insignificant 2 per cent in
Newfoundland and a maximum of 22 per cent in Ontario, with
Quebec registering a close 19 per cent.  Even though these
figures constitute progress for women politicians, they
indicate that Canada has only about half the female
political representation that is found in selected
Scandinavian parliaments, such as Sweden, where 38 per cent
of MPs are women.

     Sociologists have suggested that it takes a threshold
of at least 20 to 30 per cent for a minority to succeed in
improving its access to a gendered profession like politics.
Sweden has achieved this take-off, but even there, as Ami
Lonnroth (Canada, Royal Commission, 1990) mentions, the iron
rule of power prevails: the greater the power, the scarcer
the women.  In Sweden and Canada, both department and
committee chairpersons are still appointed on the basis of
gender.  Women have not yet penetrated the top and most
powerful finance, economics or defence domains.  In spite of
these continuing imbalances, feminist pressures have forced
health and social issues on to the public agenda, and social
support for child-rearing activities is now accepted as the
norm in Europe and North America (Burt et al., 1988:

     The media implications of Canadian politicians'
minority status are twofold: women politicians have
virtually no visibility in three of the country's ten
provinces; and successful women politicians constitute a
very small subgroup of candidates available for media
attention.  In the next section, we will show how, due to
the traditional notion that women's place is in the home,
women politicians virtually disappear from the television
screen.  Television's electoral focus on national party
leaders further reinforces the trend to ignore women in
politics, because more female candidates are sponsored by
minority and regional parties than by the two major parties.

     Added to these gender-related obstacles caused by the
political system (Burt et al., 1988: 154; Brodie and
Vickers, 1982: 19-22), there is a further media-specific
barrier: the virtual annihilation of women in all types of
television programming.  Not only are there very few women
represented in television programming, but women's
perspectives are also left undiscussed.  Tannis
MacBeth-Williams et al.  (1986) found that nearly two-thirds
(65 per cent) of all program characters were male and only
one-third female.  This discrepancy is further reinforced in
news and public affairs coverage where 77 per cent of news
readers, 91 per cent of experts and 70 per cent of
voice-overs are male (Jeffrey, 1989).  Women are also
denigrated with respect to their capacities: they are less
likely to be featured as leaders; as taking risks; or as
powerful, authoritative and knowledgeable personalities.

     All of these journalistic selection norms tend to make
the appearance of women on the television screen rare and to
feature women in their traditional secondary and home-maker
roles.  Only 38 per cent of programs show women doing
non-traditional work of _any_ kind, thus reinforcing the
outmoded notion that women's public place is in the "pink
ghetto's" low-paying service jobs.  Such norms work against
the accurate description of women politicians who are
engaged in a non-traditional social role.  Because these
norms have remained constant since the 1950s, one must
conclude that the media themselves contribute to an
interpretive framework that carries the implicit message
that women have only a small, secondary role to play in
Canadian public life (MacBeth-Williams et al., 1986).

     Television's gendered framework for political reporting
is reinforced by the ways in which Canada's parties
function.  Robert Mason Lee (1989a) argues that television
as a medium has drastically changed the strategy, the
conduct and the functioning of electoral campaigns.  Since
the early 1980s, TV has replaced the party as a campaign
strategist through its news programming format and national
reach.  The party's strategic role has been further eroded
because the media focus on the federal leaders rather than
on other party personnel.  Municipal and provincial
contestants from smaller or new parties, which are more
supportive of female candidates (Brown, 1989: 150), have
suffered from this changed focus.  Their contestants are now
rarely covered, making the real gains of women in municipal
governments virtually invisible (Lavigne, 1990: 55-56).

     Because women are rarely selected for strategic and
visible party positions, they also receive less media
exposure _prior_ to their candidacy.  This disproportion is
the outcome of two sets of gender-related party practices:
women candidates have unequal access to the parties'
available seats and are also disproportionately assigned to
run in "lost-cause" ridings (Brodie, 1985: 113-17).  In the
1988 federal election, female candidates were able to
contest only 45 per cent of all open seats (133 out of a
total of 263).

     Both of these gender-related constraints have serious
consequences for the media coverage of female contenders.
The electronic media, with scarce personnel and a "games"
approach to election coverage, associate "winning" with male
politicians, while women politicians, whose campaigns are
linked to lost-cause ridings, are associated with the "Flora
syndrome."  Sheila Copps had to contend with this
association in her 1982 Ontario Liberal party leadership
campaign against David Peterson.  Although she garnered many
votes, she was never credited with having done well in the
campaign nor with having leadership potential.  The scarcity
of female contenders also works against women becoming
visible in electoral campaigns unless their party achieves a
surprise upset.  Together, these gender-linked party
barriers translate into additional media selection and
description biases that do not apply to male politicians.

        Women Politicians and Their Media Coverage

     A third set of gender-filters that affect female, but
not male, politicians arises from the unique narrative
styles that the largely male reporting teams develop toward
women politicians.  Just as politics, until recently, was a
largely male-dominated activity, so, too, has broadcast
journalism been a gendered profession with traditional
notions about women's place in society.  A historical
comparison, based on generational analysis, permits us to
relate changes in styles of thought to professional
reporting activities and, thus, to identify changes in
reportorial styles concerning women politicians.

The Traditional Period (before 1970): Focus on

     In the period up to 1970, the general societal outlook
continued to be conservative.  It distinguished between the
private sphere of home and family, for which women had the
main responsibility, and the public sphere of politics,
business and work, inhabited by men.  Although the Second
World War had drawn more women into the paid labour force,
the ideology of the 1950s once again relegated women to
their "proper" place in the home (Friedan, 1963).  It was
not until the late 1960s that larger numbers of women, both
with and without children, were drawn into the labour force
to help cover the rising costs of a middle class standard of
living.  At that time, as we have seen, the North American
women's movement was in its infancy, and the contradictions
between women's public work and private family roles were
not yet well understood.  This traditional role assignment
provided a formidable barrier to the recruitment of women
into the male domain of Canadian politics.  Only 17 women
politicians were elected to Parliament in the 50 years
between 1920 and 1970.  Clearly, these conservative social
attitudes also affected the ways in which the first
generation of women politicians were narrated.  Among this
group were Pauline Jewett, Judy LaMarsh and Flora MacDonald.

     The "traditional" narrative style, which persisted to
the end of the 1960s, can generally be described as the
biological approach.  It uses a typification that emphasizes
women qua "biologically different being," and narrates women
politicians as "first woman" and "token" in the
non-traditional domain of politics.  As such, it perpetuates
the gender stereotyping of women's activities and assumes
that women politicians are primarily involved with their
family and their children, and only secondarily with their
political responsibilities.  The notion of the restricted
social role of women engenders a typification that
automatically places women and their concerns into the less
important "human interest" classification of public
reporting.  In the press, this typification places reports
on female politicians into the "life-styles" section, while
on television, it means that the story will appear in the
final third, and therefore less important, segments of the
news line-up (Robinson, 1978).

     The traditional topic assignment that was associated
with the "first woman" approach leads male reporters to
query female politicians on a restricted set of what are
perceived as woman-related issues.  These include social
welfare, education and health.  Flora MacDonald was
distressed by this restricted reportorial topic assignment,
a restriction that persists to this day.  After the 1990
invasion of Kuwait, _The Journal_ aired a "special" on the
condition of foreigners detained in Iraq during which the
Tehran hostage crisis was recalled.  Instead of drawing on
Flora MacDonald's expert knowledge as Canada's external
affairs minister during that period, _The Journal_ assigned
the complimentary roles to former ambassadors Allan Gotlieb
(Washington) and Ken Taylor (Tehran).

     In addition to restricting the topic assignment, which
marginalizes women politicians and their interests, the
traditional narrative style also focuses and frames stories
in a way that undervalues women politicians' professional
backgrounds and wide-ranging capacities.  "First woman"
reporting highlights primarily the _biological_ and _family
relationship_ characteristics of the female politician fails
to illuminate her training and professional qualifications.
Judy LaMarsh reports, in her _Memoirs of a Bird in a Gilded
Cage_, that "columnists asked me about anything and
everything except about my job ...  My home, my cooking, my
hobbies, my friends, my tastes, my likes and dislikes, all
became public property to a degree suffered by none of my
colleagues, including the Prime Minister ›Trudeau®" (1968:
303).  When women politicians are constructed as gender
"tokens," they are also assumed to be undergoing a great
deal of role strain caused by the conflict between their
political and family responsibilities.  Both Flora MacDonald
and Judy LaMarsh report that they were frequently asked by
reporters, "Are you a politician or a woman?" as though the
two were mutually exclusive.

