Column: Governing & Respect For Women

October 26, 2020

Cheryl Packwood Bermuda Oct 24 2020 [Opinion column written by Cheryl Packwood]

Politics can be a scrappy business. Politics should be honourable. Politics should be humbling. Governing should enshrine honour, humility and kindness. Governing, however, needs to be more encompassing in order to include and transcend these necessary values. Those who govern us must be able to see how we are seen from many perspectives. Our leaders must be Picassos if they are going to lead us forward to greatness, prosperity, equality and, yes, success.

We seem to be starting our new government at the end of 2020, a tumultuous and difficult year, without any values and little perspective. Once again, cronyism has defeated values and competency within this government. Unfortunately for all of us, this speaks to a lack of capacity, perhaps, or a deliberate disregard for our people and, in particular, women.

Men who have disregarded women systematically, and it would appear with purpose, continue to be brought back to lead us. In truth and inconceivably, men who have disregarded the rules and laws of our community are promoted to high offices.

The government pulled itself back from the proverbial cliff after the appointment of a man who allegedly harrassed a woman. Indeed, sexual harassment in the workplace needs to be the subject of separate legislation with real teeth.

Now, we have the appointment just two weeks later to the Chairmanship of the Bermuda Tourism Authority [BTA] of a man, who, while on government business abroad in the United Kingdom, asked a woman employee about “titty milk” in London’s Cereal Killer Café, audaciously filmed the exchange, and then arrogantly posted it to his social media account. Indeed, this exchange made it into the international press.

When will women cease to be the afterthought of men who are supposed to lead all of Bermuda – a jurisdiction whose population is majority women? When will we not be seen as the lesser sex? When will we no longer be seen as “not capable”?

Maybe when these same men realize that the rules pertain to them, too, they will begin to see that equality and respect for women — and all people — are necessary tools in governing. This same videographer of London cafés and their milk supplies is also unable to comply with our rules of the pandemic which we have all struggled to follow. And, by the way, this man made these very rules that he then broke.

It would seem to be quite apparent that our Premier himself appears to have difficulty, as respect for women as equal partners and respect for our issues appear to be of little or no concern when appointing his band of merry men to positions of authority and power. In the words of Gloria Steinem: “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood.”

Mr. Premier, we are not a dirty little joke and you, sir, need to wake up.

Interestingly, it should be noted for emphasis that the BTA is a very public organization. It is an organization to which we as Bermudians look to grow our economy and provide much needed jobs for our people. The BTA is our foremost face with the global community both public and private.

How on earth will these international companies and foreign governments trust us if we appoint people who are known for their disregard of women both here and abroad? How will they respect us if we appoint people who cannot follow rules and laws? Negotiating contracts and doing business with other countries could become potentially shady business. I suppose a Jacinda Ardern or an Angela Merkel might just outright refuse. Afterall, do they really need us or do we need them?

The question is clearer today than it was a month ago: is this the government we truly deserve? Governing is never easy; we all understand that. If you start with honour and humility, however, maybe the choices made will be less arrogant and disrespectful of our people.

- Cheryl Packwood was a candidate with the FDM in the recent election. She is the former Overseas Representative for the Government of Bermuda to the Americas and Asia, and Director of the Washington, D.C., office. She represented the financial services community as the CEO of Business Bermuda. She has held senior positions in Bermuda and West Africa as a lawyer and telecommunications executive. She is also an historian—following in the footsteps of her father, the late Cyril Outerbridge Packwood.


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