To Stephen Harper: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

by E. Cain

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced that he was making maternal and child health a top priority for Canada’s presidency of the G8, with a plan to be rolled out at a summit in June. He announced that Canada would champion a major initiative to confront these issues, saying in a statement “far too many lives and unexplored futures have already been lost for want of relatively simple health care”

As I read this I thought to myself, this doesn’t sound like the Harper I know.

Soon after, when pressed on the details of this initiative, International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda announced that contraception and abortion (crucial components of maternal health) would not be added to the package of initiatives for the health plan. Her reasoning was that the Prime Minister didn’t want to re-generate any debate on abortion.

Now that sounds like the Harper I know.

In response to Harper’s newfound interest in maternal and child health, a document very appropriately titled “Reality Check” was released by the Canadian Labour Congress in partnership with several other groups. The objective of this report was to question the ability of the Harper Conservatives to lead international policy on maternal health given their dismal record on women’s equality in Canada.

And what a dismal record it is, whether one looks at childcare, employment equity, women’s poverty, funding to women’s programs, or the status of Aboriginal women and children; it is clear that Stephen Harper’s socially conservative agenda has hurt women.

While I certainly agree with the critique of Harper’s record, this same report claims that there has been a “systematic erosion” in the status of women and girls in Canada going back only as far as 2004. Well, you be the judge of that claim.

The report will be presented next week at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Given that Harper’s credibility will be taking a huge hit on the world stage, it should be very interesting to see how he responds.


Posted on by E. Cain in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead


by E. Cain

Arianna Huffington, publisher of the Huffington Post, and Cindi Leive, editor of Glamour Magazine are declaring sleep the feminist issue of 2010.

These women focus their attention on workaholics, women who feel they don’t belong in the ‘boys club’ so they attempt to work harder and longer than the next guy (in the process depriving themselves of sleep). Using the mantra ‘sleep more, do more’, Huffington and Leive challenged the women of America to join them on a one-month sleep challenge.

Huffington and Lieve

I’m sorry but let’s be real. There are many more reasons why women are tired.

Huffington and Leive are speaking to a small demographic of privileged women who can afford to take a nap. This is not the case for the majority of women. Personally, having been raised in a single-parent home, I saw how difficult it was for my mother to balance a demanding career, raise two children, and take care of all the responsibilities in the home by herself. She didn’t have time to take a nap; she was too busy working in order to feed and provide for her family.

Paying attention to sleep is certainly a useful feminist tool. It enables us to understand just how much work women are over-burdened with as mothers, wives, primary child care providers, workers, etc.

But, if sleep is to become the next feminist issue in Canada, then we must challenge the government to implement a national child care program and reinstate legislation on pay equity. We must also continue to challenge men to step up and take an equal role in the private sphere.

Until fundamental changes occur within society, women will always be tired and taking a nap will remain out of reach for most.


Posted on by E. Cain in Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me?

Some things age well, like fine wines, while other’s don’t, like milk.

And according to some people like author Lori Gottlieb, women are more like milk than wine. Gottlieb’s new book is called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Goodenough and her website brags it’s going to be available in stores just in time for Valentine’s Day!


Gottlieb argues that women are too picky about men and ought to stop waiting for “Mr. Perfect” and realize that they can be happy with “Mr. Goodenough.” As Jezebel points out: “Those all-important husbands may not be too thrilled with Gottlieb’s advice to “e-mail the guy who’s a little doughy.” I can safely say I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who’d decided they were “settling” for me.

There’s a couple things that really get me about books like Gottlieb’s, and she is by no means alone in viewing singledom as a situation to be pitied, especially among older women. The first thing that pisses me off is the idea that women somehow have a best-before date, after which they should be grateful if anyone will have them at all. Who decides what age that happens at? If you meet some high standard of physical attractiveness do you get the date pushed back? Is there a stamp somewhere, like inside my ear, that tells me when mine is?

Then there’s the related idea that singledom is pitiful and women who don’t want men are somehow abnormal. According to College Candy, Gottlieb  tells women, “If you say you’re not worried [about getting married], either you’re in denial or you’re lying.”  It’s hard to decide whether Gottlieb’s blanket statements are more insulting or  ridiculous.

Not to mention she’s very clearly gearing her book towards middle to upper-class, straight, white women and drawing from her position as one of them, yet implying these statements are relevant to all women.

In Gottlieb’s world I never would have to be with someone who was “settling” for me because even though she expects it of women, men don’t get the same advice. It’s the same message we get reinforced in pop culture, especially sitcoms, where you always see smart and beautiful women married to bumbling, stupid men. Although she does point out she’s not “suggesting you pick the fat, lazy guy who repulses you.”

