04 December 2006

Hold on to Your Hats

It will come as a surprise to many that a person whose defining political perspective is one of foreign policy hawk--way more hawkish than Harper--who has a set of views that tend more towards the individualist than the collectivist, and has disagreed with his former party more often in the past year than he has agreed with it is nonetheless finding himself more in agreement with said party than its main competitor. The issue causing this shift and glance back over the shoulder is not foreign affairs, it is not child care, it is not same-sex marriage, it is not the environment...it is the status of Status of Women Canada.

I have seen a number of vicious attacks on SWC from conservatives and Conservatives, many of which truly are as "mean-spirited" as has been made out by the Liberals and many in the media. Given the emergence of women's issues in my political thinking as a top two priority in the past year, I have a very hard time wanting to associate with people who can be so vindictive and gloating regarding what is happening to that agency. When I see people declaring the SWC irrelevant (this issue really has been festering for a long time now), I always come to the same question: do these people even read SWC reports? Because, personally, and I'm a guy that's gotten pretty far academically based on his ability to read and utilize information, I believe that anybody who reads these reports and digests their messages cannot come to the conclusion that the work of SWC is irrelevant or outdated.

When the women of a generation ago demanded equality, they didn't come to an accord that 71 cents on the dollar for similar work or 21% of the seats in Parliament constituted equality. They sure as hell didn't agree that if 2 out of 3 women would make it through life without being physically abused by a man, that would be an acceptable definition of equal. The suggestions from many on the right that it's a "post-feminist world" are dangerously misleading, because the implication is that the objectives of feminism have been achieved. They have not. If it were true, would the women be angry?

This issue is one that is truly important in Canadian society, so important that it is pulling me closer to the Liberals than I have been at any point in the past year. It is overriding Carolyn Bennett's comment about children going to jail if they don't receive state-run daycare, it is overriding Ignatieff's guffaws on Quebec nationalism and Qana, it is overriding the softness of the Liberal position on Afghanistan. It truly is that important to me. We're talking about the status of 53% of Canada's population and how they fit within society. Are they equals? Do they deserve the same compensation for work as their male counterparts? Should we be doing more to curb violence against them? Yes, yes, and yes. Obviously, the existence of SWC is not enough to achieve these objectives, but they raise attention on a higher level with better access to government than any other organization. If nobody knows there is a significant problem, nobody will do anything about it. SWC informs people about real problems; it is not "Liberal propaganda" when an SWC report highlights that 87% of all domestic violence targets women or that women in aboriginal communities are treated horrifically poorly.

For months now I've been arguing that Harper is making a huge mistake with his handling of the SWC file. More and more voices are coming together against him. The first Question Period question that Stephane Dion asked as Leader of the Liberal Party was about SWC. One cannot take steps that will alienate a significant portion of the majority demographic in this country--and their male supporters--and expect to escape without losing some support. As this issue drags on, I find myself leaning further away from the Tories and closer to my former party. At what point does it go from leaning to outright standing with them?


The Arabian Knight said...

Mind if I engadge in a friendly debate?

I know this is a subject that your very passionate about, so all I ask is for you is not to take any of what I debate the wrong way.

"When the women of a generation ago demanded equality, they didn't come to an accord that 71 cents on the dollar for similar work"

The pay equity argument is a very convincing argument, until you decide to look at the methedology behind those studies. The common way to raise hell over the supposed unequal treatment of wommen in the workplace was to simply take a sample size of wommen in one industry, take a sample size of males working in the same industry, come up with the mean average of their salaries and voila...

Well not so fast. In a book by Warren Farrell titled "Why Men Earn More", he takes a deeper look at those numbers and finds out alot..and I mean ALOT..of variables were left out. Let`s take one industry example: News Media.

Female TV news directors were paid 27% less than the men. Pretty shocking eh? But once you dig deeper and find out that the male directors had an average of 14.8 years of news work experience, while female directors had only 5.6 years.

Working hours, According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the full-time working hours of males was an average 45 hours a week. Wommen, 42 hours a week.

