Many of us here at Fit is a Feminist Issue have long appreciated Kathleen Wynne — the Ontario premier who soundly lost the election on Thursday — as an example of mid-life female strength of all kinds, including her identity as a runner. My friend Joanna wrote a powerful open letter to Kathleen about her impact as a role model, and I wanted to share it with the FiFI community, even though it’s technically not about fitness. It’s very much about female strength ;-).
You won’t remember me, but we met a few times when you visited Overland Learning Centre. I’m writing to thank you for your service.
Watching you, I had the chance to see true leadership in action. I learned so much from observing you collaborate and problem solve and sow the seeds of political engagement in the new generation. This has made me bolder and clearer in my own goals, and it’s inspired so many other women as well.
These past few weeks have been the bravest I’ve ever seen you. It must have been unbelievably difficult, but what you did was so valuable to the rest of us. It’s really important to show other women how to be strong in the face of defeat. Of course it’s vital that women attain success in fields previously reserved for men – we were over the moon when you became premier – but women also have to learn how not to crumble when they start to slip off that pedestal. As Michelle Obama put it, “I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do, and be okay, because let me tell you, watching men fail up—it is frustrating.”
Over the past few months, you have shown us how to fail badly and be okay. By “be okay,” I mean retain your composure, reaffirm your principles, and always sound like the smartest, most logical person in the room. By meeting failure head-on with unflinching honesty and even some humour, you demystified it, giving us all a little more courage. When we fear failure less, we will be more daring, and glass ceilings everywhere will start to crack.
I wish I weren’t thanking you for this. I wish I were writing to congratulate you on some new triumph, but each story has its own hero. Thank you for being that person.
Joanna Warden is a Toronto language teacher who is reclaiming her inner Social Justice Warrior. She is currently working for the ifp program at the University of Toronto, Overland Learning Centre at TDSB and English Central ESL Resources. She is also the writer of the blog Teacherpants and grandmother to the adorable Ethan.