Thursday, March 8

Back Atcha Backlash

On September 25, 2006, Prime Minister Steven Harper’s government announced a cut of $5 million to the budget for Status of Women Canada (SWC), the agency responsible for follow-up on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

This attack on women’s equality should not have been a surprise to feminists across the country, given the backlash already at play across the nation. The corporate media has promoted a fictional narrative of feminism as passé in a “post-feminist” world since at least the 1980s. Popular culture — much of it imported from the U.S. — regularly vilifies women who challenge the status quo. So strong is this anti-woman sentiment that even men who call themselves progressive often dismiss feminists as too angry, too radical, or too “out there.” But women have not backed down from the latest assault. In fact, their outrage has been loud, their organizing extensive, and their mobilization for the 2007 federal election has begun.

The Response

As those of us who lived through the eighties in Canada can attest, there is nothing quite like an attack to spur a speedy response. And now, even those of us who cut our teeth on the axe that Mulroney’s Conservative regime wielded are more prepared than ever to stand our ground during this assault. Within 24 hours of the first announcement regarding cuts to SWC, nine national women’s organizations issued a statement denouncing the cuts. The next week saw several organizations, large and small, issue similar statements. On October 2, a Declaration of Women’s Groups was read to the media during the federal, Quebec, provincial and territorial Status of Women ministers’ meeting in Saint John, New Brunswick. By October 11, a website,, was online to “combat inaccuracies and indifference towards Status Of Women Canada” and to “rally support for Status of Women Canada (SWC) and related issues.”

By the middle of November, another website, was up, encouraging women from across the country to express their anger, and promoting campaign buttons, postcards and stickers. In early December, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) Sisters’ campaign, the F-email Fightback, was underway, urging women and their friends and families to e-mail the prime minister to express strong disagreement with the change in direction to Canada’s “long-standing commitment to the promotion of women’s equality and human rights.”

Women have been organizing on the ground, too, with demonstrations in major centres from coast to coast to coast. In Moncton, more than 300 gathered and marched, demanding equality now. In Hamilton, women carried placards complaining of “unjust cuts.” In Regina, university students organized a noon-hour “Funeral for the Future” that brought out 150 demonstrators on a cold winter day. In N.W.T, the Yellowknife Women’s Society hosted a good, old-fashioned bra-burning event in front of the Greenstone federal building. But the big event, in Ottawa on the commemoration of Human Rights Day, where hundreds of women gathered in song and solidarity to protest the actions of the Harper government, was virtually blacked out by the mainstream media. Just two national media outlets were on hand to report it to the nation.

It will be an uphill battle — as it always is for feminist women — to be heard in the mainstream media and to overcome the Harper agenda. But it is this kind organizing that will be crucial to defeating the New Conservative Government at the polls. In fact, it will be the women’s vote that ensures Harper’s defeat.

LINK: Read the entire article at Canadian Dimension Magazine, March/April 2007 Issue

No comments: