Sunday, 24 January 2021

Feminism

 On the evening of December 6th, 1989, as a politician, I made a speech in Windsor Ontario.  I do not recall to whom I was speaking or about what I was talking.  It doesn't matter.  I stayed overnight and drove home to Kitchener the next morning.

On the radio on the way home, I heard to my horror the news that fourteen students had been murdered at the École Polytechnique in Montréal.  I was shocked.  I was horrified.  To my present recollection, I don't think I had ever been aware of very much peacetime mass murder.  I do recall that prior to my election there had been a number of members of the Québec legislative assembly who had been shot by a lone gunman, but I just assumed that he was a single mentally unbalanced individual who, as far as I recall, did not leave a particular political message.

While continuing my drive, I heard that there was a gathering scheduled to occur at speakers corner in downtown Kitchener.  I thought that it might be appropriate for me to attend and express what I thought would be the concern of the community.  When I arrived at the event, speeches were already occurring.  Sue Coulter, who had run against me in the previous provincial election, was speaking.  Only then did I realize that she was speaking to women and the mourning and the anger had to do with women and their rightful struggle for roles in society.  I realized that there was no place for me there and I went home to ponder.

I am a white male.  I have achieved some success in some of the things that I have set out to do in life.  While I was doing so, society has probably given me an advantage over others that I did not sense, and has done so because I was a six-foot tall white male.  That should not have happened.  I do not apologize for taking advantage of the opportunities I had.  I am simply stating that, in retrospect, my life has likely been easier than that of some other people.  For instance, when I went to law school in the 60s only three of the sixty-five students in our class were women.

I do believe that, as a man, my thinking was ahead of many of my male colleagues.  For instance, it took hours, and in some instances days before most of the media and politicians grasped that the purpose behind the 1989 massacre was what is known today as femicide.  The perpetrator was particularly angry that women had boldly moved into what had been a male only profession - engineering.

Indeed, that was hard to grasp in 1989.  Subsequently, Josee Boileau, who had covered the event as a reporter at the time, later reflected on the fact that society took so long to connect the dots, saying "maybe [it was] because public space was still essentially a male space and we were struggling to adjust our vocabulary."

Indeed, feminism was a new idea when I was in university.  I wonder if the fact that women stepped up to the plate and played a fully equal role in the second world war had anything to do with it blossoming when it did.  In the 50s, Ottawa elected its first female mayor, Charlotte Whitton.  That was considered at delightful oddity at the time.  No major city had ever done that before.  Now, I can't think of a city in Canada that has not had at least one female mayor. Ms. Whitton is reported to have said, "in order for a woman to succeed in public life, she has to be twice as good as a man.............Fortunately, that is not hard."

I have observed the growth of feminism throughout my lifetime.  I did not consider myself a participant but, in almost every issue raised since feminism entered into social discourse, I have endorsed its goals.  When I was elected to the legislature in 1985, the law directed that there should be " equal pay for equal work".  The result was that women in Ontario were earning about 62% of the amount men were earning per hour.  We amended the law so that there would be " equal pay for work of equal value," even in situations where the types of jobs were quite different.  This spawned an industry of experts who, for a fee, would determine for a given industry what "equal value" meant in various situations.  It all got very complicated.  But if I recall correctly, after about five years, women were earning closer to for 68% of what men were earning.

That was thirty-five years ago.  I understand that, today, the figure is about 75%.  The lack of progress seems depressing. Is the "glass ceiling" about which Hillary Clinton talks really there?  There seems to be a fair amount of evidence to the effect that it is. 

In 2014, six provincial premiers, representing provinces with 88% of the population of Canada were women.  Today, no provincial premiers are women.  In 2006, Ellen Johnson became the president of Liberia, Africa's first female president.  Today, there are no female presidents in Africa.,  Ah ,but there are lots of female vice presidents.  And the seemingly chauvinistic premier of Ontario has a female deputy premier.  And, oh yes, the avowed feminist (but male) prime minister Canada has a female deputy prime minister.  There seems to be a pattern here.

Kamala Harris has said "I may be the first female Vice President of the United States, but I won't be the last".  Indeed, she likely won't be the last!  But where will she go from there?  During my lifetime, the United States has had no fewer than eighteen vice presidents.  Six (including Joe Biden) made it to the presidency.

I am merely speaking at this point as an observer, not as an advocate.  I realize that hell has no fury like feminism scorned.  Nevertheless, we may be settling for the fact that behind every successful man there stands a woman..... and letting it go at that

  One has to wonder whether or not things are really just turning out the way they are meant to be.




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