“I think I’m on the phone with the next mayor of Central Elgin!” Fran’s singsong voice chimed against my ear. She was calling a few days after one of the first meetings of term, and she was thrilled by my intelligent questions and matter-of-fact assessment. I laughed, but I didn’t give it much credit. Frances Kennedy had offered only glowing hyperbole about my future since she met me that summer. I was sparkling, brilliant, statesmanlike, dazzling, principled, wise beyond my years, and not afraid to move beyond yes and no and find solutions outside the box.

The extremes of diction would swing the other way when Frances wanted me back in the box.

If you didn’t watch the Barbie movie, don’t worry – I’m not going to tell you to hop on the bandwagon. But it named a truth for me about life on council: “it is literally impossible to be a woman”. When Frances says in her October PSV article that she strategized my campaign with me, what she means is that she wanted to play dress up. In order to win, she told me over coffee, I should tie down my curly hair, smile less, and try to look older. I needed to look more serious, more sophisticated, and less bubblingly happy. “But I am happy!” I told her.

There it was, months before we ever hit the poles, my tightrope as a young woman on council: be honest and transparent, while carefully crafting your image. Be the voice of youth, but don’t look young enough that people think you’re young young. Be a new sort of councillor, but look like the usual sort of councillor. Be friendly and likeable, but not so likeable that people doubt you’ll be tough at the table. But fearless and outspoken, but only when it supports your colleagues. Be willing to shake up the system, but only the Mayor Martyn system, not the Mayor Sloan system. What Frances wanted was a doll of a fearless and empowered woman in politics.

Here’s the fork in my soup: Frances Kennedy ran for council herself once, and she didn’t win. If the world wants posed, polished political dolls, why didn’t the aspiring puppet mistress win her seat? Frances blames staff for manipulating the ballots, but I have a simpler theory: people don’t want their politicians to be boxed sets. Central Elgin didn’t vote for a matchy, colour-coordinated council with BFF accessories. They voted for a collection of individuals with different but valid views and principles, and they know we’re going to duke it out sometimes. The fact that we come to blows at the table doesn’t undermine our process, it proves that we’re engaging it.

The voice of an elected official is brick, not mortar – it’s used for building and shaping our communities, not for cementing public confidence in other councillors’ bricks. It is my job to advocate for the best for my community, not to smile nicely under neatly pinned hair and nod my agreement with whatever the majority at the table is saying. 

Don’t worry, Frances. I know my place. A woman’s place is at the table.

Leave A Comment

Recommended Posts