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First hijab-wearing Barbie launched in ‘Shero’ line

Barbie is getting an international makeover. During Glamour’s Woman of the Year summit, a hijab-wearing Barbie was revealed as one of the first of a line of dolls based on the image of inspirational women.

This particular Barbie is modelled after United States Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won a bronze medal for fencing in Rio last year. The doll wears the white fencing uniform, complete with training shoes, mask, sabre, and of course, Muhammad’s hijab.

Muhammad told the press that she used to make her own hijab for her Barbies when she was younger, and that she hopes this new doll will encourage and inspire young girls to feel included.

“I’m proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear hijab! This is a childhood dream come true,” she tweeted.

Barbie has often been criticized for their lack of diversity and the size of their dolls. This inspirational line of “Sheros” is the company’s attempt at breaking that image. The line recognizes women who break boundaries and inspire the next generation of young girls. Last year, Mattel, the company that creates Barbie, revealed a variety of sized-dolls inspired by plus-size model and advocate Ashley Graham.

Other “Sheros” include African-American ballerina Mista Copeland, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Olympian Gabby Douglas, and actresses Kristin Chenoweth and Zendaya Coleman.

The release of the Muhammad-inspired Barbie comes at a time where muslim women are being persecuted around the world. In Canada, Quebec’s Bill 62 law makes it illegal for women to wear the niqab or burkha, while oversees in Europe muslim women are being targeted for wearing burkinis on the beach. In the U.S., white supremacists are protesting immigration and the removal of confederate statues.

The “Shero” line will go on sale in 2018.

What do you think of this Shero line? Does it make up for Barbie’s previous reputation? Let us know in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Cheryl Hickman

Cheryl Hickman is the founder and general and artistic director of Opera on the Avalon, a company in Newfoundland that showcases traditional opera and musical theatre. The company is dedicated to promoting work by female artists and empowering them through mentorship programs and gender parity policies.

A singer herself, Hickman was inspired to create Opera on the Avalon after being mentored herself. She has performed with some of the most prominent operatic companies in North America and Europe, including the New York City Opera, Vancouver Opera, Calgary Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Manitoba Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Florida Grand Opera, and Opera Français. When she speaks, she does so with passion and poetry. She wants Opera to adapt to the times, employing more women and engaging more youth.

In 2017, Hickman was appointed to the Canada Council for the Arts and is the chair of the Governance Committee. Women’s Post spoke with Hickman over the phone about the future of Opera, how to keep a community engaged in such a traditional art form, and the potential of women in positions of power.

Question: Did you always have a passion for music? When did you first discover opera?

Answer: I discovered it at quite a young age. My mom tells me I sang before I spoke. I was a child of the 70s. I still remember terrible 70s lyrics that should be out of my head, but alas, it’s not. My first memory is singing in a Kindergarden production in Newfoundland.

Were you able to get a job as a singer right after graduation or was there a delay? 

I did an undergrad at the University of Toronto and graduate work at The Juilliard School. Literally one of my mentors called New York City Opera – across the square. I walked out of my masters program to a job. But again, that was a mentor who believed in me and picked up the phone. I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time. 

Why did you found Opera on the Avalon? 

The reason why I started Opera on the Avalon was because of Diana Leblanc at the Canadian Opera Company.  I was in the ensemble and as a young performer you didn’t really see a lot of women. It’s a very male dominated world. She was the first female director I worked with. I think it made such an impact in terms of how she worked. It was a revelation. It was such a rewarding and creatively and artistically and emotionally satisfying experience. I realized later I was trying to re-create that experience in my whole professional life.

I started also, because in my genre, there is little opportunity for women. There are very few artistic directors, heads of companies, producers, and little opportunity in the higher levels.  If you aren’t going to invite me to the party I’ll start my own. The company has evolved.

Power balance will only change if you act on it. And so, in the East coast or in Canada we are the only company that insists on gender parity. We hire people from diverse backgrounds. We also insist on parity in all hiring.

Why is it so important to insist on gender parity in the arts?

