The Voice

Does physicality & sex matter in politics? Should it?

So, do you watch The Voice? Neither do I. But I am still able to grasp its basic — and apparently very successful — premise: that during blind auditions, the decisions from the musician coaches are based solely on a competitor’s singing voice, and not on their physical looks. Thanks, rotating chairs!

Not going to lie: When I first heard about it, I respected the small innovation. For I, too, am swayed by the comparative attractiveness of those brave enough to brave American IdolSo You Can Dance, and other similar stages. I’m not really listening – I’m looking.

The thing is, I realized that I do this in politics, too: I search for charisma and relatability. I (yes, foolishly!) survey fashion and demeanor, and scour facial expressions.  I’m looking for clues: Who is this person? Can I trust them? Do I like them? Will their Twitter feed annoy me? Which is to say: I think about the wrong stuff. Maybe you do, too.

So if this – initial blindness – can “work” in the inherently corporeal entertainment industry, why not transfer it to public life? The great work being done by Women in Toronto Politics has forced me to really think about the gender of elected officials.  I suppose that I’m passionate about gender equality. And in caring so much about women in politics, I’ve realized that maybe I don’t care about gender at all.

Perhaps it’s time to remove personhood from politics. Platforms matter, not people.  If anything, people obscure platforms, to the detriment of the voting populace. A singular leader is not responsible for the entire design of a political strategy, so let’s stop pretending. I mean, what if we could get over whether a politician is sexy or if they look goofy in a sweater vest? (FYI: everyone looks goofy in a sweater vest). What if we talked about their goals and values a little more than we mocked them, parroted their poor word choice, or speculated whether they could really have it all?

The leader of a party is just that: the representative of, and for, that party and its platform. This person who we place so much social primacy on is merely a conduit for the voice of an institution.  Do I care if they are male or female? No.

Do I care if they have a bad haircut? No.

Do I care about their weight? Guess? No.

Do I care if they creepily stare directly into the camera during debates? No.

Do I care if they are married, or divorced, or gay, or have tattoos, or accidentally got a bellybutton ring when they were 17? Well, maybe I’m curious, but it won’t – or rather, shouldn’t – be a determining factor when I’m at the ballot box.

Here’s what I care about: their intellect, experience, and capacity to lead. Are they effectively communicating a coherent strategy for Canada, or their ward?  Can they think, on their feet and otherwise?

The novelty of Vote Compass gets close to that. It offers an accessible framework for learning about party platforms, stimulating discussion on a wide variety of election issues, and encouraging democratic participation within the electorate.

I want to get closer. I can imagine a political debate hosted in the style of the awesome game show, Blind Date. Because if XTina can do it, we can, too! And the best part? We’ll all be the judge.

Now, for Bachelor Number One…

Vass Bednar loves her male twin Alex, who supports her aggressive feminism and knows that boys and girls are “the same.”  She works as EA to the Director at the School of Public Policy & Governance, is an Action Canada fellow and blogs affectionately at www.vicariousass.com

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