     Through the "first woman" lens, women politicians
become identified as the "other," as those who are
"different," though their biographies show that they have
more in common with male politicians than with other
professionals.  Women politicians are equal to their male
counterparts in their level of education; they have
professional backgrounds in law, political science and
management, and have usually worked more years in their
parties and ridings (Brodie, 1985: 59-60) than their male
contenders.  Yet, in spite of this, their _visible
biological difference_ becomes the primary point of
narrative reference.  Judy LaMarsh (1968: 305) sums it up
this way: "Where there are twenty-five men, the public's
interest is split; when there is one woman, she becomes a
focus for criticism and for curiosity."

     Communications theorists have generally pointed out
that media personnel, who are short of time and have
restricted reportorial space, focus and condense social
complexity into a series of colourful typifications.  These
stereotypes crystallize socially accepted values and
expectations, and change over time.  Because the first
generation of women politicians were viewed as playing a
conflicting social role, their 1960s typifications were
designed to "normalize" these perceived social
contradictions between their biology and their social role.

     Two overall strategies were used for this
normalization.  The first set of stereotypes - _wife of_ and
_family relationship designations_ - make the female
politician genderless.  Various examples can be given of how
a woman politician's "femaleness" was neutered.  Women MPs
like Martha Black (1935-40) and Cora Casselman (1941-45),
who were _elected_ to Parliament, were represented as the
wife/widow, and thus as appendages of powerful husbands
whose seats they had inherited.  This implied that they held
power not in their own right but in someone else's name.
Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi, two powerful prime ministers,
in contrast, were degendered in a different way: as
"grandmother Golda" and "Nehru's daughter" respectively.
Their political status was lowered because their actions
were viewed through a family lens.

     The second set - _spinster, femme facile_ and
_club-woman_ - all focus negatively on a female politician's
sexual capacities.  Of these, the _spinster_ stereotype is
most widely used for bourgeois women politicians, and it has
the longest pedigree, going back to the suffragist movement
of the turn of the century.  This stereotype is usually
applied to unmarried women of a certain age who resemble
nurses or teachers and who have led a generally traditional
life (Gray, 1989: 19).  In politics, the label "spinster"
serves to describe someone who is single, has liberal ideas
and is free of the obligations usually expected of a wife.
Such a label incarcerates older women and subtly suggests
their sexual lacunae, their inability to attract a husband.
Women politicians viewed through this lens are portrayed as
serious, preachy, competent and hard-working because they
lack household responsibilities.  The label was applied
regularly to Flora MacDonald, Pat Carney, Pauline Jewett and
others.  Carole-Marie Allard (1987: 106) catches the
negativism implied in this label: "Comments can label the
woman MP. If she is a widow, she is suspected of having
killed her husband.  If she is divorced, she is unstable.
If married, she neglects her husband, and if single, she is
abnormal" ›translation®.

     Not only were these female politicians implicitly
belittled by this label, but three of them acknowledged that
reporters had had the audacity to _explicitly_ query them
about their sex life.  A male contender would have been
shocked to receive such an out-of-order inquiry.  Linda
Goyette (1986), quoting Susan Crean, puts it well: "'The
reigning notion is that if you're a man, sex comes with the
territory.  If you're a woman, you're expected to be

     In the same vein, Judy LaMarsh was "neutered" by being
accused of acting like a woman.  Sheila Kieran (1968: 40-41)
explicitly uses this strategy when she denigrates LaMarsh's
career in the following words: "What was saddest about Miss
LaMarsh's time in Ottawa was her style: she hit on a
combination of masculine two-fistedness and a shrewd
feminine guilelessness making remarks that would have earned
her a sock in the mush if she had been a man.  But she
seemed unconsciously to understand that she could get away
with it - for niggerism means making allowances for one's

     In contrast, the "femme facile" label is attached to,
and stigmatizes, women politicians who do not play by the
traditional social rules.  By saying this, we do not mean to
imply that politicians labelled in this way were exhibiting
looser morals than other people of the time.  What we do
wish to draw attention to, however, is the fact that this
label was applied to certain female politicians because they
were attempting to do something unconventional.  Women who
were labelled in this way did not fit the "spinster"
category either because they had been married or because
they were still too young and too attractive to be described
in this manner.

     This label, like all the others, highlights a woman's
gender and looks rather than her competence.  The coverage
of Claire Kirkland-Casgrain, who introduced the
revolutionary Bill 16, giving full legal status to married
women in Quebec (1964), is an excellent example of this kind
of reporting.  Under the headline "A striking political
heroine plans to save Quebec women from their medieval
bondage," Amy Booth (1964) comments, "This charming champion
of women's rights, herself the first woman ever elected to
the Quebec legislature, has brought two years of campaigning
to a climax with a bill she describes as the first step
toward first-class citizenship for Quebec women ...  The
lady from Jacques Cartier ... is a lot easier on the eyes
than any of the current inhabitants of ›Quebec's® Red

     One final label, that of the "club-woman," is applied
to women politicians who espouse opinions that are in
opposition to those of the male establishment (in Parliament
and elsewhere) or who breach the traditional demarcations
between private and public activities.  Although this label
is not as negative as the other two, it is by far the most
tenacious put-down used to this day.  It suggests that women
politicians are amateurs in the public realm and that their
opinions should, therefore, be disregarded.  A particularly
drastic example of this type of reporting is offered in
Therese Casgrain's autobiography, where she describes a
public address she gave in March 1942 to "La Societe
d'etudes et de conferences."  She suggested that Quebec
women become active in public life.  "We will emerge from
our struggle weakened if we remain turned in upon ourselves
with no other horizons but those we have always known and
if, led by false teachers, we remain attached to the old
traditions alone" (Casgrain, 1972: 106).

     The publisher of _Le Bien public_ of Trois-Rivieres
suggested that Mme. Casgrain tend to her knitting and return
to her hearth.  "Let her cook, sew, embroider, read, card
wool, play bridge - anything rather than persist in her
dangerous role of issuer of directives" (Casgrain, 1972:

     Biology also provides the basis for gender stereotyping
certain departments and portfolios that were considered
socially "appropriate" for women incumbents.  Women from the
first generation were initially entrusted with the
departments of Health (LaMarsh); Social Services
(Fairclough); Citizenship and Immigration (Fairclough); and
Communications (Sauve).  Lester Pearson made a "biological"
classification when he found nothing wrong with ignoring the
external affairs qualifications of Pauline Jewett on gender
grounds.  "When in 1965 Jewett expressed her dissatisfaction
›at not receiving a cabinet appointment®, Pearson told her:
'You know we already have a woman in the Cabinet.' 'Prime
Minister,' Pauline urged, 'Let's be radical.  Let's have two
... or three ... or whatever!' But it was not to be"
(Anderson, 1987: 44).  It took until the late 1970s to open
up the "hard" and powerful ministries to female incumbents.
Monique Begin became minister of national revenue in 1977;
Flora MacDonald, minister of external affairs in 1979;
Ursula Appolloni, parliamentary secretary to the minister of
defence in 1980; and Jeanne Sauve, first female Speaker of
the House of Commons in 1980.

     Until the late 1960s, there were so few women
politicians that they were generally perceived as the
exception to the norm, as tokens in the male world of
politics.  Their aberrant position was picked up by the
media and was reinforced in the media representations of
women politicians by confusing "gender" with "sex."  Media
descriptions that are based on the fixed characteristics of
biology erase the fact that gender is a _socially
constructed_ and therefore changeable set of characteristics
that are anchored in the male gaze.  The gender focus sets
up special expectations with respect to the looks, figure,
hair colour and "proper" clothing a woman politician has to
wear in a particular epoch.  Because these gender
expectations are framed as binary opposites between the
sexes, female politicians can, by definition, never be like
men "biologically."  This creates a classical double-bind
situation.  The confusion of sex with gender leads to some
strange reportorial logic, as Peter Gzowski's (1962)
generally laudatory article about Judy LaMarsh and Pauline
Jewett demonstrates.  In it he concludes that if the two
politicians remain elected, the "caucuses of the future will
feel the effect of two strong and lively feminine voices.
The ideas those voices present won't ›however® be feminine
at all" (1962: 52).  An even more drastic effect of the
sex/gender confusion is found in a 1962 article in which
_feminine_ behaviour requirements, rather than the mandate
of her portfolio, are the substance of a report about
Immigration Minister Ellen Fairclough.  The article,
entitled "Un ministre bien chapeaute," notes:

     Our immigration minister Mrs. Ellen Fairclough
     travels, meets people and wears a hat much more
     often than do the majority of Canadians.  Since
     becoming a federal cabinet minister in 1957, Mrs.
     Fairclough has travelled some 240,000 miles,
     mostly in Canada, and has worn more than three
     dozen hats.  The functions she has attended over
     the last four years have permitted her to wear
     several styles of headgear that are not
     specifically feminine.  While flying, she wore a
     helmet used by pilots for protection in case of
     accidents ›translation®.  (_La Presse_, 1962)

     Such a narrative construction systematically erases
women's contributions to the public sphere, and also types
these contributions as less important solely because they
have been made by women.