It’s so topical now. As a young singer, [opera] was a school of “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger”. There was a lot of sexism and misogyny. It was an unconscious bias people aren’t aware of. It’s only when you are aware of the fact that people of power are all men, you don’t realize how much that impacts you. 

How do you deal with it? You don’t deal with it. You realize what the rules are. The person who gets fired isn’t going to be the abused. You learn very quickly that in the arts talent forgives all. Success is a motivator for people to look beyond someone’s faults and sometimes the faults are quite large and harmful to other artists. You want to work – if you complain you won’t work. You put your game face on.

What is making Opera on the Avalon such a success?

We embrace artistic risk. What interests me is that we are bringing a quality, high callibre to widest audience possible – especially attracting younger generations because that’s the audience we are building. If we are going to attract wider audiences we need to widen the stories we are telling. We can’t allow stories we tell to be only those of dead white men.

I think one of the things we do is you have to reflect the lives of the community you live in back on the stage. We did a new show “Ours” [about] WWI battle that has a tremendous impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. We are doing an opera called ”As One”, focusing on the transgender [identity] and young people finding out who they are and discovering at a young age who you are as a person.

Do you believe in mentorship? What do you do to help young women?

I mentor through a couple of programs, university programs, and through Opera on the Avalon. We mentor young conductors. The number of female conductors in Opera in this country is shameful, so we are working to change that. I often think there is an unconscious bias – men hire men. That happens with mentorship and encouragement. It is really difficult for set designers, conductors, and directors if they don’t see women in power doing those things. You have to have guidance from somebody that has that lived experience and can also speak about the difficulties and challenges, and encourage you every step of the way. I was mentored by some pretty amazing women and we have to lift each other up. 

Any final thoughts?

I guess what’s interesting, or what’s important is that for too long we have been afraid, as women, to speak up because it’s fear of embarrassment or retribution or contempt. And I think now is the time [to speak]. In the last couple of weeks you’ve seen how that is changing. Someone said to me that a young man got hired for something and someone said he was a boy wonder. The female equivalent is bitch and for me, that’s true. As women, we owe it to the next generation to speak up without fear of retribution. It is incumbent on us.

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What the hell is a basic bitch?

Apparently, I am “basic”.

When I was told this, I immediately took it as an insult. Does this mean I’m naive or dumb? Does this mean I have no depth or that I can’t make an informed argument? Is this an insinuation of intolerance?

No — it all centres on my choice of drink, television shows, and music preferences. All of that combined makes me a #basicbitch. While some are embracing this new label (because what other choice is there), I find it just as offensive as my own personal definition.

Being “basic” is slang for someone who follows trends and lacks individuality. It is a term used to describe a person — particularly white women — who enjoy seasonal drinks, chic clothes, and healthy goods. A basic bitch watches Love Actually every Christmas, gets excited for pumpkin spice lattes, can quote Friends in any conversation, wears Uggs and leggings, and shops at Whole Foods.

This term has been circulating the Internet for about a year now, and doesn’t seem to be going away. If you google it, the term is synonymous with the word “airhead”.

Now, I know I’m not an airhead. I don’t brainlessly go shopping or talk like a valley girl. I’m an editor and a writer. I am capable of talking about anything from business, law and politics to fashion, food, and design. I am tolerant, intelligent, and I have a quick wit. I enjoy listening to other people argue about topics I don’t agree with because it exposes me to new perspectives. I love going to local coffee shops, watching documentaries, and reading.

At the same time, I enjoy a good peppermint mocha and will go to a Christmas market at least three times throughout the month of December. I practice yoga twice a week. I like going to health food stores and I love my blanket scarf. Do my consumption choices or habits overweigh the other aspects of my personality? Apparently so.

Ironically, the word “basic” is a lazy insult. It requires little thought and no creativity. It’s such a blanket term that very few people actually know what it means. Calling a woman “basic” is another way of saying “I have absolutely nothing to say about you as a human being so instead I’m going to make fun of you for what you are wearing, eating, and whatever activities you are doing over the weekend.” It’s a way of making people feel ashamed of who they are without actually pinpointing why they should feel ashamed.

