Baby, you’re equal

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I was recently discussing the issues faced by Canadian women in politics with a friend of mine. Disagreeing with me, he said, “I hate to break it to you baby, but you’re equal now.”

This comment struck me for two reasons. The first was the pure irony of denying sexism while using a sexist nickname. The second – and more important – was the belief that the question of gender equality is closed. 

Have women in our society in fact reached a point where they can claim all the same privileges as men? Do we no longer have to worry about fighting to be respected, taken seriously, and given the same opportunities as our male counterparts? While the women’s rights movement has made vast improvements, I personally don’t think it’s fair to deny that there is still work to be done. 

The fact is women continue to be consistently held to different standards than men. Take, for example, the recent Globe and Mail article by Sylvia Bashekvin critiquing female NDP leadership candidates for having style in lieu of substance or Jane Taber’s article citing Liberal Sheila Copps’ age as her reason for retiring from politics. I would love to give an example from the Conservative Party, but with a less than 17 per cent female caucus, female Conservatives rarely even seem to make the news.

Ask yourself: when was the last time you heard anyone discussing what male politicians were wearing, or saying that 59 was too old for a man to be in politics? Drawing a blank? Me too. Now consider the fact that women earn, on average, 80 per cent of what men do. Consider the discrimination and harassment that still takes place and  many people will attest to. Consider the Government of Canada recently cutting funding to women’s groups and Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost attempting to defund Planned Parenthood. The list goes on and on.
Please don’t get the wrong impression. I am in no way saying that women don’t have an important role and a strong voice in our political system, or that the involvement of women in politics isn’t increasing. I’m saying it’s foolish to think that complete equality has been achieved when we are clearly still coming up short in many areas. 

Let me use some simple logic. Men and women are equally talented. Half of the population is female. Therefore, half of politicians should be female. The fact that our current parliament has a record number of female representatives yet women still only make up less than a quarter of MPs speaks volumes to the fact equality has not been achieved.

Until we have equal representation, and until men and women are perceived through the same lens, gender parity must remain a pertinent issue.

And, in the words of Sheila Copps, “I’m nobody’s baby.”

Alexandra Mortenson
Contributor

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