The Transitional Period (1970-90): Focus on Power

     In the 20 years between 1970 and 1990, political
scientists point out, the public view of women's social role
has changed.  Three occurrences contributed to this change
in social outlook: the Royal Commission Report on the Status
of Women tabled in 1970; the changing market requirements of
the post-industrial society; and the growth and
radicalization of the women's movement in the last two
decades.  Although the research reports prepared for the
Commission created a substantial backlash among conservative
women, they enabled the Commission to make over 160
recommendations to ensure that women would have legal
equality in Canadian public life (Kieran, 1968: 42).
Included in these recommendations was the call for parties
to recruit more women into politics.

     The post-industrial economy, with its multiplication of
service jobs, precipitated the widespread entry of married
women (68 per cent) and mothers (54 per cent) into the
labour market and coined the concept of the "working
mother."  Women's experiences outside the home led to calls
for pay equality in the workplace throughout the 1970s and
initiatives for legal equity in the 1980s, when the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms in its initial version
omitted this section (Burt et al., 1988: 140-41).  The
1979-82 Charter debate, furthermore, sensitized women's
groups to the facts that contact with men in politics would
not automatically lead to constitutional input and that
social and political change needed concerted action from
female legislators and grassroots lobbying from women's
groups (Hosek, 1989: 507).

     Of the three factors bringing about greater acceptance
of women's role in public life, the women's movement must be
credited with having had the greatest impact.  It addressed
the mismatch between work opportunities opening up for women
in the 1970s and prevailing conservative views about how
women ought to behave.  In doing so, it provided an
overarching and systemic explanation of women's secondary
status.  During the 1970s, feminist theorists developed an
understanding of patriarchy and discovered that it was
present in all societies.  These theorists also documented
that patriarchy took different forms in different historical
epochs and in different countries.  As a universal system,
however, patriarchy always has the characteristic of
excluding women from the prestigious professions (including
politics and the media) and the top jobs.

     During the 1980s, the widespread diffusion of
feminism's equality agenda across social class and gender
brought feminism to the attention of everyone and generated
grassroots activities by diverse women's groups on diverse
social issues having to do with reproduction, widely
defined.  Anna Coote and Polly Pattullo (1990: 77) define
reproduction not only as "child-bearing and rearing, but
›as® all the work that goes into sustaining human life in
the family and the community."

     The support for women's legal equality led to qualified
public acceptance of women's role in the political sphere.
Although there is as yet little proactive support for women
candidates in the Liberal and Conservative parties, the NDP
introduced gender-related criteria into its party operations
and the selection of convention delegations in the 1970s
(Brown, 1989: 144).  The number of women politicians has
grown to about 20 per cent in at least three provincial
legislatures and to an average of 20 to 30 per cent in
municipal governments in Canada's major cities (Vancouver,
Toronto, Montreal and Halifax) (Lavigne, 1990: 5; Maille,
1990: 14).  These figures indicate that since the 1980s,
women legislators are coming close to the "take-off" point
where a minority can begin to effect institutional change,
at least on the municipal level.

     Two additional factors have profoundly influenced
women's political power in both the United States and
Canada.  The first was a change in women's electoral
participation; the second, a voting differentiation between
women and men.  Together these became known as the "gender
gap."  In the United States, the differential voter turnout,
which amounted to 10 per cent in favour of men in 1950, has
been reversed - by 1984 women had a 7 per cent lead over men
in voter participation (Mueller, 1988b: 22).

     In Canada, Janine Brodie (1985: 126) noted a similar
numerical shift in favour of women, and additionally
discovered that, by 1983, women preferred the Liberal party
by a margin of 10 per cent.  Flora MacDonald confirmed that
all parties in the 1984 election campaign took this gender
gap extremely seriously, because it seemed to suggest that
women were voting as an interest group.  To capture women
voters, the Conservatives asked Flora MacDonald to lead
"consciousness-raising" sessions for Conservative MPs, while
Sheila Copps and other Liberal party women were asked to
advise John Turner.  He proved as unenlightened as many of
his parliamentary colleagues about the government's role in
women's quest for equality (Copps, 1986: 156-57).  Because
both parties had constructed the same platforms for
attracting women voters, the gender gap was invisible in
1984.  This does not mean, however, that women and their
special interests have disappeared from the political
agenda.  The candidates' debate, organized by Chaviva Hosek,
who was National Action Committee (NAC) president at the
time, indicates that _all_ parties will have to address
women's social and peace agendas in the future.

     The transitional narrative approach, with its focus on
power, reflects a period in which social and journalistic
values are in flux.  Old attitudes toward women clash with
newer "equality" values; at the same time, women are visibly
rising toward middle-level power positions in both the
political and the media realms.  During this period,
therefore, the coverage of women politicians and their
activities has moved from the back to the front pages of
newspapers, and female anchors are beginning to interview
the growing number of female legislators and ministers in a
more even-handed manner.  But topic selection and narrative
frames concerning women politicians _still_ remain
differentiated from those of male incumbents.

     The second set of stereotypes, which crystallized in
the 1970s and 1980s, has been profoundly influenced by the
ideology of feminism, which has forced women politicians and
others to take a position on women's social identity.  As we
have seen, feminist research throughout the period
identified the nature and origins of the non-symmetrical
power relations between the genders and also surveyed the
barriers to women's egalitarian progress in the male worlds
of business, the top professions and the media (Robinson,
1975; Crean, 1987).  Even after 20 years of training and
experience, the "glass ceiling" has not been breached by
female managers in most media organizations.  Nowadays,
women make up only 9 per cent of editors-in-chief and 6 per
cent of managing editors in the Canadian Daily Newspaper
Publishers Association.  Furthermore all 33 people promoted
to senior management jobs in 1989 were male (Cornacchia,
1990).  The situation is no better in television and film
production, where, according to an American study by the
National Commission on Working Women, "women made up 15 per
cent of producers, 25 per cent of writers and 9 per cent of
directors of shows aired in 1990.  In prime-time shows women
held 43 per cent of the roles but were rarely depicted at
all after age 40" (_Gazette_, 1990).

     These figures indicate that it remains difficult to
integrate a pro-woman perspective into media descriptions
and that anti-egalitarian attitudes toward women remain
pervasive in Canadian society and in Canadian newsrooms.
The four new stereotypes incorporate these ambivalences,
although they frame female politicians in a power network,
which is superficially more complimentary.  Another
stylistic characteristic that we found for this period is
the fact that all of the stereotypes are inflected by a
feminist discourse and by feminist social expectations.  Our
analyses will show that journalists use this discourse in
two very different ways: either as a simple _classificatory_
device or as an _interest group_ argument.  As a
classificatory device, the label "feminist" is attached to
an individual female politician and used as though it
describes a type of party membership.  When it denotes an
interest group, it implies that women as a group have gained
political power and influence that is somehow illegitimate.
In both uses, the "feminist" designation is shunned by women
politicians, who dislike the negative connotations of the
"new F-word," as Charlotte Gray calls it (1989: 19).

     First, the most spectacular and most visible of the new
stereotypes is that of the _superwoman_.  It is applied to a
young, intelligent, active and ambitious woman who succeeds
on "all levels" and "has it all."  She combines a family
with her career, and she is as groomed as she is competent
in her ministerial responsibilities.  The superwoman is a
hybrid: she embodies both traditional characteristics
(family and children) with the modern traits of the
businesswoman (superior IQ, enormous capacities for work, an
iron constitution as well as charm and generosity).  Arlie
Hochschild and Anne Machung (1990) describe the superwoman's
advertising image as the woman with the flowing blond hair,
attache case in one hand and a child in the other.  Canadian
politicians described in this manner are Liza Frulla-Hebert,
Sharon Carstairs, Chaviva Hosek, Iona Campagnolo and Janice
Johnson.  Hubert Bauch (1982) of the Montreal _Gazette_
applies this narrative style to Iona Campagnolo: "Iona
Campagnolo has been an instinctive climber all her life ...
From the time she blew into Ottawa eight years ago, like a
refreshing, scented breeze off the western sea, Campagnolo
has been tagged as a contender for the whole bag of marbles
...  As if to prove them right she made it into the cabinet
›in® less than two years ...  She was bright, articulate and
a looker with a slightly intimidating touch of class.  She
was Iona, 'La Camp' ... who had clawed her way 'from cannery
row to Parliament Hill.'"

     The feminist version of the superwoman is offered in
this description of Janice Johnson as reported by Val Sears
(1983) in the _Toronto Star_: "When Janice Johnson, national
director of the Progressive Conservative party, was a kid at
college in Winnipeg she was sort of radical ...  Today,
Janice Johnson is 37, tidier, and running a party and her
life conservatively, stylishly, but still with that red
stripe setting off the blue.  As the Conservative party's
chief executive, ›she is® an apparatchik with her manicured
hands on the strings.  She is also a feminist in a nest of
Tory male chauvinists."

