I just can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day than with this:
One of the framing questions asked by the film is “where did feminism go wrong?” In getting to the answer the film outlined some of the goals and objectives of “second wave” feminism. But if this means the status quo is represented as the answer to the question of where feminism went wrong, the answer will focus only on the shortcomings of the second wave.
There would be something to be grateful for here, too, if the documentary makers had focussed on those “failures” in their socio-economic and political context. The pressures of neoliberalism over the last two decades have led to the marginalization of many liberation movements, feminism is just one of them. The critical issue for contemporary movements is to understand how that happened and, of course, that means critical analysis of the goals and strategies of the movements themselves.
But the exclusion of this type of context in the documentary rendered it inaccurate, unhelpful and defeatist.
Did the doc at least get its history of the Canadian second wave right? Absolutely not.
Check it out here.
And Judy Rebick!
In 1911, the first International Women’s Day marches were held across Europe. A few days later on March 25, 146 immigrant women were killed in the Triangle Factory firebecause the bosses locked the doors from the outside. Russian socialist Alexander Kollentai proposed that the next year IWD would honour these women and the theme of IWD became bread and roses and the date March 8.
At the time, most women workers in Canada were domestic or textile workers. As soon as they got married or pregnant they were fired. They made up to 80% less than men for the same job. So the demand for bread was obvious.
As the song Bread and Roses, which has become an anthem of the women’s movement says, “Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread but give us roses.” The rose is a powerful symbol of the female and of love. That symbol comes not only from its beauty but also from its tenacity. The rose bushes in my garden still have leaves on them in early winter and they bloom almost until the frost.
The rest is here.
In his 2008 article “Facism Anyone?”, Laurence W. Britt enumerated the key elements of facism under well-known historical regimes such as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia. Number 5 on Britt’s list:
Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.
Stephen Harper began his CON regime by cutting funding to the Ministry of the Status of Women and to countless women’s groups across the country, including the highly successful Court Challenges Programme which LEAF had used effectively to challenge government actions and legislation that it believed breached the Charter rights of women. Of course, Harper also gave us the charming Helena Guergis to perform as his talking doll in the Ministry, though she has proven less than charming.
But let’s have a look at more recent HarperCON activities that fit into the “blatant sexism” category.
Let’s begin with the federal budget for 2010. Most commentators said it was the “do nothing” budget but of course, all budgets do something, even if by neglect. Professor Kathleen Lahey from Queen’s University Law School did the math. Here’s her over-all assessment:
The big picture: Women are half the population in Canada and nearly half the official labour force – but still do 62% of all unpaid work, and receive only 40% of after-tax incomes.
This Budget: The government claims that it is providing one last $19 billion ‘stimulus’ package this year, shorn of new tax cuts or spending items. This is highly misleading. New corporate tax cuts and continued huge PIT and GST cuts bring the total to $41.9 billion for 2010/11.
Gender gaps: This $41.9 billion is being delivered in forms that will benefit far more in Budget 2010: men than women, widen gender gaps even further, and continue to drive up poverty rates among women and single parents.
Of course, women were unattended to in the “Stimulus Budget” as well:
Budget 2009 not only fails to target the most vulnerable, but it seems to have been carefully crafted to exclude women from as much of the $64 billion in new deficit-financed spending and tax cuts as possible … [see how]
Then there’s the issue of child care. HarperCON carefully eliminated the 5 billion dollar daycare agreement that the Paul Martin government had reached with the provinces before it lost the 2006 election and replaced it with a $100 per month per child benefit that Jim Flaherty said was meant to emphasize “choice” for families with daycare aged children – in terms of social policy conservatives have always insisted that individuals be responsible for the full costs of reproduction and the tiny benefit they extended did little to ameliorate those costs for working families or single parent families, most of which are headed by women. In his most recent budget Flaherty added $100 per month per child under the age of six. I don’t think there’s anybody who believes that will be truly helpful.
