Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why are we Surprised That Harper Has Turned Back the Clock on Women's Rights?

Laura Wood has an interesting op-ed piece on Rabble: Chipping away at gender equality: Harper's five-year round up.

She discusses his turning back the clock on women's rights, citing many of the measures taken to again subordinate our gender.

There are no arguments with her piece. However, as a nation we should not be at all surprised by this, if we had been following politics back in the Reform Party days.

Part of their policy was to put women back in the kitchen, where it was deemed they belonged. And they made no secret of it. In fact many men were drawn to the Reform movement because of it.

One of their founders, was William Gairdner and his book The Trouble with Canada, according to author and journalist Murray Dobbin, "functioned as ‘the de facto manifesto for the Reform Party’". He sold copies at Reform Party assemblies.

In 2007, Donna L. Lillian, then Assistant Professor of Discourse and Linguistics in the Department of English at East Carolina University, wrote her dissertation on sexist discourse as hate speech, and it was centred around William D. Gairdner. She writes:
In arguing that at least some sexist discourse should be considered hate speech, I first demonstrate that the popular discourse of Canadian neoconservative author William D. Gairdner is sexist.... Sexism, the ideology and practice of relegating women to a lower rung on the social hierarchy than men simply by virtue of their femaleness, is an integral component of neoconservative thinking, and one way that such sexism is produced and reproduced is through language.

To international readers, Canadian author William D. Gairdner may seem like an obscure and unlikely subject for an argument about hate speech. After all, there are many well-known commentators and public figures, particularly in the USA, whose writings might be considered sexist and whose names might be more recognizable internationally than Gairdner’s. In preparing this article, I have, in fact, read dozens of conservative books, articles, blogs, and websites, including some by prominent Americans admired and cited by Gairdner himself (e.g. George Gilder, Richard Viguerie, Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, inter alia). Gairdner shares many views with these commentators; however, his discourse style differs markedly from theirs. Whereas they temper their style, largely avoiding obviously inflammatory modes of expression, Gairdner revels in what he describes as his ‘tell it like it is’ style of writing. (1)
He never held back. I read The Trouble With Canada, and the way he speaks about women, or as he likes to refer to us, "radical feminists", made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was frightening.

And he was one of Stephen Harper's mentors.

Laura Wood in her Rabble piece also mentions the influence of the anti-women group, oddly named REAL Women of Canada. They were involved in the movement from the early days, and now brag about how often they are invited to Parliament Hill for their input.

Their president, Gwen Landholt, spoke of the "...takeover, by feminist ideology, of the judicial system in Canada, as well as its takeover of the UN. During the 60s, 70s and 80s, the radical feminist ideology was gradually instilled into the cultures of education, work, government and societal life."

"Feminist ideology"? Interesting. I remember a headline when I was in high school, announcing that women who were employed in banks, could now wear pants to work. However, they had to be pantsuits. Our school soon followed, allowing us to also wear slacks, but there were guidelines that were strictly enforced. No jeans, nothing too tight, etc.

We soon broke every rule. It was the late '60s. It's what we did.

But do we really want to go back to a time when we had to fight just to wear pants? For Stephen Harper and his neoconservatives, women's rights are seen as a threat to their masculinity. It is fundamental that they chip away at them, until they all come crashing down.

It took decades to accomplish what we have, and could take decades more just to go back to where we were five years ago. Canadian women have to stand up to this man, and we do that by exercising our hard fought for right to vote.


1. A thorn by any other name: sexist discourse as hate speech, By Donna L. Lillian, Assistant Professor of Discourse and Linguistics East Carolina University, 2007

1 comment:

  1. A hundred years ago (on Friday 18th November 1910) a suffragette deputation to the House of Commons met with a six hour onslaught of police brutality resulting in a the Suffragettes beginning a huge window smashing campaign in protest.