Source image: CTV News

“You hear that all the 51 year old women?” Lisa said, “We’re just children.”

Watching the federal election coverage last night, there was a moment when the record scratched for me. It wasn’t because of a win or loss. It wast a throwaway moment in a live interview.

Lisa LaFlamme, CTV News anchor, sat in the centre of a panel of former politicians. As former politicians are wont to be, many of them were old, male and white. (I should note here that there were other problems with the panel, like the exclusion of any persons of colour and inclusion of just one woman aside from the anchor.)

Lisa was interviewing former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and he understandably had several friends on the panel from his days in Parliament. Mulroney was gracious and insightful about the Liberal win, made everyone laugh, and chummed it up with the old-timers from the 80s MP crew. Then it happened.

In the middle of reminiscing about the olden days, he made an offhand comment to Lisa LaFlamme: “You’re just a child.”

“You hear that all the 51 year old women?” Lisa said, “We’re just children.”

The interview quickly moved on. If the comment wrongfooted Lisa for a moment, there was no indication in her well-aimed snark.

Mulroney almost certainly meant no offense with his comment. He likely thought he gave Lisa a compliment by pointing out her relative youth, if he considered it at all. Meanwhile, I found myself with a sudden eye twitch.

In Lisa’s response I heard I am in charge here, are you fucking kidding me? And I related so hard.

I have never heard a male colleague called a baby or child, but both men and women have called me that long past my 18th birthday. I chalked it up to my actual youth, because I am under 30, and I waited to grow Old Enough. When would people stop calling me a baby? When I was a manager? When I had my first grey hair? When I had more influence?

None of that mattered for Lisa LaFlamme. By any account, Lisa is a grown up. She might not actually be a senior citizen, but she’s certainly well past pigtails and blushing notes to boys. She’s an award-winning journalist leading an award-winning newscast. But for just a moment, someone equated her to a five year-old in a tiny, pink dress.

In that moment, I realized I would never be old enough or grey enough or important enough. There will always be someone waiting in the wings to tell me how childlike I am, what with being a woman and all.

You’re just a child. Four tiny words that say I’ve seen more than you. I know more than you. Your impressions of the world, your confidence, your opinions, are foolish and naïve. 

This casually sexist comment is a hornet’s nest of you’re not good enough disguised as a compliment. No one is going make waves over it. But we should make waves over a culture that infantilizes women, where the message we hear all our lives is we are babies, children, precious but less than.

Because we are in charge here, are you fucking kidding me?