Editorial: Women’s rights still lag too far behind for 2020

Over 60 women, men and children braved the frigid cold to take part in the first annual Women’s March in Kagawong in January, 2019.

This weekend’s Woman’s March in Kagawong will see Islanders join millions of people across the globe demonstrate their objection to the continued systemic, covert and overt discrimination against women.

Whether it comes down to positions of power, responsibility, pay equity or standing before the law, women are still treated as second class (or lower) citizens in most of the world—sadly, Canada is no exception.

Although we have made significant strides in addressing many of the chasms that have existed between equal treatment of the genders, women are still paid significantly less than men in many occupations and the glass ceiling is far from shattered when it comes to advancement, both in the private and public sectors.

As Canadian citizens we deserve better—and must demand better—from our governments, our businesses and, yes, even within our own families and extended communities.

There is no defensible reason that a person should be barred from advancement, be paid a lesser salary or not be accepted onto a career path simply based on their gender (or lack of certain impertinent body parts), or gender identity.

Women are equal partners in our polity, no more, no less than any other person, and that is how it should be in any civil society that holds itself out to be just. There are certainly artifacts that remain in place due to the historical foundations of Western culture in patriarchal systems, but there are no physiological, psychological or logical factors that suggest those artifacts should continue to be tolerated.

It is time we move beyond the social structures that might have served purpose during the days of Abraham and Moses’ wanderings in the deserts of the Middle East, or the male-centric attitudes of Roman culture that have reverberated down through history to plague us to the present.

In fact, there are sound economical and social reasons to eschew those long outdated traditions of patriarchy and consign them to the same bin of barbarity to which we now assign slavery and indentured servitude. It simply makes economic sense, something many only seem to be able to grasp during times of crisis or global conflict when we must harness our full potential to meet those challenges.

The world has countless examples of incredibly accomplished women, many of whom were derided, demeaned or simply overlooked during their lifetimes that we have come to recognize as giants in their fields. How many have been lost to history and our ken due to their gender. 

In example of those who history has not forgotten there is Queen Nzinga Mbande who ruled the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms (in current-day Angola). When her kingdoms came into conflict with Portuguese colonizers, hers remained as a sanctuary for runaway slaves.

Probably the most famous woman known to us in the West would be Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, the only woman to win in two fields and the only person to win in multiple sciences.

In Canada we have such luminaries as Chatelaine magazine and a newspaper columnist Doris Anderson, civil rights activists Mary Two Axe Earley and Manitoulin’s own Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell, artists like Emily Carr and Manitoulin’s own Daphne Odjig, all fitting candidates to adorn our new five dollar bill, or Viola Desmond who currently can be found on the 10 dollar denomination. There is Agnes McPhail, the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons or Saint Kateri Tekakwitha—the list of accomplished Canadian women is inexhaustible and many owe their place in history to the battle for human rights. We cite human rights, as opposed to women’s rights, because the battle for equality, equity and fairness itself transcends gender—to lessen one in favour of another is to demean us all.

As we go about our daily lives each of us must strive to rid ourselves, and our institutions, of sexism and discrimination and do what each of us can to bring out the full potential of everyone in our society. We deserve and must demand no less.