It also shows an incredible lack of understanding into what makes a person an individual. I think you’ll find that most people are quite complex, and that just because a woman relishes in very female (I say with rolled eyes and air quotes) activities and likes to follow certain trends, that doesn’t determine who she is.

And yet, despite these arguments, the term it’s sticking. There are hundreds of quizzes online that will help you determine how “basic” you are. People are commenting on Instagram and Facebook with things like “so basic” every time a woman posts a travel photo of herself on the beach in a bikini or tasting a novelty dessert.

To me, the term “basic” is void of any meaning. It gives people the opportunity to mock and shame women for just being themselves. And anytime women are shamed for their personalities, society loses.

Let me put it another way: call me “basic” one more time and you’ll find out exactly what kind of a bitch I can be.

What kind of leader are you?

Being the boss can be hard, especially when you are a woman. You can be considered too authoritative, too compromising, or too emotional. It can be incredibly frustrating, but remember that your leadership style is yours alone – and it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one.

There are a number of different leadership styles to consider as a manager, and the use of each style depends on the companies goals, vision, and workforce capability. Depending on your goals, it may be prudent to alter your leadership style in order to encourage or inspire progress. Here are a few styles to consider:

The autocratic leader: This is someone who knows what he or she wants, and demands results. This kind of leader can be quite successful in a cutthroat business, and is useful in times of crisis. The business centres around the boss, who has most of the responsibility and all of the authority. Employees are closely supervised.

The authoritative leader: This kind of leader takes charge and mobilizes their team towards a single goal. It’s a step down from autocratic, in which the boss has most of the authority, but is using it to help….. This type of leadership style is useful when the goals of a company change or when employees need guidance.

The coaching leader: In businesses that are choosing to invest in their employees and facilitate growth, the coaching leadership style is ideal. It involves actively teaching and supervising. This style only works if the employees are willing to grow in their role.

The pacesetting leader: Do what I do – this type of leadership style focuses on self-example. The boss has high expectations, and if employees cannot do it, the leader must be prepared to jump in. It is not the most sustainable leadership style.

The affiliative leader: Your team is more important than you are. This type of leader praises his or her employees and fosters a sense of belonging at the company. This kind of leadership can promote loyalty and instil confidence in employees; however experts warn that constant praise can also result in complacently among a team. Use this style in combination with another for efficiency.

The democratic leader: This type of leadership is great for smaller businesses and start-ups. Employees are seen as valuable and contribute equally for the betterment of the company. The team holds ownership and responsibility of the plan or business concept, and the boss simply fuels the discussion.

Above all else – remember that not all leadership styles will work with your role or personality. That’s okay. But, a good mix of two or three of these leadership styles is bound to produce results.

What kind of leader are you? Let us know in the comments below!

It’s all about people – Mitchell Goldhar: The Giver

I’m building this unique luxury tent and cave resort concept in the Caribbean, and as most of my friends and family will attest, I live, breath, and sleep it.  My days are spent inspiring people. One day it’s our engineer who is designing the hydraulic system that will support our tents (and fold them up in case of hurricane), and on another it is our architect who has to figure out a design that will keep our cave units dry and bright.  And almost every day I work to inspire investors to believe in me and my concept of a luxury cultural “safari”, where affluent guests can stay in a peaceful natural setting, yet still access golf, fine dining, shopping, movie theatres, and all the urban amenities they love.  

I’ve never had to search for investors before. In the past, I’ve relied on bank loans and my own funds to build my businesses. So when I started out, I made some mistakes. I learned from them and carried on.  

One of my first investment pitches was to Mitchell Goldhar.  His background can be intimidating.  At the age of 28, Walmart recruited him to secure locations for their warehouse club division in Canada. He believed that expensive landlords were driving up the cost of goods and he was determined to bring fair prices to Canadians by building facilities with lower rents. But, Walmart changed their strategy and decided to go to Mexico instead. Goldhar, like most passionate entrepreneurs, refused to give up. He continued for almost a year, bringing together more properties and leaving voice messages for his Walmart contact – messages that didn’t get returned. Sure enough, almost a year later, Walmart finally called him back to say they had reconsidered.  Goldhar became their development partner and led conversion of 122 Woolco locations into Walmarts.

