Casualties of the near-violent encounter between Mayor Rob Ford and Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale include both public discourse and the practice of politics in our city.
Arguments will continue on both sides about the details of the incident, as they should, but regardless of who emerges the winner before the law or the court of public opinion, a social stink bomb has gone off in our city.
In one corner of the ring we have the embodiment of stereotypical masculine traits in Mayor Ford. His response to discomfort, inconvenience, annoyance or even dismay is to behave violently or at least aggressively against the irritant. His supporters cheer, for after all, he is a man protecting his wife and children. Never mind that they weren’t under immediate threat, a man’s home is his castle.
In the other corner, we have a reporter who was afraid when threatened. He tried conversation and de-escalation, non-violent means we ask boys to use in the schoolyard every day. “Use your words, not your fists,” we tell them. And what happens to him? Ridiculed on Twitter for being less than a man, because of course a man has to respond with this fists. Thankfully, some commentators have already delivered constructive and scathing critiques of this ridicule.
This whole situation would be almost tragi-comic did it not involve the top elected figure in our city on the one hand, and a reporter charged exercising his profession on the other. The incident poisons the well of what should be a civil relationship, even while it may grow tense at times, given the high stakes of politics. We know now that the macho posturing will continue, right into future press scrums.
And what of the participation of women in this arena?
Informed debate on issues, even clashes in point of view, are acceptable to the courageous women who put their names on the ballot. So far, I haven’t heard of one cocking a fist at an opponent. Today, however, politics looks fit only for gladiators. Can women be blamed for their reluctance to run for office?
-Anonymous #WiTOpoli contributor