She’s not your ‘Climate Barbie’

Do not let sexism weaken us. If we want to beat Big Oil, we need to come together.

Here is a reply to one of Dogwood’s tweets from yesterday:

At Dogwood we try to focus on the issues. And while we differ with some female politicians on their policies, that’s where it ends. At policies.

We disagree with many of Minister McKenna’s decisions. But attacking her because she looks a certain way is not just inconsequential and an impotent excuse for an argument, it’s just plain wrong.

Likewise, calling out the premier for taking donations that possibly led to favours is fair game for any citizen. Unfortunately, when that premier is a woman, the comments lend themselves to unfavourable comparisons. Here’s just a small sample of the sexist vitriol we had to delete from our Facebook wall in the lead up to the last election:


As more women enter politics and governments try to uphold gender parity in their cabinets, female politicians are in the spotlight more than ever before. Yes, all politicians are subject to immense scrutiny and (often undeserved) ridicule. But female politicians get their own flavour of criticism. Nobody referred to Bruce Hyer as a “dog” or a “bitch” when he crossed the floor. In John Horgan’s first press conference as premier, he wasn’t asked about his outfit choice. And I’ve never heard of “Climate Ken.”

It’s not just politicians. When I tweeted a picture of my dog and me standing up against Kinder Morgan, I became a target for trolling by an anonymous account called @EnviroWatcher. He not only relentlessly trolled me on Twitter, but created a Facebook page and posted stories about me he found on the internet.

Because the troll never explicitly threatened me with violence, Twitter and Facebook would not intervene. While he never said he was going to hurt me, he posted photos of me and information about where I worked and where I lived. As a young woman, I felt threatened.

But while it scared me, it didn’t scare me off. I still wake up everyday to publicly raise my voice against Kinder Morgan and for my home, regardless of whether or not I face additional hurdles to do so simply because of my gender.

I’m not the only one. Andrea Harden-Donahue shared her experience with misogyny in the climate movement in the National Observer this week. Here is a quote from the article:

“There were messages that called for my beheading and for a bat to be taken to my face.”

Andrea Harden-Donahue had posted a photo of her organization celebrating the cancellation of Energy East. Canada’s Energy Citizens reposted it and then facilitated violent language against Ms. Harden-Donahue. Canada’s Energy Citizens is a campaign belonging to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, a national oil industry lobby group. Fortunately, while Ms. Harden-Donahue faced explicit threats of violence for standing up in the public sphere, she won’t let it deter her from her important work.

It is unfortunately unsurprising to me that this level of misogyny exists in the pro-pipeline movement. The problem of violence against women, particularly Indigenous women, in resource extraction sites is so prevalent, Amnesty International did a study about it.

While misogyny is a part of the culture of the pro-pipeline movement, I don’t want to see it take over ours. We are up against a lot of big challenges — multi-billion dollar corporations, climate change, powerful pro-pipeline politicians — and using hateful names, like calling McKenna ‘Climate Barbie’ or calling Christy Clark the ‘C’ word, will only divide us and make us weaker. Just think about how much more effective our movement would be if women — queer women, immigrant women, Indigenous women, all women — didn’t have to deal with this garbage on a daily basis.

I am deeply sorry for the insults that come from commenters on our Facebook page. I’m sorry we live in this world with people who think this is an acceptable way to treat women, even women who are leaders in our society. And I’m sorry my brilliant colleagues who manage Dogwood’s social media accounts, all of whom are young women, have to spend an inordinate amount of time moderating these comments. I hope repeatedly removing the ‘C’ word from our Facebook page does not deter them from continuing to raise their voice. Because frankly, the world is a better place because of their hard work.

I studied the human rights of women in my graduate degree. Every day I read 15 to 20 legal cases about horrific things that were done to women, because they were women. My best friend asked me how I could continue to study all these awful stories and still remain driven and optimistic about the world. Honestly, it was within the stories themselves I found hope. Every one of them featured a strong woman who was raising her voice, or inspiring others to stand up. Because women are speaking out, our society is taking steps forward.

And Dogwood is no exception. 12 of my 23 colleagues are brilliant, bad-ass women. We have a norm of gender equality on our executive team, featuring shero directors Alisha Brown and Laura Benson, and we currently have an all-female board of directors.