     The second of the four stereotypes for narrating women
politicians is that of the champion.  This narrative
approach is close to that of the superwoman, but tends to be
applied to women politicians "of a certain age" who have led
a more traditional life.  Often a woman narrated in this way
has come to politics after she has proved herself in another
domain, perhaps business, sports or various charitable
organizations.  Her children are usually older, and her
family obligations more compatible with her public
representation duties.  She, too, pays attention to her
grooming, is open to the media and aware of her previous
accomplishments.  Among the politicians who have earned this
classification are Pat Carney, Monique Landry, Monique
Vezina, Lucie Pepin and Margaret Thatcher.  Under the
headline "Tough Woman Tory Has Skill To Be Party Leader,
Next PM," the Montreal _Gazette_ (1975) comments, "The right
honorable Margaret Thatcher, 49, is no ordinary woman: that
she is being even seriously considered as the next leader of
the Conservative Party, a body with more than its fair share
of male chauvinists, is in itself a remarkable achievement.
Those who have worked with her ... have no doubt that she
has the ability to be ... leader ...  She has stamina and
talent.  Her appetite for work is prodigious.  She enjoys
making decisions.  Thatcher is tough, not ruthless."  By
1976, she had earned the "Iron Lady" epithet from the Soviet
Army newspaper _Red Star_, which, according to an interview,
she did not mind because it well represented her outlook on
politics (_Maclean's_, 1990: 41).

     Margaret Thatcher's counterpart, the "feminist"
champion, is Lucie Pepin.  Her coverage reveals many of the
collective themes that make up this image.  But she is
narrated with greater warmth by Leslie Fruman (1984) in the
_Toronto Star_.

     On being a feminist in 1984, Lucie Pepin has a
     cool-down approach.  She's been called a
     male-oriented feminist, and says women have to be
     ready to work with men to help the advancement of
     women ...  The elegant but tough former president
     of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of
     Women might offend the feminist establishment with
     words like those ...  Her father wanted her to go
     to medical school, but Pepin opted to train as a
     nurse ... ›because® she wanted to be free to get
     married ...  It was her work in nursing that
     taught her the valuable lessons that put her in
     contact with issues facing women.

     The third label we encountered in our analyses is one
we have called being _one of the boys_.  This narrative
scheme is applied to women politicians who have been
accepted into the ranks by the male political establishment,
which counts them as part of the "gang."  This type of
female politician adopts a "masculine" stance in politics,
which means either that she does not resort to what are
called "feminine wiles" to achieve her goals (charm,
coquetry, wheedling) or that she accepts and operates by the
conventional rules of the game.  Women politicians who are
"one of the boys" benefit from this kind of acceptance but
are, at the same time, continually reminded that they are an
anomaly and may be placed in the unenviable position of
being used as an alibi against women's interests.  Examples
are legion, such as the woman minister who had to bail out
the reputation of a male colleague who had made an
unpardonably sexist remark in a constituency speech.  Or the
situation where the first female Justice Minister was
appointed just as anti-abortion legislation (Bill C-43) was
being re-introduced.  This narrative approach has been
applied, among others, to Barbara McDougall, Mary Collins,
Kim Campbell, Lorna Marsden and Sheila Copps.  In Collins'
case, Charlotte Gray (1989) has the following to say about
the new female recruits to the Progressive Conservative

     They exuded sisterly solidarity ...  Mary Collins,
     the bubbly member from BC, now associate minister
     of national defence and co-host of the party,
     groaning about her kid's untidiness.  There was
     ...  Marjory LeBreton, number two in the Prime
     Minister's Office ...  Finally, the sibling
     superior of the PC sisterhood strode through the
     door ...  Barbara McDougall, minister for the
     status of women and minister of employment and
     immigration.  The most striking characteristic of
     the party, however, was the murmured distaste for
     anything that smacked of "feminism".  Tactics
     borrowed from the women's movement may have
     steered the newcomers into the Tory harbour but
     its ideology left many of them cold.  They wanted
     to join the political system, not change it. 'Why
     do the press insist on treating women as a special
     interest group?' snapped Diana Togneri of
     Montreal.  (Gray, 1989: 17-18)

     In contrast to the women politicians who consider
feminism the "second F-word," Sheila Copps is outspokenly
upbeat about being described as "one of the gang" and as a
feminist.  In her autobiographical _Nobody's Baby_, she
says, "I take pride in being a feminist.  Look at the word
itself, it comes from the Latin _femina_, woman; and being a
woman is cause enough for being proud.  I take pride, too,
in representing my constituency - not only the riding which
sent me to Parliament, but my larger constituency, the women
of Canada" (1986: 89).

     A _Maclean's_ article narrates her leadership campaign
in the following manner: "_Sheila Copps_: As the most vocal
member of the Liberal 'Rat-Pack'- a small group of MPs known
for their aggressive Question Period attacks during the
Conservative government's first term - Copps earned a
reputation among her Tory opponents as a shrill firebrand
...  Advisers to the 37-year-old MP for Hamilton East say
that Copps's campaign will highlight her youth, gender and
populist style.  She has proven her appeal once before,
finishing second to David Peterson in the Ontario Liberal
leadership race in 1982" (Kaihla, 1990: 28).

     The final set of stereotypes that frame women
politicians is the familiar _wife of_ designation.  It is a
narrative scheme that we have already encountered in the
description of first-generation politicians.  This
stereotype's survival into the 1980s may be a result of the
fact that it has been applied to such high-profile women
leaders as Corazon Aquino of the Philippines and Violetta
Ciamorro of Nicaragua.  In Canada, however, it has been
given a new twist.  Where it was earlier applied to
"amateur" wives or daughters of politicians who had taken
over their husband's or father's seats in the legislature,
it is now applied as well to wives who have previous
political or professional experience.  Two cases in point
are Jeanne Sauve and Maureen McTeer.  Norman Laplante (1990)
clearly highlights the marital connection and uses it as the
organizing principle for an article: "Throughout their
respective careers in Canadian public life, Jeanne and
Maurice Sauve have shown a keen desire to work for the cause
of national unity.  The first Canadian couple to be admitted
to the Privy Council, they were at the forefront of the
Canadian political scene for over twenty years."

     A similar narrative scheme organizes the coverage of
Maureen McTeer, who ran as Conservative candidate in
Carleton-Gloucester (Ottawa) in 1988.  In this case,
however, the "wife of" label is used to denigrate the
candidate's considerable competence through a barrage of
innuendo concerning the supposed advantages she gained from
her husband's political position.  Robert Mason Lee, in a
1989 _Saturday Night_ article entitled "Sorry Mo," attacks
McTeer's column in _Chatelaine_ magazine, and McTeer for
failing to divulge that her columnist status had been
achieved because of her marital connection.

     In contrast to the first set of stereotypes -_spinster,
femme facile, club-woman_ and _ wife of_ - which have to do
with the _traditional social roles_ of women, the four new
stereotypes, applied to the second generation of women
politicians during the 1970s and early 1980s, are
constructed around the "power game."  The superwoman
achieves in both the private and the public spheres of
activity.  The champion is accomplished in such activities
as business, professional or benevolent organizations.  The
members of the gang have learned the rules of the political
game and use them like a man.  The only stereotype that
harks back to those used on the first generation of women
politicians is the "wife of" label.  But even this is now
narrated with a different twist, an acknowledgement that it
is appropriate for both spouses to have careers.  In the
1980s, after all, two-career families are more prevalent
than the male-headed household.

     Public narrations recreate and incorporate social
changes, not like passive mirrors but like active prisms
through which our public understandings are fashioned.  In
spite of the fact that the recent set of stereotypes narrate
women politicians in a power-game context, they still fail
to evaluate women's political competence in career terms.
Instead women are judged on their personal ability to play
by the masculine rules of the political game.  These include
personal aggressiveness, adversarial performance in Question
Period, hard-headedness and coolness under fire.  Readers
are told approvingly that Sheila Copps and Sharon Carstairs
are more aggressive than their male counterparts.  Such
evaluative criteria continue to use the male species as the
norm and to construct the female as the exception, the
secondary, thus leaving the unbalanced social hierarchy

     With a shift in the stereotyping of women politicians
came an associated shift in how feminism is treated by the
media.  In the 1970s, the media discovered feminism for its
"novel" and "sensational" characteristics, as having
something to do with changing language and changing
lifestyles.  Media practitioners generally simplified the
reporting of this widespread social movement by turning
feminism into an individual characteristic, similar to an
organizational membership.  The media then used the label
"women's lib" for easy classification of feminists.  Through
this interpretation, the movement aspects of feminism were
erased and disappeared from public sight.  The media
consequently concluded, by the middle of the decade, that
the women's movement was dead and that the 1980s were the
post-feminist era.  Such reasoning has no basis in social
fact, as even the media people now know.  But this
interpretation served as a convenient alibi for ignoring
women's increased municipal and regional initiatives, as
well as the networking that has occurred outside of the
state sector.

