• Emily Mathison

Bowinn Ma: The obvious issue and the problematic response

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

In this week’s episode of “she just can’t win,” a leaked Zoom video of a retirement roast for Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan shows BC Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite making sexist jokes about BC NDP candidate Bowinn Ma. 

If you haven’t seen the video yet, watch it here. It’s only 2-minutes, then come on back.

Cringe, right?

First I’d like to touch on the obvious, then move on to a problematic response. 

The obvious: Shame on Jane. She reduces a young woman of colour in politics — the exact kind of politician we need to see more of — to a sexualized punchline. Not to mention, Jane is a woman as well. Her spiteful comments perpetuate the misogyny many professional women experience and signal to others, especially men, that this is acceptable behaviour. 

And don’t even get me started on Jane’s non-apology. 

This racialized sexism is flat out wrong. Politics aside. And Bowinn Ma summarizes why perfectly: 

Now moving on to the problematic response… In wading through the sea of social media backlash to this event, I couldn’t help but notice a familiar line over and over again: “That’s someone’s daughter.”  

Why is it that we need to frame women as daughters, sisters, or mothers to see them as valuable beings worthy of kindness and respect? 

Frankly, it’s a little weird and a lot concerning. 

US Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a fantastic response to this when Republican Representative Ted Yoho called her a “fucking bitch”, then went on to defend himself on the basis of being a husband and father. 

AOC said, “What I believe is that having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.”

Sure, Bowinn Ma is someone’s daughter… That’s a given. But what’s earned is she’s the youngest member of the BC Legislative Assembly. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a Master’s of Management degree. She has created scholarships for high school students, and works to address housing affordability, climate change, and transportation issues. 

Bowinn is an accomplished professional committed to creating the respectful environments she speaks of for young women and people of colour. Politics aside, I’ll respect that over her daughter/sister/mother status any day. 

The number or quality of relationships a person holds with the women in their lives does not indicate how they treat other women. There’s zero correlation. This smells of a form of exploitation of those relationships, frankly. Can we just not? 

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Until next week.

Thanks for reading.

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