Through his company, Smart Centres, he has developed more than 200 shopping centres across the country. His enterprise was founded on his desire to give back to the world by creating conditions that help the average family get better prices on the goods they purchase.  He understands the power spaces  have to shape habits and actions. He’s a community builder. Needless to say, I was very nervous going into my meeting with him.

But, Mitch came into the room in jeans and a t-shirt, he put his phone on the table face down and asked me about my background, my history, my family. He put me at ease. In hindsight, I wonder if he could tell how nervous I was and wanted to help me find my footing before giving my pitch.

Over the years, I’ve begun identifying people, putting them into two different categories. I call them the “takers” and the “givers.”  The takers are people who are driven by status and shackled by fear.  They build walls around themselves pretending to know everything, but their lack of real engagement in the world shelters them from the mistakes and harsh realities that build wisdom. They tend to undermine anyone with a strong spirit, anyone who might challenge or question them.  They are easy to identify – they avoid direct, intimate conversation, and in meetings they check their cell phones every five minutes to avoid real engagement. They take from those around them, and waste their opportunity to significantly contribute to the world. I try to avoid these people as much as I can.

Then, there are the “Givers.” These are people who are driven to do things that will make the world better. Mitchell Goldhar is a giver – he believes in people and isn’t afraid to show it. Mitch understands how just a little bit of encouragement can go a long way. His encouragement and interest in my concept is something I hold on to whenever I come up against negativity.

Mitch is a true leader, but he is also very humble. He doesn’t place himself above those pitching to him, but listens intently and thoroughly.  This is perhaps the key to his success.  He heard everything I said in my pitch, and the questions he asked filled in the information I hadn’t yet given him. His ability to understand and intuitively pick up on my vision was startling.  

Givers draw strength and confidence from their actions and interactions. They have courage and engage with the world. They make mistakes and learn from them, and this produces confidence. Mitch exudes confidence, he is wise, but not too wise.

My father used to say that courage is about facing life and all its adversity with honour. And being honourable is about living up to a moral code that protects and enhances civil society.  Mitchell Goldhar has a lot of courage, and I’m looking forward to working with him in the very near future.

Backbone: dance performance inspired by the ‘spine’ of the Americas

Scores of people gathered into the dimly lit and hushed lower-theatre of Berkeley Street Theatre to see the latest production featured by the Canadian Stage, a not-for-profit contemporary theatre company. It was the opening night, on Nov. 3 of Red Sky Performance’s latest indigenous contemporary performance —Backbone. Nothing could have prepared me for the invoking performance that was presented before me.

In anticipation of the performance, I had a chat with Red Sky’s founder and artistic director, Sandra Laronde. Laronde was inspired to create Backbone using her indigenous beliefs based on the ‘spine of the Americas.’

” I wanted to show the ‘backbone’ of the Americas in dance and music, a rocky spine ( Rocky Mountains) that has life, circuitry, electricity, and impulses that are alive and dynamic—much like the human spine. For indigenous peoples, there is a strong connection between the earth’s backbone and a human one, we are inseparable.” Laronde said.

Laronde’s connection to indigenous culture and interest in indigenous mapping inspired the core of Backbone. Indigenous mapping sees the land as a live and spiritual space. Instead of seeing the mountains (Rockies and Andes) as divided by borders, as traditional western mapping does, Indigenous mapping marks it as a continuous fluid.  Many characteristics of Indigenous mapping lays respect to Mother Earth and speaks about the meaning of the land instead of naming an area after a person or a discoverer.

Laronde asked herself how she could translate this concept into movement? With a team of nine dancers and one live musician, Laronde partook in collaborative choreography training with Jera Wolfe, Ageer, and Thomas Fonua to create the contemporary aesthetic of Backbone that visually and audibly appeals to the viewers.

The sounds that accompanied the dancers movement on stage was crucial to create visuals and situations that allows your mind to imagine and feel the moment. In the opening sequence of Backbone, dancers present themselves as a spine, with each movement in cohesion with the cracking  and popping sounds of human bones. The spine coming to life, unfolding, separating, and eventually merging together again.