     In the early 1980s, the American media discovered a
gender gap in the Reagan election, and by the 1984 campaign,
the Progressive Conservatives knew that this gap might
affect Canadian women voters as well.  Consciousness-raising
activities, as we have seen, were undertaken by
first-generation women politicians in their party caucuses,
and these activities were picked up by the media.  By 1987,
a Decima poll confirmed that there was a three-point
male/female difference in voting preference, and that the
Tories were particularly disliked by working women (only 28
per cent would vote Conservative) (Gray, 1989: 18).  A
computer-assisted program to reach a riding's undecided
voters through customized letters saved the Tories in 1987,
and the gender gap failed to materialize once more (Lee,
1989a).  The media had, however, learned their lesson and
began to report feminist groups as a potential lobby with
the power to change the political rules.

     This reportorial stance became a prominent aspect of
the coverage of Audrey McLaughlin's December 1989 leadership
win over Dave Barrett in Winnipeg.  The two reasons that
were immediately offered for Audrey McLaughlin's NDP
convention success were her gender and her feminist support,
not her varied professional credentials such as her social
work background, her experience with community organizations
in the Yukon or her Third World engagement.  Both the "sex"
and "feminist" themes, as we have seen, have been used to
describe and subtly put down women politicians for not being
men throughout the 1980s.  The _Globe and Mail_'s (1989)
Jeffrey Simpson points out that it was McLaughlin's sex that
got her elected:

     From the moment Ms. McLaughlin declared her
     candidacy, she became the New Democrat to beat for
     one simple, compelling and ultimately decisive
     reason - her sex ...  For seven consecutive
     elections, the NDP has been mired in the rut of 15
     to 20 per cent of the national vote.  Maybe a
     woman leader, wondered many New Democrats, would
     produce a larger number of voters.  For the women
     who supported Ms. McLaughlin, it was time for the
     political system to confront fully the whole
     matrix of women's issues through the symbolic
     message sent by the election of a female leader.

     Hugh Winsor (1989), another _Globe and Mail_ columnist,
adds the second theme: a "feminist" network had helped her
to win over Dave Barrett, when it may, in fact, have been
her campaign organization: "Ms.  McLaughlin had by far the
largest number of workers (many borrowed from the feminist
movement), headquarters in each province and territory, and
a computerized delegate tracking system that gave her floor
captains up-to-the-minute print-outs on each riding's

     A day or two later, Dalton Camp (1989) in the _Toronto
Star_ elaborated on the "feminist" connection, suggesting
that it was somehow illegal for a candidate to have a
women's network to support her bid for the leadership:

     Pauline Jewett, mother hen to the feminist cause,
     put the issue squarely before the Canadian people
     through the radio facilities of the Mother
     Corporation: There was sexism in the media.
     Speaking from the convention scene in Winnipeg,
     Pauline said (I wrote this down) she had noticed a
     lot of 'criticism of Audrey (McLaughlin) because
     she's a woman' ...  I thought the NDP convention
     suffered from an excess of feminist militancy at
     the barricades.  Against the militants stood the
     rest of the delegates, as though barefoot on a
     floor of ground glass, weighing each word, idiom,
     and simile on the gender scale.  (Reprinted with
     permission.  The Toronto Star Syndicate)

     Five days later, on 9 December 1989, Peggy Curran of
the Montreal _Gazette_ offered McLaughlin's response to the
gender accusation: "If the newcomer from the North finished
first at the NDP convention in Winnipeg, critics said, her
gender would be the only explanation.  Friends and
supporters say the 53-year-old member of Parliament for
Yukon handled the charges of tokenism with her customary
wit.  Dropping in on campaign workers at the two-storey log
cabin 'Yukon skyscraper' that houses her Whitehorse office,
McLaughlin said: 'Well, I thought about running as a man,
but I decided against it.'"

     On the same day (9 December 1989), Graham Fraser in
_The Globe and Mail_ confronted and illustrated the
condescending coverage of McLaughlin in the "View from the

     The reporter smiled indulgently and asked the
     leader of the New Democratic Party her first
     question after she had made her first address to
     the House of Commons as leader. 'Audrey, tell me,'
     he said, 'Were your knees shaking when you stood
     up›?®' 'No.  No,' she said firmly and flatly.
     'Really.  I've been in Question Period before.' As
     the first woman to lead a Canadian federal party,
     Ms. McLaughlin still seemed to be subject to a
     different kind of scrutiny on Wednesday.  One
     reporter inquired about the mark on her cheek ...;
     a national columnist noted that she had worn a
     green silk dress on her first day as NDP leader
     ...  One of the women reporters within earshot did
     a double-take when the NDP leader was asked if her
     knees had been shaking. 'Give me a break,' she
     muttered. 'Do you think that will be his first
     question to Paul Martin if he becomes Liberal

     The charges and countercharges traded among print
reporters indicate that the media establishment is as
unprepared as the political establishment to admit a new
female player on her merits into the game of high-stakes
politics.  Whether Audrey McLaughlin will become a great
leader of Canada's NDP remains an open question.  What is
not open, however, is her right to be taken seriously by the
press.  Rosemary Brown (1989: 171) found that when the press
could no longer trivialize her 1975 NDP leadership bid,
"there was a subtle shift away from superficial discussions
of my 'elegance,' 'private school education,' and 'home in
the fashionable Point Grey district of Vancouver' to more
thoughtful and serious speculation as to the potential
effect of my candidacy on the New Democratic Party and on

              Future Media Narratives and the
               Political Challenge of Women

Media Narratives of Women Politicians:
Differential Approach

     In spite of an evolution of stereotypes concerning
women politicians and their contributions to statesmanship,
any form of stereotypical writing focuses on a set of
_reductive_ characteristics that severely limit the details
and points of view a text is able to express.  The fact that
older stereotypes, which characterized the first generation
of women politicians primarily in terms of their biological
difference (spinster, femme facile) and their social
relations to men (wife, grandmother, granddaughter), have
been replaced by new ones, does not constitute progress in
itself.  The bio-social focus of the pre-1960s period
depicted the first generation of women politicians as either
adventurers or tokens.  As adventurers, they had escaped
from their "proper" domestic sphere and therefore wielded a
different and lesser kind of power than that held by men.
As tokens, women's presence was used as proof that minimal
openings for "exceptional" women existed in the male domain
of politics.  In such a narrative frame, women's political
contributions are underestimated and marginalized because
they are portrayed as exceptions to the socially defined
female norms, and the women themselves lose their competence
and credibility when they are portrayed as biologically
strange "birds in a gilded cage," as Judy LaMarsh tellingly
described her political existence.

     Even the transitional stereotypes, although seemingly
different and more modern, remain restrictive because they
refer to power in the public realm.  While media reports
reflect the liberalized view that women _can_ be integrated
into the political realm, the labels indicate that such
integration is only possible for certain types of women
politicians.  Acceptable women politicians are the
_superwoman_, who performs superbly in both her private and
her public roles; the _champion_, who shares a similar
background with her male colleagues (business, sports,
professions); and the _gang_ member, who has learned, and
employs, the male rules of the political game.  One
additional label, the _wife of_, is a carry-over from the
past, but is now remodeled as a husband's "junior partner"
in a dual-career family.

     The transitional narrative strategies applied to
second- and third-generation politicians who are marked as
feminist or non-feminist by the media, indicate that there
is much greater resistance to, and worry about, feminist
demands for women's social equality in the 1980s than there
was in the 1970s.  No wonder such inventions as the
"post-feminist era" or the "death of the women's movement"
are proclaimed by journalists, although the sociological
evidence does not corroborate these interpretations.  Some
journalists and politicians would like to silence feminist
demands for completion of the social revolution, which
guarantees women and other minorities access to the public
domain.  The transitional narrative approaches incorporate a
deep-seated ideological ambivalence concerning women's
changing social identity.  While egalitarian principles
promoted by women's groups remain the ideal, a majority of
politicians and media personnel have difficulty
accommodating women's demands for power-sharing.  In such a
situation, the conservative backlash against feminism in the
Reagan and Mulroney eras must be interpreted as a defensive
reaction to women's advances in the public realm.

     The reportage of Audrey McLaughlin's leadership win
graphically indicates that the majority of media people are
just as unaccustomed as most politicians to the appearance
of women in the halls of Parliament or in ministerial
chairs.  Sheila Copps (1986: 38) notes that, as late as the
1982 Ontario leadership campaign, "the press and the party
establishment were nowhere near as liberated as the average
voting delegate" concerning the candidacy of a woman.  This
ambivalence is still reflected in both the reasons given for
McLaughlin's win (her sex and feminist group support) and
the types of questioning she underwent after her first
appearance as NDP leader.  The fact that women politicians
cannot yet be credited with wearing the mantle of power
without belittling commentary indicates that "women's
political past, like our political future, continues to be
contested ground" for interpretation (Vickers, 1989: 18).

