In the 1970s, during the Women’s Liberation Movement, the girls of my generation became women. It was an era also known as second-wave feminism which began in 1960; a time of major victories and indescribably crushing losses.
The WLM was powered by erudite feminists; women of all ages, races and societal backgrounds, activists (some radical), all seeking political, economical and cultural equality for women.
Second-wave feminism demanded sexual and reproductive freedom and autonomy, workplace parity – equal pay for equal work and equal access to all jobs in an environment free from harassment, impartial justice for rape and domestic violence victims, and, what may be one of the most enduringly essential fights, establishment of secure, sympathetic rape-crisis centres and shelters.
At those times (and even many times since then), how desperately impossible the goal of achieving gender equality has seemed…
Too many times the passion, eloquence and logic of the feminists was largely lost on their audience – a patriarchal oligarchy – a seemingly impenetrable system wherein men, overtly or behind the scenes, controlled all of the power; in the home, in businesses, in schools, in finance and law, within the bureaucracy and in the arts. Such bastions of male control were not places where challenges succeeded, where facts were accepted at face value and honourable individuals of good will sought compromise. Indeed all compromise in this area was considered a moral and thus reprehensible concession.
During those early days, feminists despaired that the abyss between the male and female positions was too great, the distance unbridgeable, yet they persisted. Thanks to the intellectual feminists of that era, the context around gender equality was significantly and eternally rewritten. Women today owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for those historical acts of courage and tenacity.
The more things change, the more they stay the same!
Sixty years from the beginning of Women’s Lib, “The world has made unprecedented advances, but no country has achieved gender equality.”* ‘Though many Canadian women profess not to be feminists and believe they enjoy full gender equality, regarding our country (and all others) the United Nations disagrees. Now, as a woman, if that doesn’t scare and anger you…
UN Women commissioned a review of gender equality that revealed there has been insufficient progress in increasing women’s participation in key decision-making roles (in politics, law, culture, science, business and the media):
- Women continue to be undervalued; and
- women work longer hours for less pay; and
- gender-based violence continues unchecked; and
- of the Fortune 500 chief executives, less than seven percent are women; and
- women perform the majority of unpaid domestic, elder and child care work; and
- of the 900+ Nobel Prize winners, only 53 were women; and
- only 35% of students enrolled in STEM courses are women.
So, work to be done, then!
“what is UP with middle aged men???”**
My very savvy friend recently penned the truly apt query, what is UP with middle aged men to which I’d like to add and older men.
This is a thought that has bounced around in my brain for a fortnight or more now. Older and middle aged men belong to a demographic that is largely mired in patriarchal convictions, many of whom demonstrate a notable aversion to women in roles of power.
Despite the past sixty years of feminist activism and many impassioned appeals, this population remains a largely unpersuadable audience. Listening but seldom hearing. Personifying a closed mind. Let’s pry it open!
Women can neither afford to tolerate, nor worse perpetrate, this standard. Today and in the days, weeks and months to come, we must wage a sustained appeal to those older and middle aged guys to have the honourable courage to shed their long-held masculine dogma. Our strength will be our ability to convince those men to accept their unacceptable. With civility and respect, let’s blow up the well-established misogynistic rules and norms. Let’s hold them accountable.
“Change isn’t just about big headline moments, legal victories and international agreements: the way we talk, think, and act every day can create a ripple effect that benefits everyone.”*
Today, 8th March 2020, International Women’s Day, #IWD2020 it is your turn to participate, your opportunity to start a ripple effect of your own:
- Publicly praise the men in your orbit who are challenging gender stereotypes.
- Take a moment to empower other women in your life.
- Speak out against gender-based violence.
- Only apply to and interview at companies with a proven history of workplace parity – equal pay for equal work, equal access to all jobs, equal promotion opportunity and an environment free from harassment.
- Speak out against unjust family and childcare legislation.
- Advocate for increased funding for rape crisis centres and shelters.
- Enter and encourage other women to enter the field of politics. No surprise, and by an overwhelming majority, the Ontario Liberal Party elected a middle-aged white guy as their leader – emblematic of our struggle for gender equality.
Gender equality goals and expectations will never be realized until all women and girls are valued, encouraged and prioritized and that includes by other women.
On #IWD2020 and every day from now on, be bodacious, be brave, be brilliant but please don’t tell me you’re not a feminist; at least not until all Canadian women enjoy gender parity and not until the United Nations is satisfied that all countries have achieved gender equality.
’Til next time, y’all…
Images courtesy of The United Nations: “Welcome to Equiterra, where gender equality is real.”