Occupational hazzord: Men represent 92% of all occupational deaths. The reason? Very simple, Military, Firefighting, Mining, Construction all according to Farrel are 96-98% male dominated. I can assure you that its no chauvinistic conspiracy why those industries tend to offer higher wadges to their workers to compensate their risks. In fact when Farrel compared the salaries for wommen who worked in those industires and who shared the same duties, work experience and responsibilities as their male co-workers the wages were spot-on identical.

Maturnity leave, is another important factor. Its a mixed blessing actually. While it may be honorable to give pregnant workers a year off with pay, it works against them when they return to the workforce, the same guys that entered the workforce the same time they did suddenly had a year experience over them, and they have to spend the next weeks (sometimes months) just catching up.

These are just a fistfull of variables that Ferrel examines in his study. But there`s actually good news in the study, for example when Ferrel compared Wommen who did not take a maternity leave and asked for more working hours, actualy made MORE than they`re male counterpats in the same positions.
He also found that the starting salary in industries such as investment banking, portfolio management, urban planning and dietics, were higher for female college grads than their male counterparts.

The pay-inequity issue is not as black and white as many radical feminists today make it out to be.

"SWC informs people about real problems; it is not "Liberal propaganda" when an SWC report highlights that 87% of all domestic violence targets women or that women in aboriginal communities are treated horrifically poorly."

Very true, and its these studies and media frenzies, and that eclipsed serious issues that are affecting the other gender. The 48 per cent. Granted they`re not a majority, but the male to female ratio is no excuse why when I was trying to look for studies on teen suicide, I was able to come up with a cache of over 200 scholarly journals and 17 case studies examining teenage female suicide (These are all Canadian studies)...yet...I was only able to find 3 journals that even glance male suicide. 2 of them only concentrated on the Aboriginal reserves. This...despite the fact that young males nowadays are 8 times more likely to commit suicide than their female counterparts. Drop out rates among young males is reaching sickening porportions (which is why we don`t really hear much from the likes of SOW in regards to college admissions).

I know it can`t be easy being young female. But evreytime I glance at the news, I get the impresssion that being male is no picnic either, especially the younger generation.

RGM said...

This is a well thought-out post that makes many cogent points, and I appreciate the effort made. It is also nice to see that there are other folks here in Canada that remain behind the efforts of GWB to reduce the threat posed by terrorism in the 21st century. There aren't many of us left--on either side of the border.

There are, of course, counterpoints to be made for many of the issues that your raise here.

The news media is an example that carries with it a lot of baggage and room to prod around to explain possible "why's" behind the reality that men have a longer life-span in TV news. TV is, of course, a medium that relies heavily on appearance, and there is a multi-billion dollar industry that focuses very heavily on promoting a certain type of "acceptable" female appearance. When some female reporters look a little too old, they are replaced. An excerpt from Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth illustrates this point:

"of TV anchors over forty, 97 percent...are male and 'the other 3% are fortyish women who don't look their age.' Older anchorwomen go through 'a real nightmare'...because soon they won't be 'pretty enough to do the news anymore.'"

She then goes on to tell the tale of a 36-year old woman in Kansas City who was dismissed from her anchor job because her employer stated that she was "too old, too unattractive, and not deferential to men." Yipes. Hard to imagine that happening to Lloyd Robertson or Peter Mansbridge isn't it? Couple that with the "joke" from This Hour Has 22 Minutes I talked about a couple weeks ago regarding Lisa LaFlamme.

That's enough on that issue. When I read over your points on teen suicide, I was nodding my head. These are all serious issues, and this is certainly an instance where it's not a zero-sum game between men and women. There *are* pressures on us, just as there are on women, and they are taking their tolls. Those in the beauty industry are learning how to beat the message into men just as well as they into women, affecting their self-esteem and causing some men to hate their bodies on the same level as some women do. Part of the damage is self-inflicted due to some of our destructive behaviours--i.e. pornography can cause men to feel "inferior" because they don't measure up (even though the actors are doing just that) and a host of other problems that are, in my view, decidedly second-rate concerns compared to the harm that is done to women--but yes, our conceptions of a male ideal have also been externalized by a vicious industry that thrives on creating misery about the way in which we see our bodies.

