Peter MacKay Needs a Remedial Lesson in Women’s Studies

by | December 9, 2014
filed under Can-Con, Feminism, Politics

Photo of Peter MacKay at a speaking appearanceWhen I compare Peter MacKay to the bulk of Stephen Harper’s one hundred and sixty three “sheeple” in the House of Commons, generally, I find him to be one of the least nauseating.

That said, as multiple columnists have noted and as Jarrah Hodge of Gender Focus has outlined in her clever Sexism Bingo game, MacKay has dropped his fair share of face palms when it comes to women.

But MacKay’s comments in the House on Tuesday weren’t just face-palm inducing. They were deeply ignorant and offensive, and they were indicative of a deeper problem – a much deeper systemic problem that was underscored at Saturday’s candlelit vigil in downtown Ottawa marking the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, and recognizing the National Day of Remembrance and Action to End Violence Against Women.

Repeatedly throughout the vigil, organizers and participants emphasized that without “genuine political will” for fundamental change, Canadian women will continue to experience gendered violence in Canada. It was stressed that women’s groups and families of the victims “get it,” but that our Federal institutions (including our justice system), by and large, don’t.

To hear our Minister of Justice revising history in arguing that one of the most horrific acts of violence in our country’s history, was “random,” and not directly linked to gender, was enough to infuriate any woman who has experienced violence. Frankly, I’d be interested to hear what Belinda Stronach thinks of her former beau’s ignorant words.

This week on CBC radio, Q hosted a panel discussion exploring whether the recent wave of mainstream dialogue around sexual assault could potentially lead to broader social change.

There was a clear consensus that the onslaught of public cases are helping to dismantle some cultural stigma around the matter, and that social media conversations like #BeenRapedNeverReported are finally empowering victims who have long remained silent with their stories.

But as each expert noted, our criminal justice system is still failing these women. This dialogue as it’s emerged is far from penetrating any major influence on our institutions. Even the two female MPs who experienced harassment on Parliament Hill have yet to see justice or a concrete system implemented to deal with gendered violence.

When our Minister of Justice can stand confidently before the Nation in the House, and deny that a crystal clear act of gendered violence was not in fact an act of gendered violence and merely spontaneous, clearly there is a glaring systemic problem.

Women are terrified to report rape or acts of violence to police; even more so if they are a woman of colour or an indigenous, queer, or disabled woman.

President of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, Lauren Dobson-Hughes noted in her Ottawa Citizen letter last week that “[sexual] consent is not difficult to understand,” and that “the only people who benefit when we pretend consent is blurred and difficult [to grasp] are rapists.”

This week’s Q panel noted that if we were having more progressive conversations in our public education system early on (rather than practicing Conservative, archaic condom-over-banana exercises), perhaps we could be reaching Canadians in their youth and eliminating gender inequality before it starts?

For decades, women’s groups and feminists in academia have asserted that until more meaningful conversations around consent are being had, the culture will continue to stagnate. Only until we can see sexual consent for what it is, and understand that inequality exists in every facet of our lives because we maintain its prevalence, can we deconstruct and one day dismantle it.

Listening to the heart wrenching first-hand stories of multiple women at Saturday night’s vigil could not have painted a more vivid picture of a broken system that is failing us.

This post originally appeared at Re-posted with permission.

Mackay05022007-2” by Elza Fiúza/ABr – Agência Brasil [1]. Licensed under CC-BY-3.0-br via Wikimedia Commons.

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