Last week, the National Post published an editorial in response to reports that women’s studies programs across Canada are either being cut or renamed to gender studies.
The paper revelled in this news, taking the opportunity to blame these university programs and its professors for causing “untold damage to families, our court systems, labour laws, constitutional freedoms and even the ordinary relations between men and women.”
The editorial went on to blame feminists for: Hiring quotas, diversity training, spousal and child support, higher taxes, universal daycare, state-run education — and for painting men as victimizers, thus making them the real victims of feminism.
The column’s inflammatory charges are evidence of why feminism is still needed. A more troubling concern, however, is how its authors used arguments built as sturdily as a house of cards.
Ideologies contentious within the feminist community are cited as widely held beliefs — the most egregious example is the Post’s example of writer Andrea Dworkin, whom they say deemed all heterosexual, penetrative sex is oppressive. In fact, Dworkin’s theory refers to mainstream cultural depictions of sex in which violence is intrinsic to what makes it erotic. That’s a big difference.
This is a failure of journalistic responsibility to its readers. The Post wouldn’t dare publish that all men are rapists or that all Muslims are pants-exploding terrorists with flimsy proof. Yet, feminists can only be as good as their worst, most radical peers.
On Tuesday, Post columnist Barbara Kay declared feminism to really be “about affirmative action for girls and women, at boys’ and men’s expense,” and that “the revolution is over. Women won.”
Women’s studies programs address not just domestic issues, but the status of women around the world. Have women really won if the most disadvantaged ones can’t be guaranteed necessities such as education, shelter, health care or work?
It’s a terrible myth that feminists want to trod all over men. As the Post said, men, amid divorce and more female hires, have changing roles to contend with. That’s true; men are expected to look, act, speak, dress and behave a certain way — as women are, too.
These studies aren’t dangerous because they aim to bring down men, but because they encourage reflection on the cultural, historical, social, economic and political forces that shape our identities.
That eternal need to understand who we are as individuals and as a society guarantees the need for gender studies, no matter what name it goes by.