The press storm surrounding Deborah Drever, the elected MLA from Calgary, Canada has been persistent to the point of obsessiveness. Frankly I’m surprised they haven’t dug further into who her group of friends are or what she eats for breakfast. I believe they don’t need to at this point, as she’s been suspended from caucus after the Gay Boyz Ric McIver/Jim Prentice Instagram Photo Incident.
The photos posted by Deborah are far from typical politician – I mean, where are the baby kissing photos? All sarcasm aside, the whole situation and the intensity of media coverage on this MLA is troubling to me. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the internet age that I empathize with Deborah’s situation. Social media pages and online forums are typically used as a platform to express our unique personality and interests, and we all have things on there we’ve grown up from. However, we can expect to see a politician’s Residence Beer Bong Party 2008 Facebook album being used against them in the future.
What really irked me, however, was the reaction to the Heavy Metal album cover, which depicted Deborah being sexually assaulted by a group of men. It was no surprise the media would paint Deborah as a bad influence for posing in the photo. The media doesn’t have the best track record for being empathetic towards women taking risqué photos – however, I was quite disappointed with Premier Rachel Notley’s reaction.
The decisions and comments made by Notley seem to engage in some form of victim-blaming against Deborah, who, participated in something she said she felt immediate regret about as it was something not authentic to her character – so she probably decided to forget about it. After someone went through the trouble to find this piece of media, Deborah had to apologize for the photo and explain how it was in no way indicative that she takes female sexual assault lightly.
This was an opportune moment by Premier Notley to take a progressive stance and have a conversation surrounding why female sexual abuse is often used as a focal point in art and entertainment, and how detrimental it is to society. Notley could have extended support for Deborah’s past, and in solidarity as the NDP party leader, vow to prevent violence against women. It would have sent Alberta a strong message about abuse against women, help soften the blow on Deborah’s political reputation and validate her apology to the public.
Deborah even graciously felt the need to share her experiences with past trauma in regards to violence against women, further proving she took the issue seriously. However, various media outlets, commenters and even Rachel Notley are blaming Deborah for participating in the album cover. Her willingness to pose in it was deemed immature and highly inappropriate.
In Alberta we need a strong voice willing to speak out against abuse towards women. This incident was swept under the rug as a kind of ‘I don’t want drama to happen with our party’ kind of way and the NDP missed its chance to address a real issue facing its voters. Hopefully Deborah will eventually recover from the unfair picture that’s been painted of her. I hope she continues to hold her head up high, despite the petitions to have her resign, and I hope that with her past and apparent passion she can bring about some progressive change to Alberta as the NDP has promised to do. This isn’t a good start.