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In honour of International Women’s Day, Pamela Martin published a piece lauding Christy Clark for, you guessed it, her womanhood. “Christy Clark has never been afraid of shattering glass ceilings” the headline announced. It’s yet another reminder to feminists everywhere that there is nothing neoliberalism won’t co-opt.

Martin, as reported by the Times Colonist in 2013, “took a leave from her taxpayer-paid government job in order to campaign for Clark during the May provincial election. She hosted a quasi-news broadcast of major Liberal announcements on YouTube and was rewarded with a job as director of political engagement at 130K a year and moved to the Liberal party itself.”

We should not be surprised that the Liberal party’s outreach director is heaping praise on its leader. Pamela Martin would have us believe that Clark is an idealist activist who single-handedly revived the B.C. Liberal Party and “shatters glass ceilings.” Not even close. Instead, the premier is crawling through a Clark-shaped hole and leaving women stranded below.

On Sunday, Clark becomes Canada’s longest serving woman premier. But only the most shallow of feminists would think her impact, including her impact as a woman, ends here. Clark’s government has destroyed social services for the poor and has made B.C.’s child poverty rate the worst in the country.  Based on her governing record, her main concerns are corporate profitability and protecting elite interests.

This is one of the dangers of liberal feminism. What is the point of feminism when we applaud rich white women for cutting the benefits of the poor? Why do we care that Clark “moved heaven and earth” to institute Pink Shirt Day when she and her colleagues in the Legislature routinely reveal themselves to be the worst kind of smug, entitled bullies?

The mistake of liberal feminism is to allow the category of “woman” to trump the category of “elite.” Highly paid CEOs, and high-powered women of the political class rarely have much in common with the other 99 per cent of the population. On one hand, we can celebrate the normally mundane fact that Christy Clark brought her infant son to the legislature, but on the other, she got there by selling out other women, consistently and with a smile.

What is a gal to do?

The first woman who gave birth as a sitting member of Cabinet was Pauline Marois. Despite her unceremonious exit from the leadership of the Parti Québécois, at least Québec’s $5-per-day child-care program was her main legacy. This program allowed thousands of women to go back to work and vastly expanded the public child-care system in Québec.

It’s currently being dis-man-tled by Liberal premier Philippe Couillard.

Unlike Marois, the economic policies of the Clark government have done incalculably more damage to the women of British Columbia than any small advances she might claim around motherhood. Racialized women, Indigenous women, queer kids, girls and boys in state care, parents struggling to pay for childcare: none of them are better off because of Clark’s womanhood. Clark’s victory in sliding through the cracks of the glass ceiling mean nothing to them.

With an election coming up and the Liberals down in the polls, this piece by Pamela Martin is a test balloon to see how far they can get neutralizing criticism with accusations of sexism. Sarah Palin and her campaign deployed this tactic successfully at first, before it became clear that Palin couldn’t sustain the effort it took to project credibility. The Clinton campaign in the American primary has been relying heavily on this technique to avoid questions about support for mass incarceration and regime change in other countries. Clark’s media savvy is her most valuable asset: it‘s been enough to prevent a full-scale rebellion which by any rights should have occurred years ago.

The longest-serving female premier in Canadian history will end up with the same reputation as Margaret Thatcher. The real sexism here is employed by the Christy Clark government against the women of British Columbia. Sexism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Sexism can’t flow uphill. Only the most self-interested would claim that the wealth and whiteness of a person doesn’t influence how they are treated vis à vis their gender. It’s self-evident. So why are we not capable of challenging Christy Clark and Suzanne Anton and these women who are waging a war on the poor in British Columbia?

What we should watch out for is the sexism the B.C. Liberal campaign is going to be slinging fast and hot during the next year. A politician who disrespects the land, water and air: the basic sources of life, can never be a feminist.

Despite the admiration that Martin has for her boss, no amount of Liberal feminism will hide the deep wounds that Clark and her cronies have inflicted.

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Image: Flickr/bcgovphotos

Sarah Hoffman

Sarah Beuhler

Sarah Beuhler is rabble’s B.C. development manager and occasional writer. A graduate of UBC, she lived in Central and South America for a couple of years and returned in time to be at Occupy Vancouver...