Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stupidity on Canadian Status of Women agency.

This article takes the prize for the stupidest feminist-bashing I've seen in a long while. Apparently, a conservative astroturf group calling itself "REAL Women of Canada" has decided that Canadian women are now, magically, doing just fine and don't need even a few measly million dollars of support from the federal government. (Aside: why are they an astroturf organization? Why else do they not list their executive members on their very own website? Why would an advocacy organization hide the names of its leadership -- unless it had something to hide.)

Here's what the Status of Women agency does:

The governmental branch, with a budget of about $23-million and some 130 staff, not only funds a variety of women's groups across Canada, but also co-ordinates pro-equality measures across government departments. ... Its stated objectives include addressing violence against women and promoting women's human rights. Its latest focus is on women's poverty and improving economic security.
Kind of hard to figure out why anyone would object to this, right? Particularly given that (compared to the size of the government's overall budget) only a small amount of money is at stake. Well, here's the gist of the objections:
"Like typical radical feminists, they have decided that they speak for all women, and they only consult those groups and women that agree with their agenda," says an entry on the Big Blue Wave blog from Suzanne, who does not give her last name. "So it's a bunch of radical feminist bureaucrats consulting radical feminists to hear what they want to hear to promote more radical feminism on my dime." ... Gwendolyn Landoldt, executive director of REAL Women of Canada, says Status of Women's time has passed and is no longer relevant. "It's based on the premise that women are allegedly victims of a patriarchal society and need support and special recognition," said Ms. Landoldt. "Our view is that the vast majority of women are not victims, and quite capable of making decisions in their lives."
Note the use of the vacuous buzzword "radical feminist". Frankly, I doubt most conservatives could tell you what the difference between a radical feminist and a non-radical feminist is. Also note the laughable "critique" that government shouldn't use tax money to fund programs that some taxpayers disagree with. As Canadian Cynic has pointed out recently, federal and provincial governments support organized religion, which I'm certainly no fan of. Using the same logic, I should be advocating for a revocation of their tax-emept status. (A conclusion I doubt "REAL Women" would favour.)

Finally, note Ms. Landoldt's amusing -- and unsupported -- claim that women are "allegedly" victims of a patriarchal society. (The aside about "making decisions in their own lives" is a blatant non sequitur.) I'm not a big fan of the "patriarchy" buzzword, as it implies a social tyranny that doesn't actually exist. However, anyone who claims that there are no social conditions which systematically disadvantage women is an idiot.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post, Shoot :)

I have given up replying to REAL women and their unknown rulers and minions. Bring it on to the Government, ladies. You got a beef, you have a vote.
If REAL women think that the Status of Women Canada has completed it's mandate, then REAL women will be redecorating all the Battered Women's Shelters in their neighbourhoods and turning them into daycares. It's all about Choice, right?
Until they bring it on to the Canadian people, or the need for protection of Canadian women who are not under the REAL bubble ceases to exist, they are just blowing hot air.

As an aside, I wonder how many REAL women of Canada have ever needed the help of someone who supports/is supported by/volunteers for SWC and its various works? That will be an interesting fact to know. How many Canadian Con women have been beaten, or worse, and left for SWC to help them compared to NDP, Green or Liberal women? I'm not even going to mention women worldwide... it would take too long and we already know REAL cares only about Christian women, not all women.


O/T I was going to leave my real name, but I can't trust REAL women and said minions. I made the mistake of commenting on one of their blogs and I couldn't believe the garbage and P0rn stuff that was directed to my email.

eugene plawiuk said...

Actually they aren't feminist bashing as much as bashing Womens Rights. Ironic eh.No No I don't want my rights.

SUZANNE said...

However, anyone who claims that there are no social conditions which systematically disadvantage women is an idiot.


There's one difference between radical feminists and non-radical feminists. Radical feminists assert that there is a patriarchy and oppresses ALL women, by definition. That's why they feel they have the moral authority to speak in the name of all women.

Do some women suffer some injustices? Of course they do. But a radical feminist agency is not the solution. There are many governmental bodies that address these issues without resorting to radical feminist terms and therefore exclude consulting large populations of the very people they are said to defend.

Just imagine, for a minute, that a "Status of Men" agency existed, but only consulted 60-year-old Curmudgeons, and they didn't want to hear from university students. You'd feel pretty excluded too.

Status of Women is a non-necessary agency. There are plenty of ways to address social issues without invoking feminism and without excluding people from a broader political spectrum of society.

ADHR said...

Ta muchly, Anon. ;) My sense is that REAL Women et al. are trying to dodge around the need for actually getting their agenda through an election. (I mean, come on -- democracy's hard work!) Of course, it's a given that REAL Women members already have benefitted from the fact that SWC exists and is trying to help overcome systematic barriers to women economically, politically, etc. Consider the counter-factual: if there were no SWC (or equivalent), would REAL Women be allowed or able to be REAL Women? Likely not: without feminism, in general, as well as its institutional manifestations, the lot of women in general -- including members of REAL Women -- would be much poorer and the scope of available opportunities much more limited.

