Appearances and the Canadian Cabinet

Inderpreet Singh
Nov 18, 2015 · 3 min read

Because its 2015

Parliament representatives by Gender. Source: Huffington Post

When you look at the picture on the left showing the current members of parliament broken down by gender, which country do you think it is most similar to? If you thought Iraq, Vietnam or Honduras, you will not be off by much. However if you said Canada then you would have been spot on. The image on the left shows the gender breakdown for the newly elected Canadian parliament, with red dots being the liberals.

Only 30% of original Liberal nominations and 26% of the elected members were women during this election, which doesn’t even meet the UN mandated watermark of 30% female representatives in national politics. Canada is 50th amongst 190 nations in proportion of female candidates in national politics just above Vietnam and Israel.

The increase in gender inequality was a real thing during Harper regime and its unsurprising that Canada has failed to reduce its violence against women and it’s gender pay gap is twice the global standard.

So why does the newly elected Prime Minister of a country still far behind in gender equality than a lot of its counterparts tout that his cabinet is gender balanced “because its 2015”?

The answer lies in appearances. Because its 2015, we need to appear more gender equitable, even if the reality is otherwise.

Media coverage has tremendously increased over the past few decades. We live in the age of continuous coverage where the dynamics and drama evolves with the discussion. A lot of this happens through independent or social media. This has opened the gateway to appearance politics. Appearances both physical and political have become the backbone of our discussions and social media. This can be used to sweep the actual issues under the rug allowing us to ride on projected personas. While this is not a new rhetorical concept it has become more pronounced with increased social media coverage of political issues.

Appearances like any other rhetorical tool suffers from it’s use for deception or deflection. Appearances are a way to setup a common ground with the audience and also tends to play into our own biases either consciously or subconsciously. The gender balanced cabinet can be viewed from a stand point of us needing a fair gender split in decision making positions. However at the same time, it can be used as a tool to mask Canada’s struggle to achieve the same.

These appearances extend to physical domain as well. When was the last time you heard someone talk about Trudeau and not mention his good looks? Or how about photos of him with his family? All of us project a persona that other people identify us with, but a lot of it is can be doctored to engender support from the audiences and potentially introduce a source of bias in their judgement.

These appearances play a key role in shifting our perspectives. While not inherently bad we must exercise caution to ensure we are not blind sided by such things, and keep a firm grasp of reality.

Inderpreet Singh

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