Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How anti-feminism betrays women

I'm beginning to think that it's no wild-eyed conspiracy theory to suggest that the mainstream media has declared war on feminism. Not that daily newspapers have ever been at the forefront of the fight for women's rights, but for a few decades, the feminist-bashing seemed to be isolated to a few "femmenazi" insults, and the occasional sneering from "post-feminists" like Camille Paglia. I mean there will always be stuck-up, rich, out-of-touch anti-feminist women like Barbara Amiel and Diane Francis. And stupid men who like their white male privilege so much that they blame feminism for emasculating Western society. But the new neo-con take on feminism is really dangerous. Here's the gist of it: North American women should stop wining because there's nothing left to fight for. Instead, they should support Bush's War on Terror, and seek to liberate Muslim women from oppression by bombing their communities, installing puppet governments, and giving big "reconstruction" contracts to U.S. corporations.

I already posted a rant about a recent Maclean's article that declared that "the war on terrorism in the real women's issue." In today's Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente makes a similar argument in her piece titled "How the feminists betrayed feminism." She spends many column inches criticizing Judy Rebick for suggesting that U.S. imperialism, coupled with racist security laws and unfair trade policies have dealt a "mortal blow to a feminism that seek economic and social equality." Wente suggests that feminists should focus their energy on spreading Western values among to poor, oppressed (largely Muslim) minions, and -- no surprise -- stop whining about racism and inequality in North America, because it simply doesn't exist anymore.

I am not kidding. But in honour of International Women's Day, and in case you are actually inclined to believe Ms. Wente, here are five reasons why feminism is needed now more than ever:

  1. A woman's right to choose is under attack -- in the U.S. and Canada. In case you've been asleep this week, South Dakota has just banned all abortions, unless the life of the mother is threatened. No exceptions for rape or incest survivors. This has led one women to post do-it-yourself abortion instructions on the internet. Meanwhile in Canada, the extreme right-wing groups that helped vault Stephen Harper into power are pushing for a free vote on abortion in the coming months.

  2. The dream of a national day care program has been ripped away from Canadian women. I've already written extensively about this. But in a nutshell, the neo-con model of tax cuts instead of social programs, and the latest call to transfer tax points to the provinces so they can fund their own social programs adds up to one reality for Canadian women: no daycare spaces, and inadequate, uneven access to social programs across the country.

  3. Women are still being beaten and assaulted. According to Status of Women Canada, half of Canadian women (51%) have been victims of at least one act of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Of all victims of crimes against the person in 2000, females made up the vast majority of victims of sexual assaults (86%), criminal harassment (78%) and kidnapping/hostage-taking or abduction (67%). Of the almost 34,000 victims of spousal violence reported in 2000, women accounted for the majority of victims (85%), a total of 28,633 victims.

  4. Women (particularly Aboriginal women) are among the poorest people in Canada. According to the Coalition for Women's Equality, 52% of single-parent families headed by women are poor. Almost half of all "unattached" women over 65 are poor. The average income for women with disabilities and for aboriginal women is $13,000 a year.

  5. Women are shockingly underrepresented in Canadian politics. Only 62 women -- or roughly 20% of the seats in Parliament -- won seats in January's federal election. Harper's cabinet includes six female cabinet ministers, including Rona Ambrose, who Maclean's has referred to as "the beauty" in a recent cover story about the new government. It's not online yet, but I highly recommend you read Doris Anderson's essay "A Silenced Majority" in the new issue of This Magazine.
The real betrayal is not feminism itself, but the people who condemn women to poverty, violence and exclusion by arrogantly assuming that we have nothing left to fight for. As the folks at Briarpatch noted in a recent editorial, "feminism gets bad press not because it's dead, but because it's dangerous."


NicoleW said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Salanth said...

It's very depressing. :(

Trying to be a feminist is hard enough with bashing from all sides, internal and external. That thing about the War on Terror was just sickening to read...


"stop whining about racism and inequality in North America, because it simply doesn't exist anymore."

Erm. What? No. I think it's getting worse than ever, actually. :S Or maybe I just see it that way because in trying to find an identity, I get assaulted by what people think I should be.