In addition, the money Flaherty is extending is counted as taxable income in the hands of lower income parents so its true value is actually less than its face value:
Because the child care allowance will increase their income, families will pay more federal and provincial/territorial income taxes, while at the same time receiving less from geared-to-income benefits such as the federal Canada Child Tax Benefit and GST credit as well as provincial/territorial child benefits and tax credits. Thus the true value of the child care scheme will be considerably less than its $1,200 a year face value – significantly less in the case of many working poor and modest-income families, who will get a smaller after-tax benefit than middle- and upper-income families. One-earner families with a parent who stays home will do better than lone-parent and two-earner families. But even for one-earner couples with children, those who earn the most would get to keep more of the proposed benefit. [here]
The women of Canada thank you for that cool “choice” Jim. Helena Guergis seems to have another solution, though she won’t give details:
Then why did status of women minister Helena Guergis tell Canadian delegates at the 54th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women this month that Israel has such “strong family values there that they don’t need a national daycare plan! Wouldn’t it be great to figure out how they’re doing that?”
On Monday, at the most heavily covered Status of Women Committee meeting ever, Liberal status of women critic Anita Neville tried to pin the beleaguered Guergis down on what she meant by “family values.” [more]
Onward then. Over the course of the prorogation HarperCON’s mouthpiece, Bev Oda (he sure knows how to get women to work for him) announced that her government would work to promote maternal health by targetting foreign aid for this purpose. What could be wrong with that? Well, in the first place, Flaherty’s budget will freeze foreign aid next year and that just can’t help. On top of that, both Oda and Lawrence Cannon have now made it clear that “maternal health care” does NOT include contraception and access to safe abortion. Cannon says the government’s initiative on maternal health care is mean to save lives, not provide birth control.
These are actually contradictory policies. The best way to reduce the abortion rate is to provide sex education and contraception. That much seems obvious. Perhaps less obvious (to men) is the fact that when women get pregnant and don’t want to continue their pregnancies, they have always and always will find ways to terminate them. Unfortunately, in countries where abortion isn’t legal or accessible, this leads to unsafe abortions and the deaths of approximately 68,000 women worldwide, per year. When mothers die their children have an increased risk of dying within a few years. The government has also failed to extend funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation through CIDA. So the question for HarperCON is, do pregnant women have a right to live? Just to cite an obvious recent example, what about the women of Haiti?
A lack of education, limited access to reproductive health care, and the rape and violence that Haitian women face have led to a country with a staggeringly poor set of vital statistics. These include a high maternal and infant mortality rate and a high illiteracy rate, with only half the population able to read and write. Because of the high birth rate and abject poverty, hundreds of thousands of children are given up to over-burdened orphanages. Before the quake, an estimated 380,000 children had been placed in just 167 orphanages and care centers; that number of orphans, observers say, may have doubled as a result of the quake and could now be as many as one million!
HarperCON isn’t offering real help to boost maternal health in its foreign aid policy. What about the health of Canadian women and infants? Well, unsurprisingly, the money isn’t forthcoming here either. The Canada Prenatal Nutrition Programme, for instance, has been effective in helping women who suffer from extremes of poverty, isolation, abuse and addiction to improve outcomes for their newborns. But the Programme hasn’t had a funding boost since 1999. As Dean Beeby reports,
After a decade of inflation, that represents an effective cut of $4 million, without accounting for population growth. And spending in 2008-09 was down by $200,000 from the previous year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which runs the program.
Add to that the fact that neither the government nor the media has had anything to say about a recent report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that fetal and infant mortality rates are 2.7% higher among Inuit women than elsewhere in the country and you should get some sense of the depth of HarperCON’s commitment to the health of mothers and their infants in this country.
Another way of helping women in developing countries to stay alive would be an effective strategy for combatting violence against women. HarperCON seems aware that they should have such a commitment, they just don’t take it seriously. Through CIDA, Canada has invested $15 million dollars into a campaign against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
An internal Canadian government report obtained by The Globe and Mail concluded that Canada was spending too much money on T-shirts, vests, caps, cardboard folders and gaudy posters while failing to make progress on the bigger issues of prevention and justice. Ms. Bihamba chuckled grimly as she described the foreign- aid projects. The simple problem with the campaign, she said, is that most perpetrators of sexual violence are illiterate – they can’t read the printed messages.
