Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner April 8, 2021
The month of March was an intensely feminist one for me. The pandemic has heightened everyone’s sense of urgency to make the world better.
It has been the 25th anniversary of the UN conference on women in 1995 in Beijing. Going virtual to mark this important date has not reduced the large events. I’ve personally participated in many webinars drawing hundreds of people, now through technology, from all parts of the world.
I have been a convinced feminist for 60 years, living a life of observing, writing, living among exploited women, reading, marching, demonstrating and praying. It seemed to me from my teenage years onwards that girls and women were treated differently than boys and men: unfairly, dismissively, and sometimes worse than that.
What could be the source of such dislike, such discrimination, such assumptions of weakness and stupidity in the female gender? Was it culture? Religious teachings? A blind attachment to the ways things had always been by a certain class of galoot?
Some of all of that. It urgently needed to change. A wise feminist theologian, Rosemary Ruether, told a group of us: “The transformation of society to full equality of the genders is a project similar in scope to that of the Industrial Revolution of the 17th century. It is a 200-year project. We are now into about year 50. So don’t flag. Don’t weaken, don’t give up, don’t give in to cynicism or despair.” I’ve never despaired of the project.
Women, growing rapidly into awareness of their inferior status, heard Gloria Steinem, the witty American writer, say “The truth will set you free, but first it will put you off.”
At the same time, men were growing in consciousness. Societies change. There are now enormous reservoirs of goodwill among men. And different behaviours. The smartest of them saw that they would benefit from a system of shared responsibilities, in family life, income-earning and public leadership.
All around me I see men who are not threatened by this emerging phenomenon of equality. Not just in my circles. Look for example at Doug Emhoff, the U.S. vice-president’s husband: secure, supportive, respectful of himself and his partner. Champions of women and girls include Gustavo Gutterez of Portugal, secretary-general of the United Nations, who declared "I am a feminist.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was an early advocate.
I have three sons like this. For grandsons, not even an issue. Friends, neighbours, co-workers: Everywhere equality has broken out. I’d say we are making excellent progress.
At St Peter’s High School, the social justice club with many male members, takes up a collection of feminine hygiene products for their peers at the YES shelter for homeless youth.
At Amnesty Canada, highly regarded Alex Neve hands over the baton of leadership with grace to Ketty Nivyabandi, a journalist who fled Burundi. Matt Galloway on CBC Radio’s “The Current” shows his sensitivity when interviewing women who have been assaulted. Michael Kaufman is the Toronto activist who, with Jack Layton, started the White Ribbon campaign 30 years ago. He speaks all over the world.
Every two weeks, Maridel Ancheta’s partner, David, smilingly delivers a gourmet meal to my place. Greg Dempsey, who is now seeking the provincial Liberal nomination, successfully lobbied at the UN on behalf of Canada for a ban on child marriage. When I needed help moving furniture, three of my friends John, Peter and Kent were on hand, all masked. Plus John’s son, Sam.
Delivery men, garage mechanics, teenage boys, all with great attitudes.
Not at all to downplay the dark side. Chauvinism in society, anti-women jokes, catcalls, harassment and violence exist. Any given night there are 4000 Canadian women and their children in shelters. Last year there were 160 femicides in Canada. Trafficking in girls darkens the picture.
But I maintain a double vision. I champion women and lament their overall plight, and at the same time, hail the swelling number of liberated men.
More happiness for all out there.
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