College attendance rates is another subject that draws in other problems. I'm not sure how well this figure stands up today, in this country, but a few years ago in the U.S. it was estimated that 1 in 5 female college students suffered some form of eating disorder. There are people close to me who have endured them, so this is not something I find particularly difficult to believe. While the attendance rate among students may be high, there's still a large majority of professors who are male. That trend is starting to level out; I'm not sure if Dalhousie is ahead of the curve, but of the six courses I took in my M.A. program, three were taught by women. My undergraduate alma mater didn't do as well, as the only course in which I ever had a female professor was in French and in one Philosophy class.

One trend that I find more than a little disturbing is the concept of buying one's daughter/girlfriend/wife breast implants as a graduation present. I cannot think of a more insulting way to dismiss the accomplishments of the human mind than to cut a woman open and shove a pair of saline bags inside her chest so that she conforms a little more closely to the Iron Maiden, thus limiting the extent to which people focus on the accomplishment of making it through university or high school while heightening the "isn't she hot?" appeal. If it's such a great reward and so empowering, how come we aren't getting the same "presents"? A bizarre point to consider a man with breast implants, but only slightly moreso than mutilating a woman's body after she demonstrates her mental capabilities.

So yes, there's a lot going on in the world that really isn't right. I focus a lot on women's issues because I happen to believe that a truly equal society will make Canada even more prosperous and an even greater example unto the world. This is a not uncommon trend for many men who believe very strongly in human rights, democracy, and other issues that are commonly associated with democratic globalism/neoconservatism (yes I used the most misappropriated term in political science today)--look at what Paul Wolfowitz is doing at the World Bank, or check out Ralph Peters' fantastic book New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy. We have a lot of work to do here in Canada, not only to raise women up to a par with men, but also to raise men up to a higher standard than we currently treat ourselves. As both genders grow together, working together, Canada benefits. And that really is the objective that all of us involved in politics, in one way or another, seek.

Thanks again for posting.

Rob Elford said...

I enjoyed reading this exchange of ideas. It has proven the usefulness of blogs. Simple 'ol me can be at home and read an engaging debate on issues I really know little about. Thank You both.

RGM said...

Thanks for the nice words, Rob, it's good to hear from you. Hope that you & the family are doing great during the holiday season. Are you still at Dal? Or is it on to the next great challenge?

Anonymous said...

What would you say to challenges that your motives smell of political opportunism? Originally switching to the Conservatives after the Liberals dropped in the polls and a Conservative victory was forecast and now, days after a similar poll spelling out a Liberal victory in the near-future your current party is put on notice. A more cynical political observer than myself would wonder why a blog about the Status of Women wasn't brought up after the announcement a week ago? Or why you haven't piped up in defense of women during the last year (when it came to the Conservative policy).

I think your answers would go along way to restoring my faith in your political credibility!

RGM said...

Generally speaking I don't allow anonymous trolling comments. If someone, particularly when they're attempting to challenge my "political credibility," doesn't have the courage of conviction to put their name beside (above?) their comments, it's hard for me to take them seriously. However, it's a Saturday morning, and this comment is so ridiculous that it beats a Saturday morning cartoon; it deserves to be seen and responded to.

I suppose that if you: don't actually know me; don't discuss politics with me on even an occasional basis; believe that this blog is the sole place in which I discuss politics or express political thoughts (that'd be scary given how sparse my posting has been lately); read this blog only intermittently and exhibit symptoms of a highly selective memory; and have some unspoken axe to grind with me, then yes it's possible to arrive at the conclusion you've reached in your mind.

However, reality is very, very different.