We also take inspiration from some pretty awesome female Indigenous leaders who are leading the battles against pipeline and tanker companies invading their communities: Saik’uz Nation Chief Jackie Thomas, Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett and Heiltsuk Councillor Jess Housty, Neskonlith Chief Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Tsleil-Waututh community leader Carleen Thomas and Tsleil-Waututh Councillor Charlene Aleck, and many, many more.

And finally, Dogwood’s strength lies with all of our volunteers, especially the dedicated women who are leading the movement to reclaim decision-making in this province. They are the heart and soul of our organization. Terry in Courtenay, Jane in Victoria, Maddie in Vancouver, Kathryn in Victoria, our Raging Granny allies — none of these women should be underestimated. They, along with other women all over the world, are actively shaping the future of this planet.

When asked about women in the climate movement, here is what our volunteer outreach coordinator from Dogwood’s UVic team, Cristina Eva, had to say:

“Each day I have to fight three battles — climate change, being objectified and the colonial discourses that push against my settler responsibilities. The relationship between humankind and nature requires mutual respect and care. Feeling this responsibility and love for the environment is what gives me strength to stand against hurtful stereotypes such as ‘Climate Barbie’.

“We live in a world where women are often battling negative stereotypes and oppression, similar to the environment. Yet I find the environmental movement empowering. All of these reasons, and more, are why I am part of Dogwood.”

So here’s a message for CAPP, Canada’s Energy Citizens, and every other proponent of violence against women and misogyny: we aren’t going away. Like the women before us, we are going to continue to raise our voices and stand up for our province, our country and our planet. And if you are against Kinder Morgan and want to win, you better get on board.

Don’t underestimate the women pushing back against injustice. From human rights to the climate movement, we’ve been doing it a long time. And we are getting pretty damn good at it.

43 Responses to “She’s not your ‘Climate Barbie’”

  1. AngeG says:

    Stand strong! It’s when they cry the worst, they are showing how weak their evidence and supports really are.

  2. Fern Walker says:

    I am so sad that people have been so cruel to you.
    Their ignorance and lack of compassion is definitely unacceptable.

  3. Someone once said something about “if they notice you and attack you, you are doing something important”.

    Also, Margaret Thatcher said “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.” (Source:

    Keep up the good fight!

  4. Blake Dan says:

    I was so inspired and moved by Lisa Sammartino’s article that I’ve made my first donation to Dogwood.
    Dan Blake

  5. Alex Jamieson says:

    I’m behind Minister McKenna….No more exports of dirty coal through Canada! -Alex Jamieson, N. Vancouver

  6. C Allison says:

    It’s so hard to believe that anyone would issue these horrible comments against their mothers, sisters, partners. They’re stuck in the time before women win the vote. What miserable, petty lives the people who write or publish this kind of material must be! We do need to stay strong – and exercise compassion with the individuals who produce this vitriol.

  7. CR says:

    Agreed. However, not only is their evidence and supports quite weak! These immature babies that are disguised as men are very much the weak link. It’s quite amazing to observe these man-babies at work destroying the environment, chasing an illusion that they could not possibly understand the meaning of, and their fear of women empowering women, on a vital journey to put a stop to the raping of our planet, due to the immaturity of these male babies and their simple-minded greed, entitlement, narcissism, and arrogance.

  8. Brenden says:

    Let’s keep working together, and we may overcome rhe differences that detractors find their platform on. Change will continue no matter what! We’re on the winning side of history. A hundred year ago, women in Canada were just gearing up for their fight in the 1920’s for a political vote. I used to comment to people critical of getting more change for women, or why it was important Harper struck out the word equality with respect to women.

    The “old stock” Canadian would perhaps try to take respect and equality from women wherever possible, but in today’s world any man would be supremely foolish to literally campaign on a platform of “we’re going back to 1920s to make it right: to take the vote back from women!”

    That might be the level of the troll, but it could never (I don’t imagine) reverse the actual flow and convergence of democracy and technology we find in the present age. We know too much by now. We on the winning side won’t let that happen! Keep raising your voice!

  9. Helen Hansen says:

    Yeah, right on, but let’s not be deterred. Some men are feminists, you know, like my late husband, Bob, who died at 90 in 2012. At one of the first environment meetings I attended in the late 80s the male moderator asked me after the meeting if my husband had informed me of the issues and prompted me to attend! It was I in the family who lead my husband and two daughters into the environmental movement, human rights, and into feminism. I continue letter-writing, but am disadvantaged now bc my printer is down – oops, I have to await the young in-house male technician to come and help. I’m not a techie type – yet. I live in a private seniors residence in SE Ont.

