Atherden: some arrogant MPs are sexist
An “arrogance” shown by some Members of Parliament has led to disrespectful comments about women, the Opposition leader has claimed.
Jeanne Atherden said an “overwhelming number of seats” won by the Progressive Labour Party meant some politicians felt they could “do whatever they want”.
She added it was important to attract more women into politics and ensure they have opportunities to reach positions of power.
Ms Atherden was speaking in the wake of Wayne Caines, the national security minister, coming under fire after he asked for “titty milk” in a cereal bar while on government business in London.
Mr Caines landed in hot water after he posted the exchange with two young women staff on Instagram.
Ms Atherden told The Royal Gazette: “That reflects what I believe is the unfortunate arrogance which is resulting, where you’ve got people that have gotten so arrogant about what they’re doing and where they are that they just actually think they can do whatever they want.
“That arrogance translates into ... ‘we got elected and we got an overwhelming number of seats, that means that we have a mandate’.”
Ms Atherden said: “With the consequence that the types of things that you see, the types of statements that you see, the type of comments that are being made are comments which are coming from a position of ‘hey, we’re golden’ and unfortunately it translates in some respects in terms of talking about women and making comments about women and shooting people down.”
She added: “It is rather unfortunate that more of the comments now are starting to be of a nature of talking about people from a gender perspective.”
Ms Atherden said it was important to work on the male-to-female ratio in Parliament.
She added that she had made a decision that will result in an all-women OBA team in the Senate when Parliament resumes in November.
She said: “If you’re going to talk about Parliament, you’ve got to really talk about the parliamentary process.
“It goes to what do you do about trying to get women involved in Parliament.
“And when they’re in Parliament what do you do about encouraging them and making sure they get to some of the highest leadership roles, whether it be minister, government leader, senate leader, because that’s all part and parcel of how women are being thought of with respect to taking their rightful position in the parliamentary process.”
Ms Atherden declined to give specific details of comments made in and around Parliament.
But she said they are made “sometimes in the coffee room” and “often enough” on the floor of the chamber “as a way to denigrate what you’ve said”.
Ms Atherden added that the remarks were usually loud enough for colleagues to hear, but too inaudible to be reported in Hansard, the official report of House of Assembly proceedings.
She added: “I have heard people who have made comments which are definitely directed at the female members of the Houses of Parliament and they’re directed at them to demonstrate a degree of disrespect.”
Ms Atherden said: “The sad part about all of this is that we have to keep reminding ourselves that when we’re up there, we’re supposed to be role models.”
She added: “I used to say politics was petty and personal, but now it’s gone to another level.
“When you start to see these types of things which are undermining women, which are not raising them up when they should be but actually pulling them down, then I think it’s time for us to speak up.
“It’s time for us to say ‘not good enough’.”
The Government’s department of communications and PLP chairman Owen Darrell did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
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