KirstineI say this with only the tiniest trace of bitter jealousy: Kirstine Stewart, CBC’s Executive Vice President of English Services, is a beautiful woman. The kind of woman whose immaculate appearance makes me feel like I have a piece of broccoli stuck in my teeth.

But her appearance is irrelevant. This is a woman who heads our public broadcaster in a precarious time, and led it to its most successful winter launch. She’s paved the way to huge premieres for Arctic Air and Mr. D, and returning stalwarts such as Dragons’ Den and Rick Mercer Report , not to mention — I have to plug this until it’s renewed — fall’s innovative critical darling Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays.

So it’s hard to take it seriously when a random crank tweets to a Sun News personality: “just noticed @KStewartCBC sleevelesstop on her profile picture. She works for the CBC so is she a skank”.

Yes, please, protect us all from sinful upper arms. And semi-literate pundits.

It’s tempting to simply point to the hypocrisy of a society that judges powerful women by appearances. One of the dark sides of the House fandom is the undercurrent of misogyny toward co-showrunner Katie Jacobs, whose hair, fashion sense, and marital status were savaged by a small group of disgruntled fans with each unpopular creative turn. Fellow showrunner David Shore, who runs the writing room, was attacked for the actual words he said or wrote (I’m sure he’s thrilled).

I’ll spare you the rant about what that does to girls and point to the Miss Representation website. Because this isn’t just about women. How often have we heard Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s weight used against him, when his policies should be all the fuel we need? I’m pissed about the playground-level of discourse around serious issues we’ve come to accept all too often.

[pullquote]I’m pissed about the playground-level of discourse around serious issues we’ve come to accept all too often.[/pullquote]One of my favourite quotes in the interviews I did for the intervention article in Canadian Screenwriter was that the CBC was created to give Canadians something to complain about besides the weather. But don’t get me wrong: our public broadcaster is not above criticism. They deserve to be right in the line of fire often enough.

We don’t need to use Stewart’s upper arms against her any more than we need yet another cake joke against Ford. You want to attack the CBC? Or any leader, political or broadcast? Attack them with gusto – reasoned, intelligent gusto – or no one who doesn’t already side with you has any reason to listen to your petty bile. And people who do side with you should demand better.

We learned as kids that playground bullies aren’t equipped to make substantive criticism so they go for the easy target. OK, maybe we don’t learn it in those words, but we’re told something along those lines.

Maybe we need to start demanding more substance of Internet idiots, journalists, our friends and even ourselves. Next time I mock Justin Bieber’s hair, remind me it’s his music I dislike.

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