This despite the fact that gender violence blocks progress in every major development target.
… violence–from rape during armed conflicts to domestic violence–is a leading cause of death and disability among women of all ages, and costs nations billions of dollars as it drains public resources and lowers economic productivity.
In his own country, PM Harper indicated in the Speech from the Throne that his government intends to support a Private Member’s Bill to abolish the long-gun registry – one small measure that has actually had some impact in preventing and intervening in domestic violence against women. And there’s little doubt that he will re-introduce the crime legislation that includes increased and extended mandatory minimum jail sentences for certain crimes including small-time drug offences. That will mean more Aboriginal and African Canadian women in jail for longer periods of time (men too) and discrimination against other vulnerable groups as well. [link to Facebook Note]
The women of Canada have no reason to be grateful to HarperCON and every reason to protest its actions while it remains the government of this country. Even more reason to be active and stay active in every movement they can find that wants to oust the creep and his coterie in the next election – according to some pundits, not far off.
Women are the majority of the world’s farmers, but are often forbidden from owning the land they tend to every day, or accessing the credit they need to invest in those farms and make them productive. Women care for the world’s sick, but women and girls are less likely to get treatment when they are sick. Women raise …the world’s children, but too often receive inadequate care when they give birth. And as a result, childbirth remains a leading cause of death and injury to women worldwide. Women rarely cause armed conflicts, but they always suffer their consequences. And when warring sides sit at one table to negotiate peace, women are often excluded, even though it is their future and their children’s future that is being decided.
from US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Remarks at the UN Commission on the Status of Women
From Ms Rodham Clinton’s speech at the UN 4th Conference on Women in Beijing (1995):
… for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words. But the voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loudly and clearly:
It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.
It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution for human greed — and the kinds of reasons that are used to justify this practice should no longer be tolerated.
It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire, and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.
It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.
It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives.
It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.
It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.
If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.
In 1869 British MP John Stuart Mill was the first person in Parliament to call for women’s right to vote. On 19 September 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. Women in other countries did not enjoy this equality and campaigned for justice for many years.
In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.
The very first International Women’s Day was launched the following year by Clara Zetkin on 19 March (not 8 March). The date was chosen because on 19 March in the year of the 1848 revolution, the Prussian king recognized for the first time the strength of the armed people and gave way before the threat of a proletarian uprising. Among the many promise he made, which he later failed to keep, was the introduction of votes for women. [here]
So even then it was about promises broken and the work of (mostly) women to force equitable, if not revolutionary, change. If women today wonder why Susan B. Anthony would point to the bicycle as a liberator of women, we need only think back to the extreme limitations on women’s mobility that she had seen go by the wayside in her lifetime. The bicycle and its female riders once evoked extreme anxiety in folk worried about women’s sexual innocence and purity. Seems like the sight of women astride a bike with those saddles between their legs could only mean one thing to some peope – women feelin’ happy, Oh my pearls!
The problem was exacerbated if women leaned forward, rode fast or did not maintain an upright posture when riding. Special ‘hygienic’ saddles with no inner core that could rub against a woman’s ‘delicate parts’ were offered by manufacturers to circumnavigate this problem. [here]
Even so, women achieved their right to ride bikes partly as a result of their willingness to ride sitting bolt upright.
The growing numbers of middle class women riding bikes in awkward, long flowing skirts eventually resulted in a revolution in clothing. In Britain, dress reform was advocated and, to some extent, won – by the mid 1890s women were wearing bicycle trousers and culottes. When your clothes get out of the way, many things are possible beyond bike riding.
