by Patricia Kmiec
The self-described “pro-family conservative women’s movement” known as REAL Women of Canada has made their way into the headlines once again. This time they have publicly attacked Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird for publicly defending gay rights in Russia and Uganda. REAL women explains that Baird’s position is “offensive” and “undermine[s] other countries’ sovereignty and dignity.”
Of course, the media is attracted to the irony of this conservative group publicly calling out Baird, one of the most recognizable faces of the Conservative government, for “causing collateral damage to his party.” While I often find such public spats over ‘how conservative is too conservative?’ entertaining, there comes a point where we need to look at exactly who is perpetuating these ideas and who is listening.
REAL (Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life) Women of Canada was founded in 1983 and served as an active lobby group that countered efforts of pro-choice feminists to legalize abortion in Canada, and their anti-choice position remains at the centre of their work. They have also actively campaigned against other causes including: legalizing prostitution, expanding access to state-supported childcare, and establishing a Canadian human rights museum.
Though REAL Women claims to represent “women (and men) from all walks of life,” it is clear that their outdated ideas are shared by very few. In fact, they make no mention of their membership numbers or who their board members are on their website. Though their Facebook group has 738 members, a quick browse through the comments suggests that many of even those who “like” the group’s page are just there to oppose their regular posts.
So why should we care? It appears that this organization has very few members and is only given any attention when they release a press statement that is simply too absurd to ignore. But should we be ignoring them? I wish it were that easy.
Unfortunately, REAL Women still has sway with the Conservative government. As recently as last year, REAL Women was one of the chosen community organizations invited by the Harper government to recommend Canadians for the Queen’s Jubilee awards, while hundreds of other organizations (including EGALE Canada) were left off the list and unable to put forward nominees for the well-recognized awards.
So what are women (you know, women who actually care about women) to do? I would say make sure that your voice is out there. Regardless of who is telling us that we no longer need feminism and that women have achieved equality in Canada – keep letting people know that you support women’s rights.
Write letters to the editors, post comments online, volunteer for local feminist organizations (or start one!), or contact your local political representative when women’s issues come up, because you can be sure that the women of REAL Women are.
It is true that women’s views span across the board. Certainly women have every right to be anti-choice or disagree with issues like gay marriage – but when an organization like REAL Women continues to lobby the government in favour of discriminatory action on various levels, it is essential that actual real women continue to stand up against them.