Eugene:
It's worse than you say. Not only do REAL Women not want their rights, they don't want anyone else -- now or in the future -- to have them. It's one thing to decide one wants to pretend it's still the 1850's and men are supreme rulers over all they survey, and quite another to try to cram that view down other people's throats. It's quite interesting to parallel this to the abortion "debate" or the same-sex marriage "controversy". Anti-abortionists aren't content to just say they don't want to have abortions (a position that a few women I know have adopted), but they don't want anyone having abortions. People who oppose same-sex marriage aren't content to say that they don't care for those marriages, will never enter into one, will never consider one a "real" marriage -- no, they have to make sure that no same-sex couple can be married in law. It's about control. It's always about control.

Suzanne:
There's one difference between radical feminists and non-radical feminists. Radical feminists assert that there is a patriarchy and oppresses ALL women, by definition. That's why they feel they have the moral authority to speak in the name of all women.

If that's REAL Women's target, then SWC is not their enemy. This is why I called "radical feminist" a "vacuous buzzword". It's a way to tar feminists without having to engage with the substance of any actual feminist (or actual feminists') claims. SWC is not demonstrably an organization which asserts there is a "patriarchy" that oppresses "all women". You're tilting against a strawman.

Do some women suffer some injustices? Of course they do. But a radical feminist agency is not the solution.

This really doesn't follow. There's been no demonstration, only bald assertion, that SWC is "radically feminist". Don't proclaim, show. If you've got the goods, I'll agree with your view; but I strongly suspect you don't. But, come on: show me. Show me, show me, show me.

There are many governmental bodies that address these issues without resorting to radical feminist terms and therefore exclude consulting large populations of the very people they are said to defend.

Name three. Show me.

Just imagine, for a minute, that a "Status of Men" agency existed, but only consulted 60-year-old Curmudgeons, and they didn't want to hear from university students. You'd feel pretty excluded too.

...isn't that called the federal government?

Are you suggesting that 60-year-old "curmudgeons" shouldn't have any agency that looks after their interests? Are you suggesting they aren't really men? They don't share interests with other men? Are you suggesting that there isn't a different agency that looks after the needs of unversity students? (Very badly, I might add, but they do exist.)

More to the point, are you suggesting that SWC systematically excludes legitimate points of view? If so, do you have any evidence of it? Again, if you've got the goods, show them. Or is the complaint that those who run SWC don't agree with you? (Which is fine, incidentally. They may not agree with you, and may be wrong to not agree with you. However, this is distinct from saying that there is some conspiracy to exclude perspectives from SWC.)

Status of Women is a non-necessary agency. There are plenty of ways to address social issues without invoking feminism and without excluding people from a broader political spectrum of society.

Three points.

If you had any such ways in mind, you would have stated at least one of them. You have stated, at rough count, zero.

Furthermore, you've dropped the "radical" from in front of "feminism", thus ignoring your own claim that it is only radical feminists who assert the patriarchy oppresses all women (rather than some women, sometimes). You've consequently ignored the possibility of more sophisticated forms of feminism than this "radical" caricature, which nonetheless defend women's interests. This really exposes your refusal to engage with any real feminists.

Finally, you're presuming, without argument, that political divisions should be respected by an agency whose mandate is to serve the best interests of a social group. On the face of it, this does not follow. It would be quite odd if a given social group (such as women) could have its interests served by invoking perspectives from across the political spectrum. The political spectrum is highly disjoint. Interests of a social group, insofar as it genuinely has interests, are not disjoint. Thus, for any given genuine social group, one political perspective will probably be privileged over another -- not to the total exclusion of the other (that would also be odd), but nonetheless privileged. So, certain political views will and should be excluded, because those views do not serve the interests of the social group. In practical terms, this means that the current conservative movement in Canada will find itself generally excluded from an agency dealing with the interests of women, because the interests of women are not best served by an ideology that holds up largely unrestricted, market-based competition as the model for resolving all social ills. Women cannot currently, as a group, compete on a level playing field with men. The right doesn't know how to solve that kind of a problem; the left, on the other hand, does.

(I'm making a bet with myself that Suzanne will not reply to any of the points I've made here. I'd be happy to lose, but I'm pretty sure I'll win.)

Anonymous said...

Well, that's pretty much that, eh?

Suzanne? Suzanne? Looks like Suzanne has left the building...

Perhaps she'll make her debut in Parliament?

Autumns's always been my favourite time of year:)

undergroundman said...

"Kind of hard to figure out why anyone would object to this, right? Particularly given that (compared to the size of the government's overall budget) only a small amount of money is at stake."

Oh yeah. Only 23 million. No biggie. *eyeroll*

Seriously, I would likely be in favor of this agency, but arguments like that are weak. It's like when you said that the Wal-Mart defense is weak - just because it pays "relatively good wages" doesn't mean it pays good wages. Similarly, just because it's a waste of "relatively little" money doesn't mean it's ok. Judge agencies based on their accomplishments. Perhaps this money would be better spent on a non-profit organization.

ADHR said...

It isn't, as I said, when you compare it to the overall size of the government's budget. It's easy to say that $23M is a lot of money, when you compare it to, say, one's own annual salary. But that's basically an irrelevant comparison class. The point is that the government spends a lot more money on other things (their travel budgets, for example). Why aren't those up for review?

The money issue was more a way of ridiculing the attention being focused on SWC. Not only do they do clear good (as noted in my first quote), but they spend so little money that worrying about it should be quite low on the priority list.