Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mallick: it's Big Picture time for women

"We are women. We are half the human race. Are we considered equals of the other half? Don't get too smug."--Heather Mallick, CBC Viewpoint [October 6, 2006]

This week's 'Viewpoint' piece by Heather Mallick asks us to all get a grip; remember what's really important. Par example: {links have been added to the following}
The past two weeks have been disastrous for women. They began with the murder of Safia Amajan, the women's rights minister in Afghanistan. She was shot to death by the Taliban, not that this seems to have greatly distressed President Hamid Karzai or indeed U.S. President George W. Bush.
Then Canada's Stephen Harper did his own Bush copycatting and cut funding to the Status of Women Canada secretariat and to the Court Challenges program that funded citizens and groups fighting laws they believe violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now only the rich will have their day in court.
But the overall reaction was muted. We may never know if this encouraged the prime minister to take the next step. This week, the Tories killed all funding for women's groups that do advocacy, lobbying or research, essentially telling disobedient types to shut up.
Harper even removed the word "equality" from Status of Women Canada's mandate. Are we still "persons"? Not equal ones. The goal now is to "facilitate women's participation in Canadian society." I think he means the feds will shovel ladies' sidewalks, but who knows? Right-wing jargon is just as blinding as left-wing stuff.
Now here's the part that caught me off guard:
If Harper waited a week or so after his initial cuts to see what the reaction would be, feminists were wasting precious time that could have been spent alerting Canadian women. No wonder Harper managed to slip this through. Feminists have had far lesser things to worry about. For instance, I spent that week being attacked online by feminists for bad language.
Mallick goes on to tell us that she was 'chastised' by the moderator of this discussion board and that she was even presented with a 'guide on "preferred language."' That had to be devastating to someone like Heather (and I gather from her column that it was initially pretty upsetting). Now? Now I think she's pissed and would like everyone to get a grip: no more bullying, extremism, or purity tests (you know what I mean...when we opt to 'eat our own' instead of finding common cause?):
Look, I am a feminist. I use the unfashionable word because I hate bullying and women are bullied more than anyone on the planet. But I won't be told to shy away from vivid, evocative words and I don't like seeing English literature betrayed. [...] For the first time I understood why some women don't want to call themselves feminists. They see feminism as a kind of humourless GroupThink that excludes them. But the women slamming me for my English are extremists, the kind of people always to be avoided wherever they stand politically. Feminism is about equality. [...] On the weekend I flew to Ottawa for a conference where I gave a speech urging feminists to work with other feminists around the world to fight brutes and bullies. We had to ignore what I call "tiny sorry-ass First World problems" (see above) and concentrate on the essentials.
[...] So listen hard, women. The religious right is taking its place in our government, as Marci McDonald writes in this month's Walrus magazine. Be afraid. Abortion rights are next. Can we spend less time arguing about minutiae and more time fighting for the welfare of our daughters, please?
Mallick is right: if it wasn't GoTime before, it certainly is now. Harper, Oda et al. have managed to do more damage than even I thought possible in a very short period of time. Pay close attention, Mesdames et Messieurs: keep the heat-on and watch this space.


Anonymous Kuri said...

I dunno. On the one hand, yeah, there's a bit if "eat our own" in every movement. On the other hand, I'm really curious to know which message board Mallick's talking about. Because she could be talking about a very small, self-important minority (and you'll often find pretty self-important people on message board discussions). Since she doesn't name the message board, it's really hard for me to assess what if anything her experience means in the real world.

10/07/2006 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, in any case, the whole discussion from Harper to Heather is quite sobering. What distressing setbacks to the progress we had made.
Thanks for this comment. SJ

10/08/2006 10:43 PM  

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