  10. l says:

    I am reading the book by Martin Grey about the holocaust have we changed at all in 7o years ?
    It is sad to say evil is still with us ,ours is the mission to not let us give up HOPE.

  11. Joanne says:

    I am sorry for all the threats and belittling of all people, be they men or women. Male politicians have had to put up with this kind of childishness for centuries and now it looks like women politicians will have to as well. That, unfortunately, is equality. It seems to me that todays “feminists” are looking to be raised above not made equal. The verbal abuse is coming from women just as much as men and some of the foulest remarks I have seen have been from women. This is a condition of the world today and is not specific to one gender. There is just as much misandy as there is misogyny. Both were considered diseases in former days.

  12. Ode Howard says:

    I have so much respect and gratitude for the dedicated women in the environmental movement and indeed in all progressive social movements the world over. I am really shocked and saddened and sickened to learn of this harassment women are receiving in Canada. Just the misinformation, distortion, and dumbing down of the mainstream media is insulting enough and tires me out , I can’t imagine also enduring sexual harassment and physical threats in the course of my day. Thank you for remaining so dedicated to a better world! You are unstoppable! One step at a time we shall overcome greed and ignorance. Ps This Climate Barbie story has moved me to make a 100$ donation to Dogwood. I encourage all men reading that article to do the same. Thanks again for the hard work you do under fire. Cheers , Ode Howard

  13. Lou Hammond says:

    I heard a saying something along the line of “Men won’t let women free until they free themselves”. Given the amount of fear and insecurity in our world, this may take a while. In the meantime, as always, women go about trying to make this a better world and don’t give up, and that is so admirable. Women show tremendous courage and strength in this world despite prejudice and oppression.

  14. Jo says:

    I would have made that remark, “Climate Barbie” an asset instead of an insult. Barbie has over 150 successful careers on her resume – from registered nurse to rock star, veterinarian to aerobics instructor, pilot to police officer– Barbie continues to take on aspirational and culturally relevant roles while also serving as a role model and agent of change for girls.

    She first broke the “plastic ceiling” in the 1960s when, as an astronaut, she went to the moon…four years before Neil Armstrong.

    In the 1980s she took to the boardroom as “Day to Night” CEO Barbie, just as women began to break into the C-suite. And in the 1990s, she ran for President, before any female candidate ever made it onto the presidential ballot.

    Barbies also have different colours of hair and flesh tones and are one of the most collectible toys on the market.

    To be identified with such a successful entity surely must be flattering. I would have said thank you for the reference and carried on. Guess it is all in how you look at things and whether you want to play the victim or not. Lowering one’s self to the level of the commenter is not a positive reaction. Welcome to 2017 where the world has lowered its standards to common thugs and foul mouthed beasts.

  15. Jackal says:

    I’m an 80 year old male, married to the same gal for nearly 60 years. In the “good old days” I believe men actually had more empathy for women than they do now. Perhaps not, but that is the way I look at it hind sight. There has been a social change now with women “demanding” more equality, and I emphasize the word “demanding” simply because women have been more aggresive in their demands — perhaps too aggresive considering that they have the upper hand in their dealings with males in any case. Most women realize this so they use the subtle means that they have used for centuries in getting their own way. I don’t mean this in a demeaning way. I believe most women understand that sometimes they have to give a little to gain a lot. Men are suckers for that :)) Women have to know where to draw the line. However, when it comes to women in politics, who use their feminine wiles (and some do have wiles) to abuse their position, as did Clark (IMO), then just like males in their position (eg Trudeau) they need to get their comeuppence. I regularly write letters to editors castigating Trudeau for not following up on his promises, but on the other hand I don’t write congratulatory letters praising him for initially selecting half his cabinet based on gender. Here, the best person for the job should have been his priority — not that some of t he ladies haven’t shown that they were, indeed, better than all of the men for that position. But you have to agree, that not all women politicians have proven themselves capable — but then, quite obviously, neither have the men. You have seen the stats on the trustworthiness of professions, with nurses, doctors, teachers and farmers at the top and realtors and politicians at the bottom. This has proven accurate over the last century and will probably be proven correct over the next. Cheers!