This stunning performance was only possible through the use of talented dancers using every bit of their intense training. On average, the dancers trained from 10 AM to 6PM, Monday to Saturday, their training is akin to a high-level athlete, with many training since childhood.

With music being such a big component to this performance, Laronde turned to percussionist and composer, Rick Sacks, a long-time collaborator with Red Sky. Sacks was the 10th, but most crucial performer on stage, delivering sounds to accompany the dancers.

“Most of the music was performed live except for about 10 ambient cues from a computer in a booth. Rick played and/or triggered all the music. He triggered sounds from an electronic drum set and an electronic MalletKAT. The composition is made vital by ornamentation and punctuation that he could change each night depending on the dancer’s movements and the energy of the performance. This could only be the result of a live performance— it keeps it spontaneous,” said Laronde

Backbone marks the third back-to-back Toronto premiere that Red Sky has had since August. This is also their first collaboration with Canadian Stage, where Red Sky will be in residence for two years — the 17/18 and 18/19 seasons. Red Sky Performance was founded in 2000 and for the past 17 years they have focused on highlighting different traditional areas of indigenous dance theatre and music in a contemporary form.

Backbone runs from Nov 2-12 at the Berkeley Street theatre in Toronto. Red Sky Performance has also been invited to perform Backbone at Live Art Dance in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Nov 17. they will tour to Europe and Asia in January and February 2018-19. For more information visit redskyperformance.com.

 

Heritage Minute reveals immigrant culture of Kensington Market

Kensington Market in the heart of downtown Toronto has always felt like home to me. As an immigrant, I relate to its uniqueness as well as the essence and the spirit of the shop owners. I’ve walked around there, ate there, shopped there, and even partied there. There is something for everyone in the Kensington Market.

Canada’s latest Heritage Minute pays tribute to this immigrant-friendly neighbourhood. It’s also very much different than past Heritage Minutes —  instead of focusing on a single character and hiring an actor or actress to play the part, this Heritage Minute is an animation, depicting the journey of one shop over five decades.

Heritage Minutes are 60-second stories that use actors and costumes to mark an important part of Canadian history. This latest Kensington Market animation piece is the 88th presentation put together by Historica Canada and it is classed as a short documentary film.

The idea for the Kensington Market special came from filmmaker Michael Goldlist, who wrote and pitched the new Heritage Minute inspired by his personal family history. Goldlist’s grandfather, Charles Goldlist, opened a chicken shop in the market after he emigrated from Poland in 1948 as a Holocaust survivor. Goldlist ran the shop for decades and  lived among many other Jewish families who settled in the neighbourhood. The large immigrant population in Kensington Market opened the way to other cultures, as the chicken shop was later replaced by a Portuguese fish market, followed by a Jamaican music store. There is so much history to be found in the Victorian style buildings that not only housed immigrant business, but homes and families as well.

Next to Goldlist’s chicken shop, his neighbour William Mihalik opened a clothing store after he emigrated from Hungary in 1958, and today the clothing store takes over both properties. Tom’s Place is still thriving and very much family run by Tom Mihalik, his son Tom Jr., and his daughter Anett.

Tom was only 12 when his father started the second-hand clothing store, but he grew up in Kensington where he was surrounded by different nationalities. Today, Tom’s Place offers top-quality business suits.

The Heritage Minute was scripted by Goldlist and narrated by Tom Mihalik

“They thought my voice was very, very fitting because I still have an accent and they thought that somebody with my understanding of the area could speak from his heart, which I did.”

The stories of immigrants who found their first home and their first business in Kensington Market won’t end here, as there are many similar stories and experiences to be found. All you have to do is walk through the narrow streets and take in the bursts of different cultures.

Check out the latest Heritage Minute below:

What’s your favourite shop at Kensington Market? Let us know in the comments below!

Quebec passes bill prohibiting the niqab while using public services

Wednesday, Quebec’s National Assembly passed a law that will prohibit women from wearing the niqab while using public services.

