Calgary women mayoral candidates describe insults, taunts and harassment
Jyoti Gondek says some of the messages his mayoral campaign received made staff cry.
The city councilor says she is used to the racist and misogynistic insults and taunts she has endured over the past four years as a representative of Ward 3, but it has been difficult for her volunteers and supporters to see him for the first time.
“There are a number of volunteers and supporters in my team who were exposed to things they had never experienced before, and it shocked them,” she said.
“What bothers me is how quickly this is picking up speed and how more emboldened people are to spit out such hate and terrible personal things.”
Hopeful Mayor Jan Damery raised the issue this week in a virtual debate, so CBC News decided to check in with the four women running for the top job at City Hall to find out what ‘they saw, heard and lived during the campaign, which is only two weeks old.
“The abuse we endure, the misogyny we endure,” Damery told the forum.
His team have since posted short videos on social media reciting some of the messages they received, and they are not easy to hear.
It’s Damery’s version of a late-night TV comedy in which celebrities read “mean tweets” about themselves.
“What a bitch with two faces, lies, lies, lies,” read a staff member, who quoted from one of the posts.
“That broad is a fool,” read another.
“Shut up your pie, you’re not a doctor and you have no business to weigh on a warrant. You’re officially a hopeless mayor,” read another.
Damery says she’s not disheartened, but the comments are making an impact.
“I’ve always looked a bit at windmills, I’ve kind of gone to places where women don’t traditionally go, [so] I compartmentalize. And so I feel it, yeah, it hurts. But it doesn’t stop me and crater me, ”she said.
Damaged, stolen campaign signs
Grace Yan had to call the police after her vehicle was targeted by thieves outside her downtown campaign office. A rear window was smashed and campaign materials were stolen.
Its large country signs, the size of a sheet of plywood, were also damaged, defaced or stolen. It has since integrated GPS tracking devices into some of them. She says her signs are being targeted every day.
On top of that, there were racist slurs and misogynistic and derogatory comments on social media.
“This stuff just keeps happening. And obviously the social media trolls, they keep going, you know, it’s really something, it’s shocking,” Yan said.
She says all of this happens when some people go through financial, emotional and mental fatigue related to the collapsing economy and a devastating fourth wave of the pandemic.
“It takes a lot of courage to run for mayor and for every candidate to run. We just have to be understanding and kind to each other.”
The founder of a local organization that campaigns for gender equality and women’s right to be in politics hopes current and future candidates will not be deterred by these incidents.
Sarah Elder-Chamanara, who founded Madame Premier, says the vitriol “is heightened” because the incumbent mayor is not running for office and people have to decide “what kind of city Calgary is going to be,” he said. she declared.
“There are those who are running to maintain the status quo and then there are those, many of whom are women, who are running to change things, and that scares a lot of people,” Elder-Chamanara said.
She says the harassment of phone calls, texts, social media posts and damage to signs is a bullying tactic meant to “scare” women who run for either city councilor or mayor.
“You just have to keep fighting because the people who oppose this effort to see more representation in politics, that’s what they want. They want women to just be afraid.”
Keep applicants away
As Gondek and her team try to deal with the anger and hatred of some voters, she knows several people who have chosen not to participate in the campaign due to the risk of harassment and abuse.
“I know at least four candidates, who would have been incredible city builders, and would have been excellent candidates. And they won’t. Because the exposure it gives their family is first and foremost. and above all what worried them, and the impact that would have on their well-being.
“We are losing good people because of what is going on.”
So far, Virginia Stone says she has no regrets about entering the mayoral race, even though she has encountered the same abusive and anti-women rhetoric as the other candidates, but not in the same measure.
The Calgary-born and raised entrepreneur and philanthropist says she was called in for a photo on her website that shows her wearing a men’s shirt with cufflinks. A woman told her she liked her platform but couldn’t vote for her because of the photo.
“I lost her vote because she thought I had fired women in the past two decades because of the photos on my website,” Stone said.
“All I want to do, win or lose, is encourage more women to be brave enough to stand up and go at plate and fight the hard fight.… It’s not easy to run in politics, for sure, every day is a battle.
Gondek agrees it’s a battle.
“Of course, it’s personal. Someone just attacked you and you feel it. What you choose to do with how you feel is how people treat things differently. I have to put it away. . “
“I have an election to win,” she said.
Bryan Labby is a corporate reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a great story idea or tip, you can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.