     Our generational analysis shows that neither the old
(up to the 1960s) nor the transitional (1970s and 1980s)
narrative prisms reflect much of what constitutes the social
reality and political experience of contemporary Canadian
women.  Female political leaders, representatives and
political women in general feel uncomfortable with, and
unwelcome in, parliamentary settings designed by
nation-building brotherhoods, who are implacably
proprietorial of women (Coote and Pattullo, 1990: 274).  The
major lacunae of the transitional discourse require only
summary attention because they have already been discussed.
The existing stereotypical narrative conventions treat
political women and men very differently.  Both the
narrative focuses and the evaluative criteria for the two
genders are at variance.  Four narrative focuses are applied
only to women.  These focuses:

     * tend to ignore the substance of a female
       incumbent's speeches in favour of her personal
       characteristics (looks, dress, hair);

     * fail to give recognition for prior political
       activities, with the result that no one knows
       the stages in a woman's political career, which
       together signify her "competence";

     * make women politicians responsible for women _as
       a class_ when gender is known to be only one of
       many factors in interest-group formation; and

     * use "feminism" to denote a negative personal
       characteristic, and thus erase the group
       dimensions of this diversified social movement.

     The evaluative criteria are also at variance for women
and men:

     * Women have to live up to a considerably higher
       standard of excellence than do men.

     * The political performance of women is judged
       only by the extremes of the scale (good and
       bad), while men are evaluated across the whole
       scale, including the mediocre middle range.

     * Women politicians have to live up to a moral
       code of sexual abstention not imposed on men.

     These differential narrative focuses and evaluative
criteria raise a series of questions.  Among these are the
following: To what extent do the media adequately perceive
the difference in attitudes, goals and understandings that
motivate female and male politicians?  Why are women drawn
in greater numbers to local, municipal and regional activity
than to provincial and national political involvement?  How
adequate is the picture that the media construct of the
political arenas in which women prefer to operate?  And even
more fundamentally, is there any difference in the
motivations that propel women and men into political life?
Since the media provide society with the words and concepts
for naming and constructing social and political reality,
how adequately are they performing this task for women and
women's concerns?  The veracity and accuracy with which the
media represent women politicians and their views are
inextricably linked to the effectiveness with which
political women can shape their society.  Conversely,
inaccurate and elliptical media descriptions deprive both
female representatives and citizens of their voice and their
input into the public domain.

     There is evidence today that women readers and viewers
are deeply troubled by the restrictive media reporting of
modern women's social concerns and by the irrelevance of
many media reports to their common life experience.  Recent
analyses confirm that newspapers, which supply their readers
with an overwhelmingly white, male, middle class view of the
world, have lost 25 per cent of their female readership in
the past decade (Cornacchia, 1990; Walker, 1990).  These
kinds of evidence indicate that women have different notions
about the nature of political activity, and that they are
becoming alienated from Canada's governing bodies such as
Parliament and the Senate.  Our own interviews document that
women politicians feel uncomfortable operating in the "boys'
school" atmosphere of these institutions and come to
politics with different expectations.  Women politicians
also complain that media journalists and politicians alike
are unaware of and mistrust the female networks and female
solidarity which women's groups of all kinds have generated
around women's issues.  Many of these women's groups have
been labelled "feminist" according to Chaviva Hosek,
although the majority are in fact traditional women's
organizations that lend their support to feminist causes at
certain times.  Among these are voluntary organizations
(like the Canadian Federation of University Women); groups
providing specific services to women (rape crisis centres,
etc.); advisory councils to the government (like the
Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women); and
specialized national voluntary associations that lobby in
areas of their particular expertise (such as the National
Association of Women and the Law) (Hosek, 1989: 494-96).

The Challenge of Women In Canadian Politics

     The women's movement theory of patriarchy and the
method of gender analysis have played a crucial role in
North American women's understanding of their social world
in the 1990s and mobilized them by keeping them aware of the
continued existence of sexual inequalities (Norris, 1988:
233).  In addition, they have alerted researchers that
traditional theories of politics are unable to encompass
many of women's political activities.  New theories must go
beyond the conventional political science focus on state
institutions and elite politics to incorporate the
experiences of grassroots organizers, who have learned to
operate within and outside of male-dominated institutions
(Vickers, 1989: 22).  Our interviews, and those of others
who have talked to women politicians in Great Britain and
Germany (Lepsius, 1990: 68), confirm that "Parliament is
more than an institution of ancient mystique and obscure
language; it is a place made by men for men, and still
fiercely ruled by them.  Women have been admitted, but their
presence is acceptable only if they do not draw attention to
themselves as women, and only if they divest themselves of
any uniquely female preoccupation such as motherhood" (Coote
and Pattullo, 1990: 256).

     Similar views have been expressed by Canadian
politicians like Rosemary Brown (NDP), Sheila Copps
(Liberal) and others who have remarked on the isolation of
their "token" status.  In her autobiography _Nobody's Baby_,
Sheila Copps (1986: 28) has the following to say about her
experiences in the Ontario caucus: "My colleagues were
gracious and friendly, but clearly saw me as an ornament to
the party - nice to have around as long as I knew my place.
One of the ironies was that most of the men in caucus
thought I enjoyed the publicity ...  Some were even
resentful when I had anything worthwhile to say.  Every time
I would rise in question period, one of my colleagues would
mutter under his breath: 'There goes Sheila.  The cameras
are rolling again.' What he didn't realize was that ...  I
felt isolated and out of place" (as one among thirty-three).

     Ordinary women, too, feel alienated from e1ite politics
as it is generally practiced.  They have overwhelmingly
organized themselves at the grassroots level in order to
achieve better housing conditions, recreation for
disadvantaged children or battered women's shelters.  A
political activist explains her alienation this way: "I went
to a lot of meetings and listened to the people talking.
They weren't talking about what I was even interested in ...
They were talking about the wages struggle all the time,
about trade-union issues, and I thought, they never talk
about housing issues or what are we to do with the kids,
stuff like that" (Coote and Pattullo, 1990: 50).  Coote and
Pattullo comment that, when asked about politics, women felt
that the fabric of their lives was not a "proper" concern of
politics.  No wonder so many women feel that politics has
nothing to do with them.

     Although the isolation of elite women politicians has
become less pronounced as a result of the 1984 and 1988
elections, their numbers are not yet large enough to enable
them to influence federal politics.  In the 1980s, women
gained access as "helpers" in what scientist Ursula Franklin
describes as the political "sandbox," but they are as yet
denied the proper tools for the job (Jeffrey, 1990: 73).
The picture looks a bit better on the provincial level where
20 per cent of legislators are now women, but the most
significant advances have been made in the municipal
administrations of Canada's largest and medium-sized cities:
there, women number one-third of all representatives.  This
higher proportion of women's representation at the municipal
level of government is a function of the fact that this kind
of political service can be combined with family
responsibilities.  In the 1990s, we can expect not only that
women will become firmly entrenched in Canadian political
life but also that they will be increasingly able to
influence the types and outcomes of legislation.  It is
additionally plain that the greatest political innovations
in the coming decade will originate from municipal

     With these developments in mind, is there any evidence
that more women politicians will make a difference to the
Canadian political scene?  Do they have different motives,
attitudes and goals, and thus diversify the points of view
from which the political sandboxes of the future will be
constructed?  Accumulated research from a variety of
sources, and our own conversations with representatives from
the three generations of women politicians, indicate that
women do seem to have different reasons for running for
political office.  They also conceive of political power in
variant ways.  And, furthermore, their understandings of
social interaction differ from those espoused by their male
colleagues.  These differences add up to a differential
political profile and a different agenda for women
politicians that seems to be perceived by, and gives them an
edge with, the Canadian electorate.

     In response to our inquiries concerning their reasons
for running for political office, the overwhelming majority
of women of all three generations, including non-feminist
and feminist candidates, said that they were seeking office
in order to improve the conditions of human life.  Among the
conditions mentioned were the rectification of social
violence, racism and the plights of minorities.  European
evidence confirms that, in Great Britain and Germany, too,
social involvement is a strong mobilizing force
(Grewe-Partsch, 1990: 48).  Jill Vickers (1989: 20) explains
that what she calls the "service-based" conception of
politics has deep roots in the first-wave suffragist
movement.  First-wave women placed a high value on
citizenship, which incorporated both the Christian duty to
help others and the concepts of self-help and community
building.  In contrast, many male candidates view the
business of entering national politics as a profession or a
career that demands few special qualifications and
relatively little expertise while providing them with middle
class status.  It is well known that men are educated and
trained for career building in ways that women are not.
Yet, the political establishment is not yet ready to grant
second- and third-generation women incumbents with
impressive arrays of qualifications a place in politics
(Brodie, 1985: 59).  One reason why these qualifications are
rarely public knowledge, our evidence shows, is that most
media reporting does not mention or give women credit for

     A second characteristic that distinguishes female from
male politicians is their attitude toward power.  This
difference in attitude was noted by Denise Falardeau during
the Royal Commission-sponsored symposium in Montreal
(Canada, Royal Commission, 1990).  Here Falardeau noted that
women politicians she knew looked for power, but not at any
price and not in general.  Women tended to look for power to
do something concrete.  For many women politicians power is
an instrument rather than an object in itself.  Therese
Lavoie-Roux echoes this sentiment in an interview with
Marie-Jeanne Robin (1983: 177-78).  She responds: "I cannot
answer that.  But so far I remain convinced that women do
not want power for the sake of power ...  I don't think we
have the same code of ethics" ›translation®.

