This morning, former Conservative MP Helena Guergis came out to the media to decry what she has called Stephen Harper’s ‘smear campaign’ against her, and to demand that he be accountable for the ‘nightmare’ she has endured over the past year since he ejected her from caucus. This was after allegations came out against her early last year saying that she and husband Rahim Jaffer, also a former conservative MP, abused their positions and – among other things – were witnessed cavorting with prostitutes.
Now as many know, I am a classic softie, always ready to defend the ‘little guy’ against ‘the man’. And, despite the fact that I suspect her and her husband do feel more than a grain of self-entitlement, I was ready to empathize with her when she went on-camera today to try to clear her name and get to the bottom of the situation. After all, as she said, the constituents that elected her have a right to know the truth and to have a political leader who will account for his actions.
Part of my empathy came from knowing that part of what got her in hot water with Harper was a public outburst that she had during the time she had suffered a miscarriage. As a mom of two young kids who’s had this happen myself, I naturally felt for her – as many would who’d been in this boat. And as a good feminist, I tried to tell myself that her crying on-camera today was just a sign that – unlike male politicians who manage not to discredit themselves in this way – she is just allowing herself to show a justifiable amount of emotion given what’s happened to her.
But then, she had to go and play the trump card: her baby. At the end of the press conference – but not before the cameras stopped rolling – another woman handed her a baby and, with a nose-wrinkled ‘aw, isn’t that cute’ expression of maternal protectiveness, she told the press that little Xavier was ‘just a little tired.’
I’m still a bit conflicted about the way this made me feel. I find it mean-spirited and typically patriarchal to immediately slag her for crossing the business with the personal during a very public ‘work’ event (After all, isn’t baby-kissing the oldest political ploy in the book?) – women are often accused of not being able to focus on their jobs because they have to split their focus between career and motherhood. On the other hand, it’s often seen as a negative when a politician tries too hard to hide their human side (for example, I’ve heard Stephen Harper accused of being an ‘android’ for his seeming lack of ability to display any emotion except anger).
But it was the timing I didn’t like; I felt manipulated, and as a mother of a young child, even a bit insulted. And, I suspect I will not be alone in having had my view changed by what felt like just one too many plays for sympathy on her part.