March 3, 2015

A quick reminder why Feminism is necessary

Marianne Breton Fontaine

Not a day passes without reminding me of the necessity of feminism, despite the surreal campaign “Women against feminism,” a US initiative where women post photos of themselves explaining why feminism is not needed by them. “I do not need feminism because if I wear a top like this, it’s for you to look at,” said one of them. “I do not need feminism because I like to cook for my boyfriend,” says another. It’s funny, because for me, these arguments convince me of the need to continue the struggle...

This morning’s daily reminder was made when I learned that the Couillard government will cut the “Chapeau les filles!” program, this program that was promoting education for women in areas still reserved for men, such as science and engineering. However, this cut will only save tiny crumbs for the public treasury. The icing on the cake was that earlier yesterday the same government announced that it would fly to the rescue of Bombardier if the company requested, because the company is currently experiencing some declines in profits. Is there anyone who still doubts that the State is at the service of a specific class?

This budget cut is just adding to a long list of attacks; the CPE (Quebec’s day-care system), health services, education, community organizations, etc. and even the program “Equal to decide” (a program for women’s participation in political life) was cut. The cuts in such institutions have a disproportionate impact on women.

This is the kind of analysis that the Council on the Status of Women can do when it focuses on public policy. But this organization has also been passed to the chainsaw of austerity. It saw its budget mostly cut and is now forced to close its few regional offices. As highlighted in by the Network of Regional Women’s Groups in a statement: “It seems that the obsession of this government to impose at all costs its austerity program knows no limits, particularly in its determination to trample the rights of women. This government does not respect the right of women to equality, nor its own policy, which requires it to consider the impact of budget measures it puts forward on women, or in regions where it is trying to slash the social safety net.” An organization like the Council of the Status of Women can put a spoke in the wheels of the austerity agenda. From the perspective of Coulliard, worse still it can help to make demands. For Couillard, these women, like all organized women, are only voices to be silenced.

ASSÉ poster: Who profits from austerity? 
For the past 15 years, women are getting poorer. Women’s groups see it in the details of everyday life. More and more working women rely on food aid. Must we repeat again and again that women do not earn equal pay for equal work today? Must we repeat that precarious jobs and part-time work are still predominantly occupied by women? Must we repeat that children and housework are disproportionately under the responsibility of women? Known facts, which must constantly be repeated.

Even our dear MPs, who are nevertheless supposed to have some general education do not seem able to integrate all these basic notions about the sexist nature of our society. Recently, the Women’s Federation of Quebec (FFQ) filed its briefing to a parliamentary committee on the impact of Bill 28, which implements sweeping austerity measures. The “caquiste” (a right-wing Quebec political party) MP André Spénard called the report of the FFQ alarmist. For him, equality has already been granted and “we can not do much more than that,” or we can’t “just make laws for women.” Without shame, he spoke to the president of the FFQ, Mrs. Alexa Conradi, explaining that he had done everything to involve women in politics, but they were not involved, despite his good efforts. The man ended his speech deploring the analysis of the FFQ on rising sexual assault in the context of development in northern Quebec. “We will not stop natural resources and the extraction of iron ore, copper, or gold, because there are more sexual assaults in that region!”. For him, it was as simple as sending more police, if the problem really existed.

To reply to Mr. Spenard would be to repeat the basics of feminism 101 over and over. But again it would not be enough because it is still necessary to have a platform. It is also necessary that political power responds to the demands and feminist discourse. It is further necessary that we have access to power.

I remember in 2012 how the social ferment of the student strike allowed for demands and for feminist discourse to resurface. I remember how this movement made it possible to involve women who had not been active before, gorgeous women in their diversity. I remember the “Pink Blocks”. I remember the “moms occupations”. I dream of the spring and I repeat that feminist thought is realized through militant action.

This article is included in Rebel Youth's 18th print issue, released in March 2015. This issue is produced by women identified members of the Young Communist League of Canada. To subscribe to Rebel Youth click here. To learn more or to join the YCL or click here.

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