Belinda Stronach changed her hair colour. Stop the presses.

I. Am. So. Tired. Of. This.

Antonia Zerbisias in today's Star:
Politics is a dog-eat-dog world — but why do media bitch-slap women?

This month and last, on Vancouver radio and again in a newspaper interview, Norman Spector laid the B-word on Belinda Stronach, a twice-elected MP (Newmarket-Aurora).

You'd think a man with a c.v. like Spector's — Globe and Mail columnist, blogger for Maclean's, former publisher of the Jerusalem Post — could come up with a better epithet.

But he insisted it was apt.

"I think it's the perfect choice of word that the Oxford English dictionary describes as 'malicious or treacherous,'" he told the Globe's Gloria Galloway. "So I think as an analyst of politics, I chose the right word."

Well, not according to my Oxford: it leads off with "female dog" and never mentions "treacherous" at all.

(Last week Spector served a notice of libel on Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham after she wrote that she couldn't find "treacherous" in her Oxford either. For the record, the Sun so far refuses to retract or to apologize for the column.)

A few things.

First: Isn't a dog — male, female or fixed — loyal and, by definition, not treacherous?

Second: Spector called Stronach that shortly after her former boyfriend Peter MacKay, minister of Foreign Affairs, reportedly called her a "dog" in the House of Commons. He also claimed that Stronach was the home wrecker in Tie Domi's marriage, as if he had insight into that dispute.

Third: Spector's comment was followed by a particularly crude joke by former Alberta premier Ralph Klein about Stronach.

Think dog. Think bone. Think bitch in heat.

Forget that married male politicians have been known to carry on affairs. Stronach is free and single, but her sex life is fair game for public scrutiny.

So too is her hair.

How else to explain that large colour photo of her last week in the Globe that served no apparent purpose except to present her as a newly tinted brunette?

"A dye-hard campaigner" read the caption, depicting her in London, Ont., where she was helping Liberal candidate Glen Pearson get out the vote for yesterday's federal by-election.

No mention was made of the other contenders: Conservative Dianne Haskett, the NDP's Megan Walker and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

"He was running against three women, but he got top billing from the Globe because of Belinda Stronach dying her hair," says NDP MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina), who herself was compared to a dog by a senior Liberal official during the last election campaign. "And you wonder why only 21 per cent of the MPs in the House of Commons are women?"

Indeed, according to Equal Voice, which fights to get more women into government, Canada, with just 64 women in Parliament, ranks 42nd in the world among democracies in terms of women's national political representation.

In the U.S., where they're celebrating the record number of women elected this month, the picture isn't any better.

In January, 87 women members will take a mere 16 per cent of the 535 congressional seats.

Still, California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, expected to be voted in as Speaker of the House — which would make her second in line to replace the president, after Vice-President Dick Cheney, the highest office ever attained by a woman — has been dubbed the "Wicked Witch of the West" by pundits.

How long before New York Senator Hillary Clinton is "Wicked Witch of the East"?

Women can only hope that Pelosi and Clinton drop the House on their critics.

Former Liberal MP, now Mississauga city councillor Carolyn Parrish, has felt the media's scorn for outspoken women.

"There's a double standard," she says. "Rarely if ever do they talk about the appearance of males. Rarely if ever do they pay any attention to their loss of cool, their off-colour language.

"There are totally different yardsticks on performance. Tough women are only acceptable when they're grandmothers like (Mississauga mayor) Hazel McCallion or (former British prime minister Margaret) Thatcher."

Just look at how ousted Conservative MP Garth Turner is faring.

He's a rebel, a hero to many. He's not getting the shabby treatment Parrish did, even though her actions reflected the sentiments of many Canadians.

Understand that many women don't have a problem with the B-word. We wear "bitch" pins. We buy "bitch" T-shirts. We've made Sherry Argov's Why Men Love Bitches one of the biggest bestselling relationship books ever.

But when we think bitch, we think of strong women, women who won't take it lying down.

Trouble is, lying down is exactly how too many men in the media want us to take it.
Please, if your only reaction is to say you are not surprised and this is not new: refrain. This blog is not called Things Laura Is Surprised By. That would be a very short read indeed. Bigotry, including sexism, does not surprise me. Nevertheless, it irritates the crap outta me.

And I am totally fucking sick of the sexist double-standard for women in politics. I just want to shout: grow up already.

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