Canadian Women’s Rights: Mission Accomplished?

On Monday, International Women’s Day, Margaret Wente declared victory for the rights of women, stating “The war for women’s rights is over. And we won.” Canadian women, according to Wente, have made great achievements courtesy of feminism “for some of this.” Wente reserved most of her gratitude for the industrial revolution and science and then proceeded to take her readers through a flawed and amateur history lesson with the conclusion that “[o]nce the Industrial Revolution got under way in the West, the women’s revolution was inevitable.” With this victory then, she argues that International Women’s Day is now “an excuse for the last remnants of women’s grievance groups to keep griping.”

Wente’s remarks are, as usual, ill-informed and nauseating and there have been plenty of good rebuttals, explaining why International Women’s Day matters. But the irony is that Wente’s arguments are not dissimilar to the opposition in the 1960s to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. For instance, this 1967 article from the Montreal Gazette reported on the testimony of a lawyer named Janet Scott who argued before the commissioners that the Royal Commission was “completely unnecessary” because “professional women are already equal.” Wente herself admitted that Canadian women in the 1960s suffered discrimination and outrageous sexism and would probably admit that Janet Scott was naive.

This is not the first time that Canadians have mistakenly declared “mission accomplished” in the movement for women’s rights. This kind of rhetoric is, sadly, an anti-feminist tradition with a long history in this country.

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