Friday, August 25, 2006

UnReal Women

When Stephen Harper's Conservative Party was elected to govern Canada in January my genuine concern, and that of many of my peers, was not so much that the party itself would rush us headlong into a social regression (their margin of victory was slim enough to suggest on election night that that would not be the case), but that the right-wing social conservatives in this country - and there are rich pockets of them, particularly in the west - would take advantage of the opportunity to try to arm-twist the Conservatives into regressing on specific selected issues through targeted campaigns. Gay rights, I worried, was one of them - and I worried that acceptance of gays is still just weak enough that they might force some changes there to, say, marriage or adoption rights.

And while the Tories pretty quickly showed themselves to be reluctant to follow up on opening some of the cans of worms they had waved around while courting the right-wing vote in order to secure its support, they quickly found that their supporters were sitting outside their constituency offices on January 24, can-openers in hand.

A good example of one of these attempts which came unexpectedly (to me) out of right-field but which is proving to have legs is the campaign by so-called "REAL Women" to have Status of Women Canada shut down, or at the very least have its funding slashed. This right-wing anti-feminist organization has managed to focus the attention of the Canadian right-wing blogosphere into supporting their regressive campaign. (The group's often-repeated criticism that one of Status of Women's greatest sins is daring to define what is good for women and to "speak on behalf" of women is pretty funny coming from a group bluntly named "REAL Woman". Which makes me, and every woman I know, presumably, a wombat, or perhaps a gekko.)

This issue has been on my radar for some time; information circulated in activist mailing-lists that I am on, and on Canadian progressive or feminst websites, and so on. Calls to write one's MP expressing support for Status of Women and its work. At first I was not really worried; frankly I consider REAL Woman to be a bunch of right-wing nutjobs (for a bunch supposedly all about being "Canada's alternative women's movement" they spend an awful lot of time worrying about gay marriage and physician-assisted suicide for some reason), and most Canadian women have been far too equal for far too long to really worry much about ending up back in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. But now the campaign has caught the eye of mainstream media - which does worry me. Harper is walking an uncomfortable tightrope. He can't risk frightening Canada's center-left majority by making changes to suit right-wingers' demands. But he will need every center-right and far-right vote he can get in order to hold onto power in the next election. And he can't stall forever.

And, let's face it: even among moderates right now, "the f-word" is not terrifically popular. For whatever reason - my guess is anger at "reverse discrimination", coupled with women being in the discomforting position of both holding power and - since we have not really achieved total equality, with the wage gap, the housework gap, and so on - demanding more, feminism hasn't been quite so disrespected and reviled in the mainstream since it was openly mocked in the 1970s.

So this issue just might have legs. That's why I'm suggesting that you, too, if you care about this issue, write to your MP and/or the Prime Minister. If you have the time to write an email, you have time to copy its contents into Word or WordPerfect and print a hard-copy - the reality is, snail-mail still gets more attention than email, and you don't even need a stamp to mail your MP. As with any issue, those who are angry and demand change will make a lot of noise; if those of us who don't want to see that change don't also make some noise, there is no reason for the PMO not to decide Status of Women is a money-sink that is not needed anymore, pleasing his right-wing base with little political cost in exchange.



Blogger Mike said...

"you don't even need a stamp to mail your MP"

Wow -- is that a fact? That is SO civilized!

Damn, you people do democracy right.

10:23 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Absotruthly. In fact, if I am not mistaken, you don't need a stamp to write to any sitting MP, regardless of where you live or what riding s/he represents - but I might be wrong about that.

Is this not the case south of the border? I have to confess, I genuinely thought that you guys could write your Congresscritter or Senator without putting a stamp on the envelope as well. I know it also applies in the UK - which is where Canada inherited it from. It's a shame if it's not true in the US as well. I am imagining thousands and thousands of damp, smelly letters and postcards from N'Awlins, post-Katrina...


10:39 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do u know flys blog?

10:40 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

do u know flys blog?

No, and a Google search isn't helping much, unless you mean this one?

If you stop by again, could you post a link? Thanks -


3:56 p.m.  

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