     Rosemary Brown (1989: 228) expands on this difference
in her autobiography _Being Brown_ by making a useful
distinction between "hierarchical power," which is based in
a bureaucracy, and "personal power," which arises from
collective decision-making.  In assessing her 14-year
provincial NDP career in various Vancouver ridings
(1972-86), she says:

     I was actually very disappointed by how little
     real power I had and how often I failed to live up
     to the expectations of people who appealed to me
     for help.  At first I thought that if I had been a
     cabinet minister I could have had some direct
     power, but even of that I'm not sure; often
     cabinet ministers were forced to introduce and
     defend legislation to which they were opposed,
     because it was the will of the leader, majority
     vote in caucus or recommendation of the party
     pollsters ...  In retrospect, I realize that it
     was power in the traditional patriarchal context
     that I lacked, rather than the more personal and
     compelling power that comes from collective
     decision-making and the mutual respect people of
     like mind share with each other.  (@ 1989 by
     Rosemary Brown.  Reprinted by permission of Random
     House of Canada Ltd.)

     However, personal power alone is no match for
hierarchical team-based power, through which high-ranking
bureaucrats or ministerial advisers can, and do, affect
legislative decision-making.  In these bureaucratic
behind-the-scenes realms, women continue to be
under-represented (Brown, 1989: 232).  Yet, even here people
are feeling the 1990s' winds of change.  A number of our
respondents mentioned that the resistance to women
politicians was strongest in one particular stratum, which
Sheila Copps (1986: 43) dubbed the "MUPPIES" - male urban
professional party workers who view women as a threat to
their traditional hold over Canada's party system.

     A final distinction between female and male politicians
concerns their attitudes toward social interaction and its
norms.  As "outsider-insiders," minority politicians tend to
find that it is more useful to play a catalytic rather than
an exclusionary role.  Maureen McTeer (Canada, Royal
Commission, 1990) echoed these sentiments in her
presentation to the Montreal symposium where she advocated
the need for a less hierarchical and exclusionary
communication style in Parliament.  Ami Lonnroth (Canada,
Royal Commission, 1990), a Swedish representative at the
symposium, pointed out that women, through their increased
labour force participation, were carrying the conciliatory
approach into the realms of industry and business merely by
being there.  It was time they did the same in legislative

     Pauline Jewett confirmed this interpretation in our
interview; she noted that Audrey McLaughlin, as NDP leader,
was operating in a consensus style in her caucus, following
in the steps of Pearson, Stanfield and Douglas.  As a
result, Jewett mused, McLaughlin continues to disappoint the
media, which expect party leaders to be aggressive, noisy
and unruly in the mode of Jean Chretien.  Media narratives,
as we have shown, continue to code these behaviour patterns
as the norm and insist that they are a sign of political
competence.  No wonder Jeffrey Simpson (1989) of _The Globe
and Mail_ speculates whether Audrey McLaughlin will be able
to reject the aggressive demands of both the parliamentary
system and the electronic media to follow her own preference
for "grassroots politics" and coalition building.  The
debate continues on whether women's different attitudes to
interaction and power are a result of different
socialization and communication patterns for the two genders
or of structural constraints.  Apologists for the latter
view argue that minority status in the political realm
demands cunning and a consensus approach in order to get
"women-friendly" legislation adopted against majority
resistance (Lepsius, 1990: 68).  Whatever the reasons, there
is good evidence that women politicians will have a
leavening effect on Canadian party politics and prepare the
ground for fashioning a new style of political sandbox that
will be oriented to human needs.

Looking Toward the Future

     Mary Collins, Minister of Immigration, when presenting
her views on women in politics to a Royal
Commission-sponsored symposium (Canada, Royal Commission,
1990), compared the drive for equality to the income tax and
noted that neither was very popular.  She argued that,
because there is no automatic progression from a
male-dominated to an integrated politics in which women have
an equal voice, the struggle must go on.  Women, far from
being a liability to Canadian parties in the 1990s, are in
fact an asset.  Women's variant attitudes toward power and
privileges have a fresh appeal to Canadian voters, who have
generally lost trust in politicians.

     The question for the future is how to translate these
differing outlooks into viable programs for institutional
change and more women-friendly legislation?  Political
scientist Carol Mueller, exploring the historical
development of women's political agendas, points out that
two different strategies have been proposed (1988a: 291).
One argues that equal rights are the best foundation for
women's needs; the other contends that women have special
needs with respect to their reproductive capacities and that
"human difference" must, therefore, also be included in
fashioning social legislation.  By the late 1970s, American
feminists involved in lobbying and litigation had discovered
the limits of a strategy based on a literal interpretation
of equal rights.  In practice, equal rights turned out to
mean nothing more than treating women like men, despite the
differences in their objective circumstances.  Wage equity
was a virtually irrelevant principle in the face of
pervasive occupational segregation.  Women's health and
child-care needs, the feminization of poverty and household
violence could not be addressed in terms of strict gender
equality (Costain, 1988: 150-51).  Increasingly, therefore,
women's "specificity" became the benchmark for designing
women-friendly legislation in the United States.  During the
same period, Canada, like Europe, also began to combine the
two principles, passing the Canadian Human Rights Act (1977)
while at the same time funding women's centres, women's
research programs and abused women's transitional houses
through Secretary of State grants (Armstrong, 1990: 18).

     Considerable argument continues over whether these
initiatives resulted from what has been called the gender
gap in voting.  While women today outnumber men by about 7
per cent in North American elections, it turns out that
block voting as a pressure group is not very common.  It
appears primarily between well-educated working women and
men at the middle and top ends of the occupational ladder,
but not at all among lower socio-economic groups.
Furthermore, such voting is issue specific in North America
and Europe and manifests itself only on such topics as
defence expenditures, abortion, social services and
unemployment policies (Norris, 1988: 223-28).  A Canadian
Advisory Council on the Status of Women background paper
(Maille, 1990) notes that there are no conclusive data about
the gender gap in Canada, although women have traditionally
favoured the Liberal over the Conservative party by 10 per
cent.  The reason for its non-emergence, Chantal Maille
suggests, is that Canadian women's groups have not yet
succeeded in forming a distinct lobby to approach
politicians with a single voice, as has been done by the
National Organization of Women (NOW) south of the border
(Costain, 1988: 168-69).

     It seems, however, that this may be remedied in the
1990s, because diverse women's groups have set up about
forty action committees across the country to recruit more
women to run for office and to develop voting blocks around
a welfare-state agenda, which today benefits women more than
men (Maille, 1990: 26-30; Mueller, 1988a: 299).  Women's
historical support for the Liberal rather than the
Conservative party may, thus, be revived and become a new
gender gap in the coming decade.  What this says is that
women's vote as a _potential_ block vote will require
Canadian parties to pay attention to women's welfare, peace
and human rights concerns in _substantial_ rather than
propagandistic ways.  Social legislation based on both
equality and specificity considerations highlights an
ambivalence in feminist thinking, which will only be
overcome by what Jill Vickers (1989: 32) calls a "double
vision" for the future.  Both the older concepts of service,
duty and responsibility, and the newer ones of rights,
entitlements and claims vis-a-vis society and the state will
have to be accommodated in designing future, more
women-friendly legislation.  This also requires a
reconceptualizing of the existing theory of justice to
encompass both equality and equity, sameness and difference.

     In looking toward the future, a final question that has
been implicit in much of our argument now needs explicit
confrontation.  It concerns the state and women's
relationship to it.  On the one hand, we have argued that
state institutions as they exist today are male designed and
dominated, and therefore exhibit a culture that is difficult
for women to penetrate and to live with.  On the other, we
have shown that Canadian feminists and others look to the
state for policies and programs supporting women's special
needs.  The latter attitude implies that state institutions
are malleable and open to change.  Our evidence confirms
that the women politicians we have talked to were generally
of the opinion that state institutions are reformable.  Each
one of them has, with the help of supportive male
colleagues, achieved some success in rectifying the
disproportionate gradient of male influence.

