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  (Curtis Lantinga)

 

(Curtis Lantinga)

MARGARET WENTE

Why Peter MacKay’s in the sexist soup Add to ...

I’m feeling kind of sorry for Peter MacKay. Nothing has been going right. He tried to appoint a guy to the Supreme Court and it turned into a massive screw-up. The Supremes have been messing with his laws. Judges have been refusing to follow his order to make criminals pay victim fines because it’s pointless and stupid.

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And now, he’s been exposed as a blatant chauvinist who is completely out of touch with modern families.

How big is this story? So big that it led CBC’s The National on Tuesday. “Peter MacKay has done it again,” intoned Peter Mansbridge, wearing the same sombre expression he uses when he tells you that ISIL might be marching on Baghdad.

So what has the Justice Minister done? He wished his staff a happy Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, thus confirming that he is completely out of touch with how families live today.

The two congratulatory e-mails (which were, in fact, written by people whose job it is to produce innocuous feel-good messages on behalf of the boss) went entirely unnoticed until they were “leaked” and seized on by a gleeful CBC. The Mother’s Day memo praised the mothers of the department for having two full-time jobs, “as hardworking Department of Justice employees during business hours and as dedicated moms and caregivers around the clock.” The Father’s Day memo, presumably written a month later, praised the dads for being dedicated fathers, “shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.” No mention of diapers.

Cue the manufactured outrage. “Several say it’s disappointing to see gender stereotyping like this in 2014,” said the CBC reporter. As proof of this disappointment, she dredged up a mommy lawyer on maternity leave. “I just think that Peter MacKay is completely out of touch with what women want to do generally,” the lawyer said in an online version of the story. “In my house, me and my husband … share everything in our house fairly equally.”

This is the second time in two weeks Mr. MacKay has landed in the sexist soup. Last week, he got blasted for remarks he made at a private meeting about the lack of federally appointed female judges. The problem is that too few women apply, he said. According to people who were there, he also suggested that women have a special bond with their young children and don’t want to spend a lot of time away from them.

These comments were greeted with downright horror in the national media. And in Parliament, Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland denounced him for “chauvinism.”

To be sure, I know a number of women who have no problem combining their maternal instincts with brilliant careers on the bench, or in just about any field you care to name. (Ms. Freeland, who has three young children of her own, is one of them.) But Mr. MacKay is correct when he implies that these women are not the norm. Most women do make different accommodations for their families than men do, at least while their kids are young, and most of them do so not because sexist attitudes are holding them back but because they want to.

Even so, it’s partly the minister’s fault for landing in the soup. As a long-time politician, he ought to know that there are certain things you can’t say in public, even if (sometimes especially if) they’re true. Anything to do with gender differences, for example. If he isn’t smart enough to know this, then you’ve got to ask whether he’s smart enough to be a cabinet minister.

To tell the truth, ever since Belinda Stronach crossed the floor and stomped all over his broken heart with her four-inch heels, I’ve kind of doubted Mr. MacKay’s judgment. Back then, I thought he should man up. Now, I think he should shut up. When you’re in a fight you can’t win, it’s the only sensible thing to do.

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