Sunday, June 18, 2006


So I finally warranted a mention in Frank Magazine. It was fleeting and inaccurate, but there I am, nevertheless, identified as one of the professors into whose class women came univited to read their feminist manifesto on International Women's Day.

First, as a matter of fact, this report is untrue. Students did not enter my class on that day. If they ever do, I will insist that they stay and answer questions, including questions from me. No one speaks to my class without having to answer for what they say.

Now my concern is that given my previous post on this matter and the Frank story and what I've just written, some of you might have the impression that I am not a feminist. So let me be clear.

I am a feminist.

By that I mean that I see the amelioration of the overall status of women in our society as a pressing social concern.

One issue that is of particular concern for me, is the unequal participation of women in Canadian politics. In Canada, for instance, we have a House of Commons where fewer than 21% of members are women (that, by the way, puts us 43rd in the world). No woman leads a national political party (though that MAY change soon) and no woman has ever been chosen Canadian Prime Minister by way of a national election.

Now, why has this come to be? Certainly not because women are legally barred from politics; they're not. Similarly, it cannot be that women are naturally unsuited to politics because politics itself is not a natural phenomenon. What we need to ask ourselves is how it it is we are teaching women that politics is probably not a very good path for them, and how is it that we are creating our political systems that they result in parliaments with less than half the women we should expect? Still further, what should we do to change the current situation?

So why have I not made a point of this before? Because on a few social issues, I have positions where, keeping in mind that feminists take a variety of positions on things, I suspect many feminists might strongly disagree and I did not want to seem that I was not taking feminism seriously by claiming to be a feminist and yet opposing what many would see as obvious "feminist positions." But I now think that no one could or should claim that any given feminist must hold any given position on a particular issue, provided that their overall view does not promote the reduction of women's rights or the degradation of women in general. Moreover, I think it is important and beneficial for men to identify themselves as feminists to help fight the notion that feminism is somehow a fringe concern or only the concern of women. It's neither.

Will I tell you on which issues I think other feminists would be inclined to disagree? I will, but before I take positions that might be taken as anti-feminist (I don't think they are), I want to make sure that I have treated the issues in a way that reflects their complexity. So stay tuned.

1 comment:

K said...

I listened to a radio show about women in politics on CBC 2 on my way home from NB a month or two ago.

Interesting note, statistically a higher percentage of women who run for politics are elected than men who run.

That doesn't sound too clear to me so allow me to illucidate. These numbers are not accurate but rather hypothetical and representative of the fact represented as truth by the program. Anyway, something like 6 in ten male political candidates win elections whereas 7 in ten women win. The problem is that there are 100,000 male candidates and 20,000 female candidates.

The solution is not to change men's minds, we're clearly ready to vote for a woman (on the majority according to this program) the problem is changing the way we teach young girls about the importance of politics.

Anyway it was an interesting concept, I'd be anxious to read your elaboration on your own views on the matter.