     This leads us to conclude that women in government do
make a difference.  The women ministers we talked to or
whose biographies we consulted all have provided
stepping-stones for improving women's condition: Claire
Kirkland-Casgrain legally established married women's rights
in Quebec; Monique Begin introduced universal health
insurance; Pat Carney provided for greater job equality in
the federal bureaucracy; and Flora MacDonald inserted a
women's equality clause into the latest Broadcasting Act.
Second- and third-generation politicians like Audrey
McLaughlin, Lea Cousineau, Chaviva Hosek and Sheila Copps,
among others, are continuing this agenda.  Extra commitment
will be needed in the 1990s as women's issues are submerged
in the North American economic recession.  It is at these
times that the growing number of feminist politicians among
third-generation incumbents in municipal and provincial
councils will make the greatest difference, for they will
have the fresh ideas and, thus, will set the course for the

     The possibility of transforming state institutions is
also documented by Scandinavian women's groups, where much
has already been achieved, and in Great Britain, where the
Scottish Constitutional Convention of 1989 provided an
opportunity for summarizing the latest ideas on re-designed
state institutions.  In a ringing manifesto, Scottish
women's groups called for "user-friendly" institutions
catering to the needs of everyone: women, men, immigrants of
different ethnic backgrounds, the young and the old.  Mary
Fyfe, Labour MP from Glasgow Maryhill, defined
user-friendliness in legislative institutions for
politicians and constituents as "a normal working day, with
time built in for constituency activities, time off to match
school holidays and take account of family needs, adequate
salaries with additional allowances for ›careers®, proper
child-care and working facilities for members and their
staff, procedures that would be seen to be fair, democratic,
open and easily understood by newcomers, and a minimum of
ritual" (Coote and Pattullo, 1990: 275).

     What the Scottish women were trying to do, in effect,
was to import into the mainstream of representative
democracy the political culture of the margins and the
operating procedures of campaigns, social movements and
community actions where women were already strong.  These
proposals for exercising power, and interacting with it, are
much more in tune with everyday experience than anything
that has ordinarily become associated with politics.

     In such a re-designed system, socially responsible
media will also be transformed and changed, because readers
and viewers will demand a common reportorial focus and point
of view for all public officials.  Gone will be the
reportage which deals with the presence of women in
reductive terms, and gone also will be the stereotype-based
media narrations that perpetuate a vision of women (in
politics) based on gender difference rather than on
equality, on strangeness rather than on parallel or similar
interests.  Furthermore, both the traditional and
transitional narratives would have to shed their anti-social
bias toward women and minority groups, which is manifested
by not giving them credit for their contributions to public

     Media personnel will also have to become mindful not to
apply the four discriminatory narrative focuses and
differential evaluation criteria discussed previously.
These include the focus on a female incumbent's personal
characteristics rather than on the substance of her
statements and ignoring prior career activities, thereby
making competence more difficult for her to establish.  It
would also no longer be considered fair to make a woman
politician responsible for her gender nor to use the
feminism label to discredit her as an individual, let alone
to discredit the women's movement as a whole.  Even-handed
application of performance criteria on a uniform scale for
women and men will also avoid the oppression of excellence
as well as differential standards for female and male sexual

     Lest this scenario sound overly rosy, it is important
to remember that social institutions are just that, socially
constructed and therefore intimately related to changing
social attitudes toward women's role in the public domain.
These attitudes will undergo further pressures at home,
during the recession, and abroad, as a result of the Eastern
European migration and of the declining nation-state role as
the 1992 European Economic unity project progresses.  At
this juncture, it is important to remember Rosemary Brown's
admonition: "Women's most stubborn enemy ›is® not misogyny
but paternalism" (1989: 130).  Male legislators in caucus
and in Parliament continue to believe that they know better
what women's needs are than women themselves.  Since overt
discrimination is no longer publicly condoned, this attitude
leads to a strategy of passive resistance that is equally
effective, because the male bias of political institutions
is able to derail many female-sponsored initiatives.  Angela
Miles's dictum must therefore remain the guiding principle
for concerned political women in the 1990s: "›We® must
continue to insist on our right to participate fully in
public life, but must at the same time challenge its very
shape and underlying logic" (as quoted in Vickers, 1989:


1. One of the basic manifestations of discrimination against
   women resides in the ways in which the presence and role
   of women politicians are discussed.  Therefore, we
   recommend that all sexist language be eliminated from
   government and public documents; namely, the Canada
   Elections Act.

2. Women need to be informed and properly trained in order
   to make maximum use of information tools and the media to
   further their political endeavours.  Women politicians
   have to be taught how the journalistic system works, how
   to answer questions and what the print and production
   values are.  Therefore, we strongly encourage all
   Canadian political parties to offer a foundation course
   on media literacy in order for women within their ranks
   to become media wise; that is, to be able to deal more
   adequately with reportorial interviews, expectations and
   biases.  Similar courses are already available in certain
   universities; namely, l'Universite du Quebec a Montreal,
   where women from different associations receive training
   specifically designed for their needs in relation to the

3. We are well aware that in the field of media, the notion
   of freedom of the press does not permit the
   implementation of restrictive rules concerning editorial
   policies.  However, we believe that the media can be
   systematically invited to make better use of the human
   resources and women's political expertise presently
   available.  It is also recommended that the media be
   invited to systematically cover women's progress, or
   activities within political parties, and to keep in touch
   with women's extra-state activities on all levels of
   politics: national, provincial, regional and municipal.

4. Since it has been established that women in key power
   positions have a direct influence on the presence of
   other women at all levels of an organization, concrete
   measures should be considered to break the "glass
   ceiling" beyond which women have not been able to
   advance.  Therefore, we recommend that affirmative action
   programs be designed to promote women to top positions in
   media outlets and political parties.

5. We also believe that goodwill gestures on a symbolic
   level can have important effects.  Such gestures can be
   triggered by actions that help to raise consciousness and
   create a climate of awareness and co-operation.  The
   following recommendation deals with two such initiatives.
   We recommend the following:

   * that a national journalism prize be instituted, to be
     named after a prominent woman and adjudicated through
     the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women in
     co-operation with journalists' associations.  The aim
     of the competition would be to award a substantial
     monetary prize, to be sponsored by the Secretary of
     State, to the best media coverage of women's political
     activity during the year.

   * that the Secretary of State sponsor particular and
     specific research projects on the media coverage of
     women's political activities, both within parties and
     outside.  Such sponsorship should, in particular,
     favour research projects dealing with women's political
     initiatives on the municipal level in Canada's large
     and middle-sized cities, where women already represent
     one-third of city councillors.  Most new political
     initiatives will emerge on this level where women's
     issues (such as peace, the environment and the welfare
     state) are going to be highlighted.


         Women Politicians Interviewed or Studied
               Through Biographical Material

First Generation:

Doris Anderson (ex-president of the Canadian Advisory
Council on the Status of Women)

Monique Begin (Liberal Party of Canada, former minister)

Rosemary Brown (NDP, British Columbia, leadership candidate)

Therese Casgrain (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation,
Quebec, Senator; autobiography)

Judy Erola (Liberal Party of Canada, former minister)

Pauline Jewett (New Democratic Party of Canada, Chancellor
of Carleton University)

Therese Lavoie-Roux (Liberal, Quebec, former minister)

Judy LaMarsh (Liberal Party of Canada, former minister;

Flora MacDonald (Progressive Conservative Party of Canada,
former minister)

Jeanne Sauve (Liberal Party of Canada, former minister,
Governor General; biography)

Second Generation:

Mary Collins (Progressive Conservative Party of Canada,
minister responsible for the status of women and associate
minister of national defence)

Sheila Copps (Liberal Party of Canada, leadership candidate;

Francine Cosman (Liberal, Nova Scotia)

Lea Cousineau (president of the executive committee, City of

Christine Hart (Liberal, Ontario, former minister)

Chaviva Hosek (Liberal, Ontario, former minister)

Therese Killens (Liberal Party of Canada)

Aldea Landry (Liberal, New Brunswick, vice-premier)

Audrey McLaughlin (New Democratic Party of Canada, leader of
the party)

Maureen McTeer (candidate in 1988 for the Progressive
Conservative Party of Canada)

Third Generation:

Marlene Catterall (Liberal Party of Canada)

Dorothy Doley (PC, Saskatchewan)

Sheila Gervais (Liberal Party of Canada, secretary-general)

Shirley Maheu (Liberal Party of Canada)

Sandra Mitchell (NDP, Saskatchewan, president)

Louise O'Neill (candidate in 1988 for New Democratic Party
of Canada)

Journalists and Academics Consulted:

Nicole Belanger (directrice regionale, Radio-Canada)

Gretta Chambers (Montreal _Gazette_)

Ami Lonnroth (_Svenska Dagbladet_)

Robert Mackenzie (_Toronto Star_)

Trina McQueen (director of CBC English Network)

Francine Pelletier (_La Presse_)

Carolle Simard (Department of Political Science, Universite
du Quebec a Montreal)


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* This manuscript was published originally in book format as
"Women in Canadian Politics: Toward Equity in
Representation," Chapter 5, Volume 6, 1991, of the
_Collected Research Studies of the Royal Commission on
Electoral Reform and Party Financing_ by Dundurn Press and
is reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Supply
and Services Canada, 1992.