Hillary Clinton broke 'big barriers' for women in politics Tuesday, Rana Bokhari says

Years of battling it out in the male-dominated political arena helped Hillary Clinton all but clinch the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, and it's a day several women in Manitoba politics say they won't soon forget.

'There's a glass ceiling out there that has now been broken,' Winnipeg Coun. Jenny Gerbasi says

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a presidential primary election night rally Tuesday in Brooklyn. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

Years of battling it out in the male-dominated political arena helped Hillary Clinton all but clinch the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, and it's a day several women in Manitoba politics say they won't soon forget.

The former U.S. secretary of state has surpassed the 2,383 delegates and superdelegates necessary to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, according to a survey of party superdelegates undertaken by several major U.S. news organizations. 

Superdelegates are able to change their vote at the party convention in the summer.

Outgoing Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said she was moved by the historic moment and relates personally to the challenges Clinton faced as a woman to get to where she is.

"There's a big barrier that I think she has broken. I think that it is very exciting," Bokhari said, women who secure leadership roles in politics have to deal with more obstacles than men.

Bokhari said she noticed differences between how she and male rival opponents were treated when she ran as the leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party in the last provincial election.

There's a glass ceiling out there that has now been broken.- Jenny Gerbasi

"It's the language used to describe females, it's picking apart things that really have no bearing on somebody's competency to lead, it's a completely different game," Bokhari said. "It's much harder for women to frankly be taken seriously."

Bokhari said she received flak after wearing an outfit to an event deemed "a little bit too much" by some political observers.

"It was perceived a bit too bold, I got blasted for that. It wasn't all the way up to my neck so it was offensive to people," Bokhari said.

While she won't be leading the Liberals in the next election, Bokhari said she does plan to re-enter politics in the future.

"As a woman, I wanted to help break the barriers, to help lead that charge.... It will continue to be my goal, I still have that vision, I will never stop doing that."

Not 'a big feminist'

South Winnipeg–St.Norbert Ward Coun. Janice Lukes she thinks Clinton's accomplishment is special and she paused to appreciate the moment Tuesday. But Lukes said she also doesn't consider herself "a big feminist" and doesn't feel like she has encountered a disproportionate amount of pressure in politics on the basis of her gender.

"I've never felt I've encountered any barriers because I was female. I've never felt that way but that's just me," she said. "I don't feel I have, but that doesn't mean other people don't feel barriers.... We've got a ways to go.

"Occasionally I look around the room [at City Hall] and I go, 'Oh wow, I'm the only female here! I find that empowering; it gives me even more of a right to say something."

Glass ceiling broken

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi said Clinton's popularity is a sign that the world is becoming more accepting of women in politics.

"It's something a lot of people thought wouldn't happen for a long time. It's never happened and that certainly makes it remarkable," Gerbasi said. "There's a glass ceiling out there that has now been broken."

But Gerbasi says she feels there is still a lot more room for improvement. She recalled witnessing Susan Thompson, the first woman elected mayor of Winnipeg, being the target of body-shaming during her time in office in the 1990s.

"She was brutally criticized and mocked for her physical appearance constantly," Gerbasi said.

"I do feel from my personal experience there is more scrutiny: women need to be very careful with their appearance, with their comments. They can't appear too emotional or they're criticized."

Whether or not Americans vote a women in as their next president this fall, Bokhari, Gerbasi and Lukes all agreed Canada and the U.S. still have a long way to go to make a life politics more appealing to women and girls. 

With files from Nelly Gonzalez


 

With files from the Associated Press