When it comes to Margaret Wente’s columns in the Globe and Mail, my usual attitude is ignorance is bliss. Back when I still got the Globe for the crossword puzzles, I read most of her columns, from her forays into racism against Aboriginal people, including a column in October, 2008 that prompted widespread calls for her to be fired, to her frequent lambasting of feminists. Eventually I decided for the sake of my mental health I shouldprobably abstain from Margaret Wente consumption altogether.
But every once in a while I catch wind of something ridiculous she’s written and I can’t help it; I have to respond. So it was with her column of Monday, December 7th, entitled “Montreal Massacre Death Cult”, where she complains about the “overheated nonsense” and “fevered breast-beating” she says she sees every December 6th as feminists try to mobilize against gender-based violence.
Now last week I wrote about December 6th and linked to a Star article Wente refers to, saying: “How much sophistry can you stuff into one small space?” There is a saying about a pot and a kettle that’s highly applicable here, but because I couldn’t let it go, here’s what I think about some of her arguments.
1. Wente contends that “women in Canada have never been safer than they are today,” arguing that most victims of violence are men and that society no longer tolerates spousal abuse. While it may be technically true that most victims of violence are men, the type of violence they suffer and its cultural significance are different.
Margaret Wente ignores a) that violence against women is underreported and b) it is experienced differently given the gendered power dynamics in our society. Violence against women is often perpetrated by people they know and sometimes love. In relationships, women are more likely to experience severe violence than men. And in a society where women are still unequal, violence against women is a tool for reinforcing gender-based power dynamics.
I’m not saying any violence is okay, but there are many legitimate reasons for treating violence against women as a separate issue.
2. In the column Wente gets up on her Eurocentric high horse to try to make her point, taking pains to point out Marc Lepine’s “deeply troubled background” as the “son of an Algerian-born businessman.”
She continues expressing her view that we don’t have an equality problem in Canada at the end of the column where she points out gender inequalities in Afghanistan and India, then says, “in Canada, it’s time to get a grip and move on.” Wente conveniently ignores that much violence against women in North America is perpetrated by white people.
For example earlier this year in a situation eerily similar to what happened in Montreal 20 years ago, a man named George Sodini went on a shooting rampage in a Pittsburgh gym, where he killed 3 women and wounded 9 more before killing himself. Lousie Marie Roth has a great Huffington Post article about how the shooting relates to Montreal and to misogynist violence. Like Montreal, he singled out women because they were women. On his blog he ranted how he planned to kill women because they wouldn’t date him.
These types of shootings are extreme, but as Roth points out, our society plays a role by creating a masculine sense of entitlement that can clash with women’s push for equality. Race is not a causative factor and white Canadians shouldn’t get let off the hook.
3. Wente argues women don’t have to worry about equality because women now make up most PhD students in Canada. Conveniently she ignores the continued gender wage gap and the fact that women still only make up 22.1% of the seats in the House of Commons, among other markers of inequality.
I’ll leave it at that for this week and with any luck I can make it through this holiday season without having to read any more Margaret Wente.