Bill 62, ironically called the religious neutrality bill, bans public service workers, as well as people seeking government services, from wearing this any face-covering garb such as the niqab or the burka. This ban also extends to using public transportation.

It should also be noted that those who voted against the bill did so because they didn’t think it went far enough. They wanted to extend the ban to include people of authority, like judges and police officers.

To be incredibly clear: if a woman choses to wear the niqab for religious reasons, she will no longer be allowed to work as a teacher, doctor, or government agent. She will also not be able to use any of the services provided by these people and will not be able to take the bus to get there if she finds someone sympathetic to her beliefs.

The bill carefully avoids using the terms niqab or burka, and specifically says people must have their “face uncovered”, and claims this includes people who wear masks to protest. However, there are very few instances where a face would be covered and it is easy to deduce what population is being targeted by this law.

People can apply for an “exemption” to the rule; however the bill also specifies the religious accommodation “is consistent with the right for equality between women and men”, which would most likely rule out the niqab. The bill also says that “the accommodation must be reasonable in that it must not impose undue hardship with regard to, among other considerations, the rights of others, public health and safety, the effects on the proper operation of the body, and the costs involved.” This makes exemptions extremely subjective and difficult to receive.

The best part of the bill is the little disclosure at the end that says: “The measures introduced in this Act must not be interpreted as affecting the emblematic and toponymic elements of Québec’s cultural heritage, in particular its religious cultural heritage, that testify to its history.”

Honestly, if I was a politician in Quebec, I wouldn’t want this bill affecting the history or culture of my province either. It paints an absolutely despicable picture similar to other fascist countries.

I’m not a big fan of the niqab. Most women aren’t. But, I would never force a woman who chooses to wear one to remove it. I would also never prevent a woman from taking the bus or from picking up her child at school because of what she is wearing. This is not a security issue or a communications issue. This is racism in its simplest form. This is a group of people afraid of someone who dresses a bit differently. The law does not encourage “religious neutrality” as the government claims. It doesn’t prevent people from wearing a cross or a yarmulke on the bus or at the doctor’s office. It directly attacks one religion over others.

Personally, I’m hoping someone brings this bill to the Supreme Court. Quebec politicians should be ashamed at the blatant discrimination they just enacted in to law.

This is not my Canada. Is it yours?

The law is affective immediately.

Tens of thousands of women share #MeToo stories of sexual harassment

I don’t really have a #MeToo, but I stand with those who do.

I’m extremely fortunate (so far) and I know that. I have my own experiences with sexism — I’ve been treated differently by employers, mocked during interviews, and called a bitch by random strangers on public transit — but my stories are tame compared to those being shared on Twitter right now. And for them, as well as my friends and colleagues who have experienced sexual harassment and assault, my heart breaks.

Following the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, women started to share their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault. The latest forum is Twitter, using the hashtag #MeToo.

This particular movement started with American actress Alyssa Milano, who asked her followers to reply with the words “me too” to show how widespread sexual harassment really is.

Tens of thousands of people replied to the battle cry, and that number is increasing with every minute. Some people simply used the hashtag, while others provide context describing their situations. The responses have been from people of all genders, sexual orientation, professions, and economic demographics.

On Oct. 13, women boycotted Twitter in support of actress Rose McGowan, who was blocked by the social media agency for her criticism of Weinstein and those who are supporting him. Now, it seems like women have reclaimed this platform, using it to voice their opinions and show exactly how prominent sexual harassment is in the twenty first century.

The number of people using this hashtag should shock us, but it doesn’t. One in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime, and of every 100 assaults, only six are reported to the police. These statistics are even more grave when you consider that most people don’t share their #MeToo stories.

The are many reasons for not doing, and no one should be chastised for choosing to remain silent. It could be the victim was told to be ashamed of their experiences. It could also be that they were made to believe the attack was their own fault, or that alcohol or their wardrobe was to blame. It could also be that they are not yet ready to talk about their traumatic experience, which is okay. As many people on Twitter pointed out, just because you don’t talk publicly about your experience or use the hashtag, doesn’t make your story any less real.

