Last week Diamond Isinger, a campaign manager with a B.C. Liberal Party leadership candidate, went public with an incident in which four men from a rival candidate’s campaign as well as another directed unwanted sexual comments at her. The incident unpacked all sorts of emotions for me.
Isinger tweeted about her experience on Nov. 1, 2021, three days after the incident that involved campaign workers from leadership candidate Kevin Falcon’s camp. It happened in public, rude comments were shouted, and when the men left Isinger was left in tears and alone.
She tried to resolve the incident privately at first, and when nothing serious happened she took to social media.
The fact that something like this still happens in 2021, especially by people who should know better—should know the consequences—has me shaking my head.
It reminded me of a recent conversation I had with two other women who are former journalists. All three of us had similar stories to tell about how we have been treated in our careers, simply because of our gender.
I started my career as a sportswriter. Right from my six-week practicum working at the Bridge River-Lillooet News I had to deal with sexist comments. I was interviewing participants following an all-star wrestling match when one of the performers dropped his shorts and made a lewd comment to me. I was barely 19 years old. I was so shocked I cracked a joke as everyone else laughed at my reaction. One of the other wrestlers had the decency to mumble an apology, but no one got on the first guy’s case for exposing himself. Worse, I was the only female in the room.
I was working on a daily in Medicine Hat, Alta. a few years later when I was invited to a men’s curling bonspiel banquet. I wore a skirt; someone asked me at the door if I was the “entertainment” (they had apparently hired some strippers for after dinner), and when I said no they said I wasn’t allowed in. I had to produce my invitation and raise a stink to gain entry (I had an assignment due from the event). The MC made some jokes at my expense in front of 400 curlers.
There was a mucky-muck with a baseball team that harassed me constantly, even calling me drunk at 1 a.m. one night threatening to come to my apartment. One of the team’s managers asked me once why I allowed him to speak to me like that and I explained that the more I spoke up the more harassing he was, so I learned to keep my mouth shut and avoid him. He went to work with a different team and did the same thing to someone else, and karma finally got him.
I complained once to my managing editor about an inappropriate comment a buddy of his made and was told to give him a break because he was from an older generation. More than once it was suggested I check my attitude.
I quit speaking up and learned to deflect the comments with humour or sarcasm.
I would like to think that sort of stuff wouldn’t fly anymore, but then I read about Isinger’s situation and the sad reality is laid out right there. She was told her reaction was exaggerated and unreasonable so she went public. “I’ve spent the last decade publicly championing safer environments for women in politics, as a volunteer and as a staffer, so it should come as no surprise that I would call this behaviour out for what it is,” she wrote.
In this post “me too” era, it was gratifying to see how swiftly and decisively Falcon acted once the news became public: he issued both private and public apologies to Isinger, and parted ways with one particular individual.
I happen to know Isinger through Girl Guides: she is the provincial commissioner for British Columbia, and she advocates for girls and women to speak up for themselves. To be confident, and to lead by example. I have been involved in Girl Guides for more than 45 years, and the experience has shaped who I am. This week, I am proud of Diamond Isinger for speaking up.
I think she was brave, and I won’t forget.
— Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor