Jeanne Atherden statement
Atherden calls for apolitical women’s forum
Opposition leader Jeanne Atherden has called for an apolitical women’s forum to promote female empowerment in the light of the Wayne Caines “titty milk” affair.
Ms Atherden also urged women and men in the Progressive Labour Party to break their silence over the national security minister’s “sexist and inappropriate” behaviour while in London on government business last week.
Mr Caines came under fire across Bermuda, and attracted media attention in Britain, after he posted a video of himself on Instagram asking a young female server in a Cereal Killer Café outlet for “titty milk”.
David Burt, the Premier, declared himself disappointed by Mr Caines’s “extremely poor conduct”, while the minister issued a public apology.
Ms Atherden argued this was not enough.
She said: “I know that as a woman and mother of daughters, I am outraged at Mr Caines’s actions.”
She said of Mr Burt: “I wonder if, before making his statement, he asked any women how they felt not just about Mr Caines’s inappropriate and sexist statement, but also the fact that Mr Caines thought that it was either OK or funny enough to put out on Instagram?
“From his comments it does not look as if the Premier did canvass the opinion of women because how can you say that you represent all of Bermuda without reflecting the outrage that women feel not just about the minister’s conduct but the thinking behind the conduct?
“We need to let everyone and most importantly our community — our men, women and children — know that this is not who we are or where we want to be regarding women.
“We have an opportunity to seriously look at where we are in relation to women in this community and what we can do to move our community forward.
“A first step would be for Mr Caines to do the right thing and resign and consign himself to the back benches where he can reflect on the error of his ways.
“Premier, I urge you to take a second giant and meaningful step and join with me to establish an apolitical women’s forum to discuss women’s issues and promote the development and empowerment of women here in Bermuda.
“That, Premier, would be a meaningful and appropriate response to Mr Caines’s behaviour and thinking.”
Ms Atherden added: “Did the Premier ask the women in the PLP for their thoughts?
“I would call on them to say something publicly about this issue, to condemn it and insist that there is no repeat. Their silence so far sends out a message that either they actually think this behaviour is OK or that they are too afraid to speak out publicly.
“I have heard men say that women need to speak up but we also need to hear the voices of the men in this community.
“Men need to speak up not just as it relates to how they want their daughters to be viewed and treated, but also how they want their sons to think and behave. So where do the men of the PLP stand on this? They are silent.”
Ms Atherden said she was aiming to get more women involved in politics.
She said: “Premier, our women are the glue that holds this country together. They labour in our businesses and then they come home and are the primary care givers in families. We need to be doing things to promote them, not demean them.”
Mr Burt did not respond when invited to comment on Ms Atherden’s statement.
• To read Jeanne Atherden’s statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”