Riding a bike and wearing pants can make a difference. I wonder what difference changing the words of Canada’s national anthem might have made. It was a strange, HarperCON kind of offer from Canada’s government and not one they took seriously themselves – apparently Harper cabinet ministers had not been consulted and they made short work of clearing up any possible confusion: no way were they supporting it. Peter MacKay and Tony Clement said so publicly and Jim Flaherty, asked about the change in an interview with Peter Mansbridge on the budget, could not possibly have been less enthused. When you make a proposal like this you have to explain, justify and sell it. Instead, the CONs sold it out.
Did the howls of outrage from “redneck” members of the CON base scuttle the deal?
“My guess is that while Stephen was out swanning around Vancouver for the Olympics and a lot of women were doing great there and winning a lot of medals and probably some feminist got to him and said, ‘We ought to revise the national anthem,”‘ Flanagan said in an interview.
“He’s always looking for things that can reach out to other constituencies without alienating the Conservative base. So I’m not surprised that he might have seen it in that light, say(ing), ‘Well, here’s something we can do to show that we’re open toward women, particularly women who vote.’
“And maybe he didn’t think through or forsee the reaction that would draw from rednecks like me.”
Flanagan applauded the about-face. He said national symbols, like the anthem and flag, should “arouse a sense of awe and mystery” and that stems from the fact that they are enduring symbols for the ages. [here]
Of course it would be “sons” and other “enduring” things that arouse that “awe and mystery” – daughters apparently don’t have the same symbolic power. It can’t be the issue of change itself that provoked the outcry because the words to the anthem have changed several times and can hardly be called lasting – it’s only a 30 year-long tradition in its present form. I think the CONs are averse to anything that even sounds politically correct and I think they’re averse to women in pants on bicycles too.
The CONs weren’t the ones who concerned me this time ’round. I heard more than enough howls of protest in a place that’s been a bit of a safe haunt for me since late December – Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP). There were regular knee-jerk comments about the change being merely symbolic (merely?) and a trivial issue and an attempt to win women’s votes by fooling us into thinking the CON’s care. Women, of course, could not be relied upon to notice that HarperCON really doesn’t give a crappie about women’s equality – even though many of the women CAPPers are also members of an anti-Harper group called “Proud to Be a Member of That Left-Wing Fringe Group Women” and have been working equally hard and for longer than members of CAPP to point out the effects of Harper’s fiscal and social conservatism on women, minority groups, Aboriginal people, children, the disAbled, members of LGBTTQI communities, poor people and just generally groups whose rights are guaranteed by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We were not about to be bought off by an offer of a bright and shiny thing but it appeared to me that teh menz – and too many womenz – thought our heads could be turned by the promise of a pretty geegaw. How’s that for respect?
There isn’t a woman/feminist I know who had it in her mind that the next issue we would tackle ought to be making our national anthem “gender neutral”. It’s not that some of us haven’t thought about it from time to time and certainly after having our ears assaulted by the tune for two weeks while the Olympics ran on. But as others have pointed out (repeatedly and ad nauseum) I don’t think it occurred to any of us that it was either that important an issue or a winnable proposition. Still, when something is offered that is only right and good, why should we not have accepted?
Symbols are important. The national anthem is supposed to include all Canadians and it specifically excludes women by mentioning “sons”. Language is important and gender inclusive language is important. Solidarity is important too and after being called a feminazi by a man of supposed liberal leanings, I’ve lost a bit of my new-found trust in the importance of “women’s issues” for some of my bro-friends.
But hey, it’s true. I’d rather have a bicycle and a pair of pants than one of Stephen Harpers flying sparkle ponies. So shut up!
I’ve been waiting for so long for Canadians to wake up, pay attention, get pissed off, get politicized and boot Harper’s tush out of Ottawa. For what now seems like a very brief time in December of 2008 Canadians did wake up but the lack of leadership, primarily in the Liberal Party, and ignorance about the meaning of a coalition between the Liberals, New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois took the wind out of the sails all too soon.