Admittedly, Gottlieb isn’t arguing “settling” makes women happy, just that it may stave off the inevitable despair of a forty-year-old spinster’s unending lonely nights spent with her cat, a box of chocolates, and a collection of Robert Redford movies. Here’s an excerpt from her interview with Marie Claire:

LI: But you make dating after 40 sound so miserable. You compare it to being in a drunk-driving accident!

Lori: Do you know anyone who likes it?

LI: I don’t really know a lot of people that are doing it…I know it’s hyperbole and I know that you said that…

Lori: But it’s not! That’s not hyperbole. When’s the last time you dated?

LI: I’m 35 and maybe I haven’t hit the threshold yet but I think dating’s fun.

Lori: Yeah, but you’re still 35. Imagine yourself five years from now. Imagine your social circle — 90 percent of your friends will be married and you will be by yourself, and it may seem okay now but would you want that for the rest of your life? And think about the kind of men…who’s gonna be available. There are so few men who would date a 40-plus woman who is even in their age range. And those guys are taken. They’re taken or they’re dating younger women. That’s reality that a lot of people think is disempowering or offensive to say, or anti-feminist.

I’m not sure how Gottlieb thinks that what she’s arguing is somehow empowering or feminist, but telling older women they’d better get a man, any man, ASAP, is neither of those things.

On a related note, here’s a cool article on how some newspapers have applied Gottlieb’s arguments to discussions of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.


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Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 2 Comments

Women's History Month

History of Birth ControlWell Women’s History Month is almost over but I thought I’d post some interesting articles because women’s history doesn’t exist in a vaccum and should really be talked about all year round.

But one thing that is special about this October is that it’s the 80th anniversary of the Persons Case, when on October 18, 1929 Canadian women became officially “persons.” It’s a big milestone but something we can’t take for granted. I reminded myself today that my 92-year-old grandmother, who’s alive today, spent over a decade of her life not being considered a person!

Eighty years wasn’t so long ago. And status isn’t something we can take for granted today. Sexism and other forms of discrimination still exist and gender rights can’t be separated from other social stratifications such as class, race, and sexual orientation. There are still issues to talk about and work to do on a number of fronts.

For example, the Shriver report on women in America has been widely talked about in news and the American blogosphere. Maria Shriver points out the female-to-male ratio in the workforce as evidence of workplace equality. But many feminists like the lovely writers at Feminists for Choice point out how much inequality still exists. My “What Gender is Your Recession” article in the Vancouver Observer also touches on the misleading coverage of the “he-cession”-caused false equality.

But learning women’s history and the history of equality struggles and sexual rebels can help us contextualize what we see around us on a day to day basis. And a lot of it is fun and interesting too.

  • To start, Newsweek has a great little slideshow about the evolution of birth control, where you’ll learn things about birth control from the time of Aristotle to today. Of course there’s much left out but it’s still a pretty neat resource with some interesting graphics like the one above.
  • For more on the herstory of the Person’s Case, Victoria Telecommunity Network has a neat site laying out the who, what, where, and how.
  • If you have more time for research, the Women’s History Network of British Columbia has tons of great resources on their site.
  • Stay tuned for an article I’m doing for the Observer talking about fabulous UBC Sociology and Women’s Studies prof Becki Ross’ new book on the history of burlesque and striptease in post-war Vancouver.
  • And I’ll leave you with one of my favourite women’s history sites: the online Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health. Unfortunately it’s difficult to navigate and not well designed. But it’s worth pushing through some of that to get their entertaining and informative take on menstruation through history. For example they have a very thorough collection of words and expressions for menstruation. And they have a great collection of booklets, videos, art, and ads from the history of menstrual products, like this 1948 ad for Lysol douching:


So take some time to check out some women’s history resources. And remember, you don’t have to stop when November comes along.

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Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 2 Comments

Sad Women Follow-Up and a Cat Story

Since I wrote the post a little while back about the anti-feminist response seen after the report came out showing women are less happy now than they were in the 1970s, I came across some pretty wicked responses I thought I’d post links to:

Okay and this is not strictly related but I had to put a link to this story about a cat named Krillen, who survived 19 hours in his owners’ freezer:

Her partner Sid Sisson had shut the top-loading freezer the night before, not realising Krillen was inside.

On discovering the 1-year-old Sarah feared the worst, as the freezer is kept on its coldest setting, about -18C.

Fortunately, Sid, 28, knew it was essential to raise the body temperature of hypothermia sufferers slowly. So he put the cat under his shirt and got into bed with him.

The dairy farmer kept Krillen under blankets and against his bare chest for three hours until he thawed out.

Ok it’s pretty much not at all related. New question for guys to be asked on dating websites: “How long are you willing to hold my frozen cat to your chest for if it may save his life?”

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Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con Leave a comment