To say that I "switched" to the Conservatives--which I never actually did, you can search my wallet for a Tory membership card and find no such thing--only because of a dip in Liberal fortunes is completely false. Completely false. Anybody who actually knows me--there's that popping up again--and discusses politics with me knows that my falling out with Liberals began way back in February 2005, several months before the election and when it became readily apparent that the party and its leader had views that quite evidently clashed with my own on matters of foreign policy and other major issues. Had I stuck with the Liberals and supported their candidate here in the last election, I would have been saying that I was fine with the current state of the party and could bear its rampant anti-Americanism, clash of values with my own, and general incompetence, to say nothing of their candidate snubbing Dalhousie's foreign policy candidates' debate. That, given my stakeholding status in the party's fortunes (since my membership didn't expire until shortly before Christmas), would have been more opportunistic than the ridiculous suggestion that you're putting forward here. Also, I will reiterate--I'm going to do a Crtl-F search one of these days to see how many times I've had to tell people that I am not a member of the Conservative party--that the Conservatives are *not* my "current party," and thus there is no notice to be given. I'm an independent voter, and I don't owe anybody any explanation as to where my motives lay; drinking no Kool-Aid means that I go where I feel is best for me and the representation of my interests. If there's a poll out there that says that Liberals are ahead of the Tories, good for them, it means nothing to me since I don't vote according to polls.

As for the Status of Women, which you raised, it doesn't take someone more cynical. It only takes somebody who actually reads to learn that I've been criticizing the Conservatives on their position on SWC since August. It's right here. Since then, I have "piped up" on SWC and many other areas involving women several times. Nobody likes to be known as the guy that doesn't read or who doesn't let the facts get in the way of making a point, but you've managed to do both of those. You're also--wrongly--assuming that I have nothing better to do than sit around here and blog about anything the moment it pops into my head; I wish that were true, but I'd have a hard time paying bills if I told work I couldn't come in because I could have an inspiration for a blog post at any given moment. Plus there's nights where I'd rather just watch the Habs game. You're also--falsely--assuming that this blog is the only place in which I talk about politics and women's issues, completely neglecting the reality that I post on other people's blogs, discussion areas, and talk to actual people. There is also that matter of getting a couple letters published in a national newspaper discussing women's issues; those instances of "piping up" are surely read by more people than this silly little blog of mine. But hey, you've got your axe to grind and have to try and prove a point, so you do what you must. Just know that serious people who read your comment and know me will find what you're saying to be ludicrous.

Your reading of my "motives" is so fraught with holes that I hear cheese is looking to name a new type after you to compete with the Swiss variety. If you want to come here and question my credibility, perhaps you should develop a little of your own first when it comes to discussing that very subject.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

My understanding of the situation is that the money has only been cut from bureaucracy; not programs. I'm sure you are better informed on the issue than I am though.

On another note, RGM could you please email me at the addy on my profile? Thanks! (I don't see one on your profile).

RGM said...

While the funding cuts are to the bureaucratic side of things, that's not explicitly what this post is about. My concern about a lot of conservative opinion on SWC is the focus on what the people are saying about it and the complete ignorance of what SWC delivers in their reports. Like I said earlier, the existence of SWC is not enough to achieve these objectives, but they raise attention on a higher level with better access to government than any other organization. If nobody knows there is a significant problem, nobody will do anything about it. SWC informs people about real problems; it is not "Liberal propaganda" when an SWC report highlights that 87% of all domestic violence targets women or that women in aboriginal communities are treated horrifically poorly.

However, when cuts to the bureaucratic side are made, and regional centres are being shut down, that can be just as damaging as cutting the actual programs. If the office in Halifax gets axed, it's going to be more difficult for concerned women to have access to information they deem important, or to know where to turn to if they have a particular issue that needs resolution. If the cuts on the bureaucratic side require people to be laid off, there's going to be less people around (duh) that are working on reports and raising awareness, handling inquiries from regular people who want to get involved and help, thus preventing greater participation in a serious social issue.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

RGM, I hear you on the local offices being closed, but I understand that there is a lot of help available on-line. Of course, a personal one-on-one relationship is preferable.

But in an economy that is downsizing in industry, does it not seem reasonable that government should as well? Just my thoughts.