I was born in Canada in late 1959, on the cusp of a new decade and new era of advancement in women’s rights. At the time of my birth, only thirty years had passed since women in Canada were recognized as persons under the law, and only 43 years had passed since women won the right to vote. I am proud to call myself a feminist, and over the last 5 decades I have celebrated each milestone reached along our journey towards true equality. But, progress has been slow. For each small step we have taken forward, there has always been some sort of push back, some sort of backlash to keep the scales from becoming balanced.
What I never envisioned, never saw coming, was not just a slowing down of our forward march, but an actual retreat. I am disheartened on a daily basis, and at times frightened, by what I see and read, not for my generation of women so much, but for my granddaughter’s generation.
As evidenced by what is happening in the United States, all it took was the populist politics of one morally corrupt President to begin the unraveling of decades of progress. Every vulnerable group in the US has been affected. Some of women’s most fundamental rights in the US are under attack and we should be alarmed. We would be foolish to think we are immune to the same kind of movement here in Canada. We are facing the same spectre of populist politics.
Let me provide just one example, out of many, of the current reality for women in the workplace, here in Ontario.
A few years ago, a local Ottawa company developed a workplace harassment and sexual harassment policy, as required by the Ontario government. This new company policy contained a clause however, that did not exactly embrace the spirit of the provincial legislation, which was intended to be a protective measure for employees against the potential abuse of power. This clause, obviously directed towards women, stated that if a person repeatedly wore “sexually inviting” clothing, they could be charged with sexual harassment (with all of the attendant punitive consequences of course).
Ironically, the province of Ontario had just made it illegal for an employer to require women to wear sexually inviting clothes.
There is an ugliness and hypocrisy involved when women’s clothes are turned into weapons, to be used against them.
Equality for women, means the loss of unfair advantages previously enjoyed by some, and there is a core group who may never fully accept our efforts to level the playing field nor see the justice in our efforts. And they are a loud group. Each time we try to balance the scales, the other side tries to find a way to tip the scales back in their favour. Without strong leadership at every level of society and government, committed to continued progress, we are at risk of losing the gains we have made.
The Federal election is in a few months and I will make my voice heard.
I will vote for the person and party who has demonstrated, in a meaningful way, their ongoing commitment to achieving equality for women.
That’s it. Just that one commitment. That’s all I am looking for. Because, the person and party who is committed to this one fundamental ideal will be committed, as a consequence, to raising up all individuals, all communities, and our country as a whole.
My granddaughter’s generation deserves this future. Not one where her clothes may be used as a weapon against her.