Meh. Enough for now.

Jenn said...

I'm glad that you named Macleans and the Globe in the same post. Those two articles have by far been the most disturbing to me of late.

You also have a good point when you say that the right is trying to make feminism about supporting the "war on terror" -- just like how GW Bush tried to make the invasion of Afghanistan all about the women and their oppression when he didn't give a shit before 9-11 and the US actually gave power and skills to the Taliban years and years before.

I'm not sure that abortion is really threatened in Canada at all. Even if it goes to an open vote, it would be hard to pass.

One point that I need to raise though is that everyone is criticizing the South Dakota law because it doesn't make exceptions for rape and incest, as though those are the only two reasons someone could legitimately have an abortion. I think that it needs to be made clear that all women should be able to have abortions. Period.

Ariel said...

Hi Jenn (and everyone),

I totally agree that abortion is a right. Period. No exceptions. I just think the fact that South Dakota won't even consider making allowances for rape and incest survivors demonstrates that they are putting their dangerous ideology ahead of any possible iota of concern for women's lives.

So much for "protecting the vulnerable."

And of course, these are the same types of politicans that doen't support social programs to help women raise their unwanted children.

Shell said...

Very Well Said, Ariel! Thanks for rebutting the nonsense spouted by Maclean's and Margaret Wente (who I suspect to be a machoman, masquerading as a woman. Else how could she write the drivel she does.)
Jen, I hope you're right about abortion in Canada, but I know that making it illegal is one of "Steve & the boys" priorities. My brother is close to some of his people & they are all "seriously concerned about women murdering unborn babies without a thought. It must be stopped." (quote, my brother, who is an idiot & a chauvanist pig). We must all remain watchful and take action at the first signs of any incursion into women's right to abortion. ARGHGH! We FOUGHT that fight! I am getting soooo tired of fighting the same fights, over & over! Anyone for finding & settling a women's planet?...
In sisterhood........

Anonymous said...

I am pleased (& relieved) to find your blog. An older sister

Zelda the Quark said...

I've met people who have told me that although feminism is important, there are more pressing issues to deal with now (TERRORISM), thereby justifying ignoring women's rights altogether.

It's as though because the country is in perpetual "Anti-Terror" mode, it becomes acceptable to ignore civil rights issues.

The incredibly ironic thing about it all is that while these people claim that we need to fight "terror" (whatever that is) to protect democracy and civil rights, they advocate STRIPPING AWAY these same liberties in the process of fighting terror.

Should we all just become perky housewives slaving away at home because somehow that will help destroy terror groups?

It's all just another attempt to chip away at the hard fought rights feminism has earned women.

Tom said...

Hi Ariel, It seems to me that feminism has turned into 'noise' to the public. And what is feminism really fighting for? Hilary came so close to being a US President. Meg Whitman runs eBay. Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Okay, I'm male. Not a conservative. Not a pro-feminist (not anti either). However all I'm hearing is "what's in it for me". For instance, your top 5 issues cut across male and female genders. Shouldn't we be trying to solve these problems for the betterment of society and not just for one group?

Here are my thoughts. Many of your readers may not like my opinion, but it is simply just an opinion.

#1: Right to choose: South Dakota aside (not sure what they are thinking there), putting abortion to a vote is the democratic thing to do. The people of California voted for same-sex marriage because they are ready for it. Are women ready to find out what Canada will think about abortion?

#2: daycare spaces: Come on. This affects men and stay-at-home dads as well. Plus I know of two women who took the initiative and started two day cares. Now very successful, doing what they like... being with kids. Don't you think there is opportunity here for women to start a business and be independent? Take charge instead of asking for hand-outs.

#3: women assaulted: Okay, no one should be victims of physical/sexual abuse. Period.

#4: women are poor: I noticed your stats didn't include how many women work versus stay at home? It is a women's choice to stay at home but that's not going to help her find a good paying job.

#5: underrepresented: What you're not showing is this year's fed election attracted a record number of female candidates, 437. However only 62 were voted in.

I wonder how much society is truly condemning women compared with women not taking charge of their lives, careers, and relationships.