It’s been quite a summer for feminist bashing in CanWest newspapers.
Earlier this month, John Robson wrote in the Ottawa Citizen about “... multiculturalist, gay-friendly, feminist progressives,” who “ignore the scope and toxicity of radical Islam.”
Marni Soupcoff, the only woman editorial board member at the National Post, decried the “misguided” feminists who insist that “men create eating disorders by objectifying and judging women.”
Naomi Lakritz of the Calgary Herald provides the most recent examples in “One killer a whole gender does not damn,” August 7.
Typically, Lakritz commits an informal fallacy by distorting the feminist position, and then refuting her own distortion. Her example is the latest multiple murder of women, by a man: George Sodini’s murder of three women in a Pittsburgh area gym.
Lakritz provides a few examples of what she calls, “male-bashing nonsense that’s been spouted over the years” since the 1989 Montreal Massacre of 14 female students by Marc Lepine. Then she loads up her column with red herrings such as women who kill their children.
Lakritz writes that to us feminists, “You’re all in this together guys. You’re all Marc Lepine. You’re about to morph into George Sodini. Get ready for the onslaught.”
Lakritz writes, “...feminists perceive a murder as ideologically motivated, rather than seeing it for what it is...” but as she points out, these men wrote explicitly of their hatred for women, and then killed women. What could be more ideological than that?
“It’s interesting how [to feminists] only psychos who shoot large numbers of women at once represent all men,” says Lakritz.
What utter and complete nonsense! According to Lakritz, as a feminist I’d have to believe I am Mark Lepine! Most of us feminists believe in equality between genders, period. Look up the definition in the dictionary. By charging that feminists believe all men are Marc Lepines, Lakritz distorts feminism beyond recognition, and fuels the backlash in the media and by the public, against feminism.
Some of us feminists do quite legitimately view male violence against individual women, or groups, as symptomatic of societal inequality and even misogyny. Ascribing these acts to individual insanity, as Lakritz does, is a copout, and ignores the way violence against women traditionally has been tolerated and even condoned in Canada’s patriarchal society.
Her perspective dishonours the victims of these crimes, by discouraging investigations into broader causes and preventative actions. If the perps are just crazy, nothing can be done.
In July, David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen bragged, “I wrote recently about the evil of feminism, and of the need to reverse its advance.” In a June column, headlined “In praise of patriarchs,” he wrote that many fathers have children who are “turned against them by a calculating mother, working the family law system,” because the “system was designed by feminists.”
Warren wrote about the current “radical feminist fantasia” which he said promotes “the fall of men.” He said the “feminist revolution” is “the most important domestic issue” in North America, which “requires an attack on the very premise of feminism: its demonization of patriarchy.”
Well, yes, since feminism advocates equality between genders and since patriarchy is male rule, we feminists do oppose patriarchy. But promoting the fall of men? A system designed by feminists? What wild and baseless accusations! It’s feminism, not patriarchy, which is being demonized here.
In Canada’s patriarchy, it is primarily men making the laws and enforcing them. Women are a majority of our population, but constitute just one in every five MPs in Canada, and one in seven members of the Conservative government. Women make up just 27 per cent of the federal cabinet, and only one out of five parliamentary secretaries to cabinet ministers.
In Canadian history, there’s only been one female prime minister, who held office for just a few months. Only one-third all senators are women. The Supreme Court comes closest to parity, but women are still in a minority. Of the top 500 corporations in Canada, just five percent have women CEOs.
Statistics Canada data reported in 2007 in the Toronto Star show that between 1999 and 2004, 653,000 women experienced some form of violence at the hands of a current or previous spouse or common-law partner.
Female victims were more than twice as likely to be injured as male victims, three times more likely to fear for their life, and twice as likely to be the targets of more than 10 violent episodes. Thousands of women and their families continue to live with the fear and devastating effects of this problem every day. In Canada, at least 60 women die every year at the hands of a partner.
Wife beater Matthew Smith of Windsor punched, choked, knifed and burned his wife Alisha Collicutte with cigarettes. He threatened to kill her if she went to the police. Smith was sentenced to one year of house arrest earlier this year. Meanwhile, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was released from jail on August 14, after serving 34 years for threatening former U.S. President Gerald Ford with a gun. There was no bullet in the gun chamber, and Fromme said she had no intention of shooting Ford, she just wanted to make him aware of environmental issues.
Feminism is about challenging patriarchy: social institutions backed by an ideological system that privileges men and devalues women.
James Winter is a Professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Film, at the University of Windsor.
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