In the last few days, I received a few comments about the lack of girls in the strip – or, that is, in our primary contingent. I had one person tell me that they wouldn’t back a project that was so unbalanced. Later, a friend made the observation that the strip had a serious gender disparity.
So let’s discuss this for a moment, shall we?
The reason why there are few main characters of the strip who are girls is because they are all based on real life people in our current Parliament. Take a look at the party leaders and the make-up of the government’s front bench. What do you see? Not a lot of women, I’d wager.
The few women in the current Cabinet are, like most Cabinet members, figure heads, and these few women are likely token women. So not many have the chance to speak in public. In fact, the point persons for this current government (and since 2006) are generally men.
Sad but true.
Face these facts
Of the 158 Conservative MPs, only 28 are women.
Of the 95 NDP MPs, only 35 are women.
Of the 36 Liberal MPs, only 10 are women
Only the Green Party has a balance of 50% (mind you, they only have two MPs)
Argument 1: Some might argue that the Conservative front bench is thin because they have few women to pick from.
Counter-argument 1: Well, who chooses the candidates for that party? I’m willing to bet they don’t have a roster that’s 50% women to start with. None of the parties do, but the Conservatives have the worst track record by far. You can’t elect women if they aren’t candidates.
Argument 2: Some people argue that women should get jobs/gigs solely based on merit, that there is no need to “artificially” balance the scales.
Counter-argument 2: In a perfect world, we’d have enough women in the upper echelons of all fields and walks of life so that this would be true. But let’s use the Conservative caucus as an example: we’re looking at 28 women versus 130 men! C’mon! It’s not even close to being a fair battle for the few women there.
Argument 3: Some will persist to say that the men who are front-benchers in this government got their gigs over women on merit.
Counter-argument 3: They’re hand-picked. There isn’t an entrance exam. And since they are all parroting talking points vetted in advance, surely the women could do that equally well? I think so (not that they should be parroting anything, but that’s another conversation). Women are just not given that chance.
In any event, this is why ‘Beans’ is low on girls in the main character department. It’s not intentional or even accidental sexism; I am, in fact, one of the few avowed male feminists I know. I don’t think it’s a dirty word – and I own it, even if I’m not as good a feminist as I could be sometimes.
I have actually been careful to write secondary characters in non-gendered ways, have purposely instructed Steve to be mindful of diversity in his art, and will try to consider gender issues in current and future strips (should there be any). I even wrote a bonus strip about this matter last week.
No joke. Because this concerns me too.
On the matter of future strips, we are leaving the door open to that possibility, should this series of 31 prove to be a success. And this means that the make-up of our Parliament will change, no matter who wins. This will thus affect the make-up of the strip’s main characters.
The point of ‘Beans’ is to poke fun at our current political landscape, whatever it is, whoever the players are. There will always be something utterly ridiculous that deserves a good skewering, irrespective of our place in time. It’s just that sometimes there are more than others.
So the players could change, and the issues as well. In a perfect world, ‘Beans’ would gain the support needed to carry on for a long time, so that we could continue to have a good laugh all the while reflecting on what ails us politically. When we elect more women, ‘Beans’ will have more girls.
Look, ‘Beans’ will never be perfect, but we are fully committed to making a positive difference. Yes, with humour. Sometimes that’s the best way.
Honestly, our intentions are good. Give us a chance.