  16. Christina Wilson says:

    It’s hard not to get angry at these Shmoes (Is that a bad word?), but we need to rise above this mud-slinging.Yes, we do need to stand strong. If they are stooping to name-calling, then it shows that they’ve got nothing else to argue with, like logic, for instance. As for myself, I refuse to be intimidated.

  17. Richard Griffith says:

    I’ve been involved in the environmental movement for 30 years, on and off, so I’ve met lots of people in lots of different organizations. There has been a consistent pattern: 65 – 70% of them have been women. I have learned that if I want less poison (of all kinds) and more peace and justice in my world, to teach women, work with women and support women. It has been an important lesson to me.

  18. Marysue Shaw says:

    As Gloria Steinman said, “If women only knew how much men hate them…” While not ALL men are misogynists, even the nicest men harbour some idiotic prejudice against females –“too emotional”, “not logical enough.” The latter comments are usually made by men who throw temper tantrums when their hockey team loses a game…or their team member misses a pass. Men as a whole need to grow up to be much nicer, much more egalitarian and MUCH more helpful. The way it is going now, men are going to annihilate us all in short order.

  19. Lazarus Dufiore says:

    Patience will be rewarded, it’s like the old Italian saying.. revenge is a dish best served cold!

  20. Brenda says:

    Again..if WE….as in ALL HUMAN BEINGS could get along and respect ( love ) one another & this EARTH we call this BLUE planet … HEAVEN. What are we so afraid of ???
    Why are we in such a power struggle ??? ….why can`t we “lift up” instead of “tear down ” ???
    By supporting one…we are supporting all !!!

  21. Michn says:

    Thank you for writing this and working to stand tall with strength in the gender body you were born into.

  22. Ernie Bate says:

    Yes, you are correct. Let us focus primarily upon climate change issues. Frankly, I don’t believe, for example, that a woman’s being called “Barbie” is anywhere near as important and pervasive as is climate change. Are we actually becoming so thin-skinned that every social issue must be bundled in with and dealt with simultaneously with climate change issues? I don’t think so!

  23. Michelle says:

    Thank you for making this fight personal, Lisa. I’ve been collecting Dogwood emails, giving them a scan when so inclined, but whereas climate change worries me, gender games raise my hackles and make me bare my teeth. You got my attention–it’s personal now! No woman, and no man, should be threatened by any form of hate speech, and you all have my respect and thanks for continuing your work, and now for exposing the use of misogynistic tropes in climate politics.

  24. Douglas Buck says:

    Thank you. Your courage and tenacity are moving. Some of us men realize that we are the ones who have work to do. Men were the colonizers. Men’s greed and competitiveness brought the world unbridled capitalism and environmental ruination. Men’s internal weakness and resulting need for domination and power created and creates wars and rape culture. I am so sorry — and trying to do something about it. Douglas Buck (old white guy)

  25. Has anyone ever heard about a nick name. Why do you think it is misogyny? It only reflect the reality. Honorable Minister McKenna has ZERO qualification for her post. I urge to read he CV and could someone tell me why such a scientifically unequipped person in any scientific field can understand what is going on when presented with the facts from both sides and being able to make qualified scientifically based decisions. It appears to many people that she has been chosen for this post for some other reasons and not because she is the best qualifies Liberal.

  26. William Prestwich says:

    Why why doesn’t the media expose the despicable behaviour of the Canada’s Energy Citizens and other contemptible organizations and individuals with their outrageous behaviour.

  27. Linda McCabe says:

    You and your team inspire me and fill me with hope that women’s critical voices are being heard and will continue to be heard. Your team of dedicated women and men is blazing a trail of effective leadership and action which is the only way we can save our planet and one another. Stand strong and proud.

  28. Paul Newby says:

    Pretty shocking stuff. Fare forward and march on!

  29. Nikolaj says:

    There are so many things I could say but it won’t be as good as the strong statement of the last paragraph: “Don’t underestimate the women pushing back against injustice. From human rights to the climate movement, we’ve been doing it a long time. And we are getting pretty damn good at it.”. A human being that happens to be male.

  30. Orion Carrier says:

    Climate super-heros! You go!!!

  31. Jey Iyadurai says:

    Remember, we all have come to this world from women, our Mothers…!

  32. Robert Young says:

    Congratulations on the stand you are taking. Courage is always respected, even if only by members of the silent majority. Bullies need verbal/written punches in the nose, go for it!

  33. Dale McCall says:

    Continue to stand strong against those who would damage our climate, country, & planet!!

