For myself, this unit was extremely captivating, especially due to how far-reaching the issues of abortion are, as issues regarding abortion remain present in our modern world. Though it seems we have made great strides in various areas that involve women, I believe that the general public thinks we have progressed more than reality confirms. Despite this claim, there is no doubt that the situation has been bettered since the 1960’s and 1970’s.
During lecture this week, the photo posted in this thread particularly caught my attention. The signs that women are holding immediately engage you, especially the sign that reads, “The state has no business in the wombs of the nation”. What I propose is how backwards the overarching topic of pregnancy was in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and I believe it all starts with the issue of birth control.
As stated in class, most doctors refused to give birth control to women unless they were married or engaged. Moreover, most women even required the husband (or future husband) to be with her when asking for it to be prescribed. Thus, young, unmarried women found it very difficult to obtain birth control, as society operated on the general guideline that one had to be married (or in the process of getting married) to get birth control, and therefore take part in practices necessary to prevent potentially unwanted pregnancies.
Thus, this has far-reaching implications for the issue of abortion and the tenet that we discussed in regards to the Abortion Caravan of 1970. The fact that women seeking abortion had to go before a committee to argue the pregnancy had detrimental effects on their health is absolutely absurd in my opinion. The notion that a woman would basically have to ask ‘permission’ is ridiculous. Her body is exactly that… her body. How does anyone else have the right to decide what a woman should do with her own being?
Prior to this time, women even turned to extremely unsafe methods of abortion like throwing themselves down stairs or even getting someone else to punch them in the stomach. The fact that women had to turn to such extreme measures is disheartening. Compounding this issue was social class, which determined how a woman faired throughout this issue. If you were more financially sound or had established a good relationship with the therapist, you would generally fair better in terms of therapeutic abortions, in which women had to argue they were mentally unfit to have a child, or that the pregnancy would lead to them to become mentally unfit. Furthermore, there was the assumption that a wealthy white woman was more ‘delicate’ than a working class (especially non-white) woman, who was viewed as tougher and therefore less subject to mental health problems!
The system, as I’m sure you all agree, was completely skewed.
Unit 12 Response:
The moment within unit 12 that has affected me the most is the article about the Development of a Feminist Agenda. I was first outraged when the article described the attempt for Rosalie Bertell’s life when she stood up for the dangers of human health caused by radiation cause by nuclear power plants. I am shocked at the aggression made towards her actions and the severity of the opposition. I also am confused by the total ignorance of the male workers when the issue involves the health of all individuals. The safety of humanity is not a concern that should b primarily feminine. Bertell see’s the use of nuclear weapons as a danger to peace and security across the world and is outraged by the lack of women’s influence involving these issues. She makes a very important point of illuminating the patriarchal nature of the military and decision-making committees. She makes claims that the issues related to the environmental crisis is a result of male dominated power resulting in military excess. She backs up her interest in these issues through the fact that women are nurturers and child bearing and therefore are “crucial to sustaining life on this planet”. This maternal feminism is paired with the want for equal legal, political, educational, and economic rights with men. However, in reading this response by Bartell, I agree with the author’s stance in opposing the arguments made by Bertell. I think defining women primarily through their nurturing roles is limiting and destructive when asking for equality amongst men. In today’s society men should take on an equal role in the caring for a child. The author also makes an important part in exclaiming that once granted this access to the decision process involved in nuclear politics women might act just as aggressively as men would. I do think fighting for this equality in opinion in necessary and we must only find the proper way to do so.
Relating this article to present times I am thinking about it in terms off Western’s University Counsel. During my four years at Western, has never seen a female president. Only 12% of the USC candidates and 10% of the presidents have been female, as quoted from an article in the Gazette written last February. The editor claims that the reasons why this gender gap exists within Western and within the political system in Canada in general is that notion that the qualities needed to become a good politician, aggression, assertiveness and decisiveness, are traits belonging to men. I think these ideologies are barbaric general knowledge and need to be adjusted. I think within the University realm is the first step to assessing these issues and to search for a conclusion.
Throughout the course and this unit, I have been enlightened to the harsh conditions of life that used to exist for women and how society has built a façade pretending that these issues are getting better. We have examined many aspects of women’s lives in the past and present, such as their access to higher education and greater employment opportunities, and we have examined the improvements that have been made over the past few centuries. Looking back on our course materials, I think that the overall progress that has been made in the lives of women throughout Canadian history is significant, but it is only the start of the progress that needs to continue occurring in order to reach complete equality.
