A friend alerted me to news regarding Jamie Hall, someone we went to high school with. I don’t remember much about him, but I knew enough to be surprised that he tried to be a politician. It takes a certain amount of courage as well as an almost wide-eyed zeal to serve one’s community, and these positive virtues are quite commendable, regardless of the cynicism that comes hand in hand with the profession. So it is a shame that Jamie Hall’s political career barely lasted twenty-four hours when tweets degrading women resurfaced and put a stop to his campaign. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/busby-on-hall-tweets-1.3476086)
What’s even more unfortunate is that somehow, the Liberal party’s vetting process didn’t catch what seems to be glaring red flags: He worked as a bar promoter. He penned a novel titled 7 Deadly Women. He has an active Twitter and Youtube accounts. They’re not sins of themselves, but they could be mined for anything that could be useful for rival candidates. And lastly, he dresses like a magician. He looks more like a pick-up artist at the Manitoba Legislature than a person trying to run for political office.
First off, let’s look at the comment themselves. He refers to his girlfriend as a “skank.” This could be excused as a personal term on a personal message not meant for public consumption. But then again, this is politics, and regardless of how his girlfriend feels about the term, it is still quite offensive. I could call my wife the n-word and she might think it’s the sweetest, most endearing moniker in the world, but that doesn’t make it acceptable especially if I’m running for public office.
This also isn’t the first time he’s used such demeaning terms. One of his offensive tweets (and there are quite a few) says, “If a whore screams in the bedroom and no one is around to hear it, is she really a whore?” Now, the tweet doesn’t really make much sense since I’m sure there are “whores” that could be quiet and “proper women” that could be noisy in bed, but his rather casual use of the term suggests comfort with the idea of certain women being “whores” and “skanks.” Now, he tries to explain his actions by saying that as a liberal, he’s always been against the idea of censorship, but there’s nothing offensive in the tweet “if a whore screams…” that mere censorship could cure. It is the idea within the tweet that is offensive. You could replace the term “whore” with “loose woman” and still come off as a misogynist.
He also uses such terms from a position of power and I don’t think he fully realizes how it looks from a political perspective when a white male refers to women as “whores” and “skanks.” Again, from a political and social perspective, it looks like he is punching down. I realize that there are some men, especially those in the men’s rights movement, who think that certain women deserve the label “whore” and that in many mays minimizing and/or objectifying women is a means of punching up, but that’s not how many women see it. That’s not how people in politics see it. Doesn’t this guy have a political consultant or at least someone with common sense who reads the paper? He explains that a lot of people talk like him, that he is not perfect and no one is. And it’s true, crude language doesn’t disqualify someone’s abilities nor does it negate their willingness to do good for the community. But it’s not one comment that shows a callous and rather immature attitude towards women, it’s several. And also, as political creatures, one has to look at such comments pragmatically whether they’re on his side or running against him. They are bad politically.
His explanation wasn’t much help either. I find that his CBC interview was more explanation than an apology, which is really the only thing that could’ve saved him. If anything, some of his explanations were more of an insult to the people who were offended. “My girlfriend is a strong, independent woman. She would not be sitting here in the studio next to me if I called her a skank.” First off, he did refer to his girlfriend as a “skank.” Perhaps it was in jest, but it did happen. He’s asking people to believe him instead of their own lying eyes. Also, to say that his girlfriend is “strong and independent” implies that those who were offended are not. Again, I don’t fully subscribe to this logic, but politically, this is a pretty bad explanation which could be easily exploited should he have decided to move forward. I dislike professional politicians as much as the next person, but that comment was amateur hour.
Now, I don’t want to be the word police. I think people should be free to say anything they want. The right to offend, to add controversial ideas and rhetoric in the marketplace of ideas is one of the greatest rights in Canada. However, people are not free from the consequences of their words. Hall is free to use the word “whores” and “skanks,” he is free to demean women if he wants to. Heck, I’ve been accused of misogyny a couple of times before myself. But as a political creature, Hall is not free from the consequences of his words. He should’ve known better, perhaps cleaned up his history or done a better job apologizing for it. The Liberal party should’ve known better as well.
The use of the word “whore” and “skank,” as well as his history of tweets don’t offend me. I really couldn’t care less about them. I’m not sure if I can outright label him as a misogynist based on a small sample of his language. What annoyed me is the lack of political savviness exhibited in the whole episode.