I am a bit worried that this campaign will fall on deaf ears. These are real women who were brave enough to share their stories with the world in hopes of inspiring change. But, who will listen? In the United States, the White House is in the midst of making abortion illegal and removing birth control from insurance packages. While Canadian government officials pride themselves on providing free abortion pills, the debate surrounding safe spaces has become much too political. Every day a new challenge presents itself. Women who do accuse their attacker are often shamed in courtrooms or treated as liars. What happens when the Weinstein story dies down? Will these women be ignored once again?

Every few minutes someone experiences a #MeToo. It could be a family member, a friend, or a coworker. It could even be you. It’s incredibly important to stand with the courageous women and men speaking up today and realize the struggle to end sexual violence is an uphill battle. It will take decades.

What will you do tomorrow to help?

Do you care about the sex appeal of your Prime Minister?

It’s started already. The “who’s hotter than who” rhetoric surrounding Canada’s political leaders. Apparently, if your Prime Minister isn’t old and balding (or orange with a toupee), this is what the press focuses on. It doesn’t matter what his or her policy is, whether or not they kept their promises, or what their plans are for the future. It’s all about their hair and winning smile.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m a woman who can appreciate a person’s good looks — but when it comes to the people who represent my interests on a national and international level, I tend to think values matter more. But, that’s just me.

It all started with the election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister. The world exploded with jealousy, talking about how sexy he was and how gorgeous his hair is. Newspapers, magazines, and tabloids all posted pictures of him boxing or taking his shirt off for a charity event. They even made some cringe-worthy jokes involving maple syrup. To this day, the media go into a frenzy whenever our Prime Minister steps on foreign soil. There is no escaping those selfies.

Canadians could deal with one good-looking politician. Sure, the press may love to take his picture, but after the first month of his term, most Canadians were over Trudeau’s charm. But now, Canada is in trouble. There are now two — yes, I said two — good-looking political leaders vying for the position of Prime Minister in the next election.

Newly-elected New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh has been praised for his ability to connect with young people. He is charismatic, and fashion-forward. Take a look at any of his photos and you can see a man who knows how to work a camera.

Earlier this week, Singh made a comment about his own luscious locks hidden beneath his turban, saying “I have more hair, and it’s longer, and it’s nicer.” Now, people are going crazy again. Articles have popped up calling those “fighting words”, making the correlation between hair and a vow to defeat Trudeau in the next election. Poor Conservative Party Leader Andrew Sheer has to read articles that compare his sex appeal to that of his colleagues. Yes, apparently sex appeal is the newest factor for a political leader. May I suggest a catwalk for the next televised debate?

While this whole debocle is pretty funny, it’s also a big problem.

First of all, as editor of Women’s Post, I must question whether or not this kind of talk would be the same if a woman were elected as party leader. Would sex appeal be as big of a factor? Would the mere inclusion of that kind of discussion be labelled inappropriate? Would reporters get in trouble for talking about a woman’s hair and makeup instead of her policy platform? No one is talking about Elizabeth May’s appearance, so why are we talking about Singh’s? If anyone was confused about the double standard between male and female politicians, they don’t have to look much further.

While a fight over luscious locks seems entertaining, and may be a good PR tactic to gain the attention of potential voters, it also distracts from the bigger issues facing our country. Unemployment, health care, education, and Indigenous reconciliation are just a few of the important issues our political leaders need to be knowledgeable of. Those are the issues that our leaders should be discussing. Instead, voters are treated to a pageant contest, where the contestants have to dress up, smile, and describe their ideal date.

This is not my kind of democracy, and I think a lot of Canadians feel the same way.

To be fair, a lot of this is the media’s doing. Politicians know that catering to the press is how they get coverage and reach voters — and journalists love to write about sex and controversy. But, the worst mistake a politician can make is to assume voters are stupid and easily distracted. Talking about your hair is not going to make Canadians forget to ask about your policies.

Being charismatic is a good thing. Being able to genuinely connect to Canadians is even better. But at what point do we stop talking about it and focus on the real issues?

Hopefully, it’s before the election.