Photo courtesy Morgan Baskin's campaign Facebook page.
If 18-year-old Morgan Baskin had known she would receive up to five unsolicited advances from men each day of her campaign, she might never have registered to run for mayor.
Baskin, whose youth-focused platform has earned praise from media commentators and City Hall watchers, posted screenshots to her Tumblr page on Monday of correspondence she's received at her professional email and Facebook accounts since she joined the election. In one Facebook post, a man contacted her in April asking, "possible to call u [sic]?" When Baskin explained that she hadn't set up a campaign phone yet, he wrote, "Not a campaign phone ur [sic] cell phone... Hoping to meet you end of May."
Other messages comment on her appearance and ask for her number. An email from a man Baskin met while canvassing says: "After I left to get on the subway it occurred to me how attractive you are ... I was wondering if I could buy you dinner some time when you're not too busy?"
Baskin posted these messages to Tumblr with the hashtag #YesAllWomen - the same tag women are using to share their experiences of sexism following the Elliot Rodger's killing spree in Isla Vista, California.
Baskin says the unsolicited come-ons won't stop her from campaigning but have left her frustrated and re-examining her decision to enter the election.
"I get at least one a day, and usually more in the neighbourhood of four or five," she says. If she knew this would happen she says she doesn't "know if [she] would have decided to run for mayor."
She says she's stressed and feel undermined "and not so much like a politician but like an object."
Baskin believes that most female politicians are objectified but the fact that she's young has made her situation worse. "I'm a young blond," she says. "There's a certain extra level of shit that sometimes comes along with that."
More experienced politicians in the race, like Olivia Chow and Councillor Karen Stintz, have also experienced sexism and misogyny.
Stintz dealt with such an ordeal last month when an intoxicated Mayor Rob Ford was recorded lewdly saying he wanted to "fucking jam her."
The day after the Ford recording came out she held a press conference to condemn the comment as "misogynistic," but one month later she refuses to give the issue more attention.
While conceding that she's been the subject of "comments that would have unlikely been [made about] my male counterparts" Stintz doesn't believe that female politicians are at a particular disadvantage.
"Everybody faces their challenges. I've had certain challenges that I've faced. I don't attribute it to the fact I'm a female, I just attribute it to [other factors]," she says.
Chow, a veteran of over ten election campaigns, says she "got quite a lot of sexist comments" when she launched her election bid this year, some of them "very offensive." But she feels that drawing attention to sexism on the campaign can actually make things worse because "you can end up giving more attention to it than it deserves" and taking focus away from your ideas.
She says it's a waste of energy, while acknowledging that's easier for a seasoned politician like her to say. "It's Morgan's first election."
But Steph Guthrie, co-founder of Women in Toronto Politics (WiTOpoli), says that treatment like that which Baskin has received is a "standout reason" why women continue to be underrepresented in the political arena.
Only a third of Toronto councillors are women, and the numbers are worse at higher levels of government: in the last provincial and federal elections, only 27 and 25 per cent of politicians elected were female, respectively.
Guthrie says women are driven out of politics by this behaviour and objectification. In her opinion, women also lack access to influential networks and the financial capital that comes with them. She says that female politicians shouldn't have to choose between talking about their platforms and exposing misogyny
"But I do think that it's possible to address your ideas and your policies and also address this kind of behaviour. And I totally applaud Morgan for speaking up about it."
While Baskin is disheartened she has resolved not to give up. She is a long shot in the race for Toronto's top job, but her youth-focused platform for a "digital, global and green" city has earned her praise and plenty of media coverage. She wants to carry on that work while she completes her fifth year of high school at Inglenook Community High School.
"If anything I feel more strongly that I need to stay in," she says. Dropping out now "would be a really bad message to send."