  34. Emma Goldman says:

    Do we know for sure that those comments are not really coming from a Russian troll factory?

  35. Mean Anne Dilcock says:

    Bless all of you! Fight the good fight. Eventually the boys will catch just takes them longer. An old girl from Toronto

  36. Rod Raglin says:

    If men want a better world the most effective, efficient and likely the easiest way is to empower all women in every aspect of life.

  37. Jeff says:

    Misogyny exists in our society, fact. I wholly support equality and feminism in this modern era. As women take the mantel of leadership roles, they need to live by one very simple rule. Don’t let what others say or do hurt you. Harsh misogynistic criticism has always and will always exist. Stand tall and face it with hardened resolve. By giving into the insults and viewpoints thrown at you, even misogynistic ones, you allow that person to have control. You validate them by acknowledging them. When they spew misogynistic crap, crush them with silence and maintain with your objective. Do no berate their insults, this is the biggest mistake women make, as do men when it comes to insults. Acknowledging the insult gives them a platform to spread. It’s fuel added to the fire.

    The section about ‘women in politics and governments’ I found to be especially hypocritical, especially the commentary of woman being subjected to a special “flavour of criticism”. Being a public servant is and will always come with added scrutiny, especially “flavoured criticism”. There is a massive double standard when it comes to women in politics. Trudeau being sexualized by most women is just one of many double standards.There are many more in past and present. It does not justify misogyny but it should justify more hardened resolve. Case and point, McKenna is learning this the hard way. Personally, I find McKenna lacks any moral compass and has absolutely ZERO resolve to do her job without influence from others. She has folded to special interest and has yet to put the environment first by standing tall to opposition within her own party in my opinion. The Climate Barbie comments were not even on my radar until she publicly berated an idiot troll from Rebel in a very public forum. It made me further lose respect for her as a leader and professional. Were the misogynistic comments inappropriate? Absolutely, Was her response and forum in which she responded wrong? Absolutely.

    I always thought McKenna was weak. A push over incapable of having the resolve to do her job, to protect the environment. Her response only furthered my opinion of her being weak. My advice to women who want to be leaders, politicians, public servants, or governmental officials: Be the bigger person, being stronger than those who hurl insults. Don’t be weak.

    The world needs strong female leaders.

  38. Judy Bowen says:

    ha ha…..I have so many years of experience on the issue…want to know who I have learned will NOT ‘be there’ to support me against a pile of insults and diatribes….1) women…..I sit in my office which has been ‘skunked’ (with every nasty benzene derivative ‘stink bomb’ chemical imaginable), I go home to find that someone in my building has a master key and has entered my apartment to ‘stink bomb’ my entire life, my daughter’s life…(will I have a blood test revealing the extent of the problem?…no where I can think of would offer that)….so I install an expensive security system at home and I still sit in my stinked office…if I complain, I am told that no one can find the persons responsible…how dumb are we Canada…..and have I been ‘called names’? every imaginable nasty thing…

  39. Frances Dietz says:

    Honestly, if we allow the ‘sexism’ issue to BE an issue AT ALL in this case, we just undermine this whole catastrophic climate-related universal/environmental movement. And we undermine all the men who are involved too. I am a woman … This business has nothing to do with sexual injustice or human rights. Our precious Earth and it’s well-being goes well beyond our petty human perceptions of Rights or Wrongs on either side of what or what not to do about this dilemma. For heaven sakes, this issue is about the existence of ALL life, and if Whoever tries to turn it into some kind of individual, personal vendetta (“on either side”), it’s so ridiculous, it isn’t even worth mentioning. That’s my opinion anyway. One gives power away, even commenting that this kind of stupidy exists. It exists, it always has, it always will – male/female – we are all sexist. YES there are issues. This is not one of them. I think it’s best just to ignore this kind of badgering. As noted in the comment before, it just shows a person’s weakness when she or he has to resort to this kind of attack. It’s not even worth wasting energy being affected by it.

  40. Jo says:

    We birth the babies. We can also save the world for them. I really Love what you’ve said here.

  41. Jeff Graham says:

    Stay strong. Thank you!

  42. Kathryn Cass says:

    Thank you Lisa for such a powerful and honest exposé on both sides of the environmental movement. And thank you Christina for standing strong on so many fronts!

  43. We want to build a better world and that includes one where all people are equal and treated with respect.

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