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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.