Since then I’ve been watching and waiting. Not entirely passively. I watch the news, the blogs, the independent web reporting sites, the mags, online and off. I’ve alerted people to good material and hoped they read it. I expressed my outrage on Twitter, Facebook and occasionally on this blog. I wrote letters to newspapers, MPs, opposition leaders and the PM. But mostly I waited. Many of us waited. Sometimes I lost hope that anyone in this country was ever going to care. Care about the war on Gaza and Canada’s blind support of Israel. Care about Canada’s part in the war in Afghanistan. Care about the growing number of Canadians locked up in prisons for stupid reasons. Care about the arrogance and autocracy of Stephen Harper and his effect on our democratic institutions. Care about people like Omar Khader, Hassan Almrei, Suaad Hagi Mohamud, Abousfian Abdelrazik and others whose names and skin colour were not kindred to Stephen Harper. Care about the introduction of a mandatory minimum sentences bill that would put more Canadians in prison for more stupid reasons and the possible abolition of Canada’s long gun registry that actually seems to be making a difference in preventing or responding effectively to violence against women in domestic situations, the funding of the Status of Women, pay equity, the Court Challenges Programme . . . well, much more than all that believe it or not, but for now and most recently, the treatment of Canada’s Afghan detainees.
So many people lost faith that Canadians were ever going to care that when it began to appear that the frozen giant had awoken from its long slumber, when rumblings of revolt were heard on Facebook in the group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament – well, many were afraid to believe it. I wasn’t one of them. I don’t know why. But my intuition is that I spend so much time on the web reading, listening, learning, chatting and “networking” that I felt the pulse right away. If you’re not there you don’t know, you don’t feel it, you can’t see it. I was a member of that group early on and I sent links to the group to everyone I knew. I tweeted about the group over and over. I spread the news in other groups. I believed it was going to go. And it did. Lots of other people believed it too or it wouldn’t have happened.
What’s the difference between last year’s momentary excitement about the possibility of a coalition government that could topple the Conservatives and this year’s moment? Last year we were dependent upon the potential parties to the coalition to keep it going when Harper prorogued. The moment was easily brought to an end through a combination of Harper’s willingness to impose his will on Parliament and the country and the appalling and depressing weakness of the opposition. This year, Harper’s still there, behaving like an autocrat; the opposition has gained no strength. But the success of the awakening depends upon the people participating. Stephen Harper can’t shut it down. The opposition parties are barely able to respond well never mind take leadership roles in the movement. Its success depends solely upon the will of the people involved.
That might well be the only way it was ever going to work. Pass it on.
The Army general of U.S. forces in Northern Iraq has banned pregnancy among military personnel in his command, NBC News reported on Friday.
Anyone who becomes pregnant or impregnates another servicemember, including married couples assigned to the same unit, could face a court-martial and jail time, according to an order issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo. msnbc
Major General Cucolo:
I have female soldiers in absolutely critical specialties and becoming pregnant takes them out of the fight. And so that’s my message to the females – think before you do something, because I need you. And for the males, if you take one of my soldiers out of the fight, well, there are consequences for that too.
I wonder if you get a buy if you agree to have an abortion? If this strategy proves successful, Cucolo should patent it and sell it to parents of teens.
Trivial fact? –
At any given time, about 12% of the 130,000 U.S. military women are with child. TIME
Who knew the US was still fighting in Iraq?
A U.S. commander in northern Iraq does not expect to order a court martial for soldiers who become pregnant, but has not rolled back a controversial new policy on pregnancy, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.
A new directive from Major General Tony Cucolo, who commands U.S. soldiers in northern Iraq, sets out possible punishments from reprimand to court martial for prohibited behaviour, including drinking alcohol, taking drugs or becoming pregnant.
The policy has been criticized by some women’s advocates and on Tuesday four U.S. senators wrote to the secretary of the U.S. Army on Tuesday asking that it be rescinded.
“We can think of no greater deterrent to women contemplating a military career than the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished simply for conceiving a child,” Senator Barbara Boxer and others wrote. [more]