There are a number of major issues still prevalent in our society that are detracting from the development of true gender equality. These include the limits still imposed on women and their bodies when considering dress codes, social norms, and hook-up and rape cultures. The sexualisation of women in North American society has led to the development of social customs governing the types of clothes, make-up, and behaviours that women feel pressured to adhere to. Not conforming to these norms often leads to social exclusion or scandal, and many women ultimately have no choice but to conform in ways that limit their autonomy greatly; I think that the biggest contributors to this loss of autonomy are the notions of ‘victim-blaming’ and ‘slut-shaming’ in rape and hook-up cultures, and the general sexualisation of women. The fact that a woman’s worth is routinely judged by males based on her appearance and sexual attractiveness really bothers me, and I think that abolishing this will be the next step in developing gender equality. I think that the objectification of women greatly detracts from the possibility of reaching said equality because they are not being viewed as individuals with the capacity to make their own decisions, and are instead thought to need a male to assist them in their life.
This notion that males are necessary in the lives of women is enforced by Professor McCargar’s discussion of the current statistics on abortion laws, the wage gap between genders, and the proportion of women in executive level positions. As these statistics were presented in lecture on April 7th, it became clear that there is still a lot of progress to be made in the battle for equality; there still seems to exist a notion that women are inferior to women, despite the fact that over half of university students are female and that they have a much stronger presence in the workforce. This notion of inferiority may not be expressed outright anymore, but it can be seen through the wage gap that exists in many occupations, with some women earning as little as 66% of what men earn for the same job.(1) It is also present in the examination of abortion laws in Canada, which have improved since the second wave feminist movement, but are still restricting the access of women in rural and impoverished areas, where a woman will be likely to experience difficulty in getting an abortion unless she is assisted by others.
I think that both of these aspects greatly hinder the autonomous capabilities of women in today’s world, and when combined with the societal perspectives discussed above the argument can be made that gender equality is still not present in modern Canadian society. Although significant improvements have been made in the past centuries, I think that the fact that women are objectified and still controlled by the perspectives of men gives sufficient evidence to conclude that the battle for equality is far from over. However, I think that there has been an increasing awareness of this equality gap in today’s society and especially in the younger generations, and I hope that the necessary changes can be made in the near future to ensure true equality in all aspects of life for all Canadians, including women.
1. McCargar, M. “Conclusion and Review Lecture.” University of Western Ontario; History 2182. London, ON. April 7, 2014.
Feminist Tactics: Pamphlets, Protests and Progress
By Jennifer Scott
Early feminists sought change and recognition through the circulation of pamphlets and petitions to gain support for the woman’s suffrage movement. Second wave feminists, like the Voice of Women, adopted the white middle class respectability and maternal feminism of the first; they formed small groups of middle class suburban housewives and mothers to lobby for power in policy decisions regarding nuclear weapons. As women they were ‘inherently’ peacekeepers and concerned for the well-being of the world’s children. There was contention within the group as to if this ‘respectable’ persona was getting them much visibility, splitting the group into two camps in 1970, where some of the women would journey to march in Ottawa on The Peace Train, gathering women from across the country and staging media reports for the sake of direct action. 3rd wave feminists challenged the second wave feminists and their use of language and construction of negative lesbian stereotypes and lack of an ethnically and class diverse representation of women through art and self-representation. Fine art groups like the Guerilla Girls utilized the billboard format to challenge traditional representations of femininity and sexuality.
The tactics feminists have used have been quite diverse, from amplifying their role as a housewife and mother to the nation, using petitions and pamphlets, employing direct action tactics like leveraging media support, creating a scene through marches and protests and using expressive faculties like art and chanting. Today, there is a new venue for feminist action: the internet. I would agree that utilizing the internet is efficient; through social media a wide audience can be reached that would not be physically possible by geographic distance and international borders. Campaigns can be quickly organized. In a post by Julie Z on her feminist blog, fbomb, her article “Technology and the Future of Feminism” praises blogging for it “allows for the democratization of the feminist movement, which is essential to effective activism.” Unlike earlier feminist movements like the Voice of Women, women of different classes, ethnicities and sexual orientation have the opportunity to voice their own opinions and create solidarity with women different than themselves. However, although the projection range is greater in terms of visibility, I would say that it can never outweigh the power and impact of direct action that take up physical space and can negotiate collective consciousness. People have the ability to choose what they interact with on the internet, but public protests or demonstrations confront people’s comfort or ignorance to injustice.
Another point of contention with feminist action is often the exclusion of men or men demonized and not told practical ways of participating in equality and recognition of women. A couple years ago a walk to raise awareness for sexual violence against women was “Take Back the Night;” my friend Evan was told to walk along the sidelines as women marched through Victoria Park in an effort to say that women should be able to walk home safely alone at night without the threat of rape or violence. The sisterhood that feminism often creates rejects dependence of women on men, however the value of independence leaves little room for one of interdependence between genders.
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