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Only the Brave or “Canada’s Daughters Shall be Free”–Respect, Redistribution, and Suffrage in Women’s Struggle for Canadian Democracy

by Veronica Strong-Boag

As Canada’s recent political history demonstrates, democracy remains an unfinished and contested project championed by the courageous. The long and continuing struggle to gain women what has been termed ‘participatory parity’ is an object lesson in that democratic story.

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Finding Balance: Enabling women to protect themselves or the perpetuation of rape myths and sexualized violence

by Grace Lore

With four reported stranger attacks at the University of British Columbia from Spring to Fall 2013, sexual assault has been in the spot light. The University and RCMP responded with a series of public messages, signage warnings, and safety campaigns, yet the bulk of these responses reproduced gender bias.  Specifically, solutions overwhelmingly targeted women’s behavior and attitudes, rather than those of the perpetrators.  The result supplies yet one more example of the “victim blaming” that so often pervades public culture.

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Understanding The 2013 Global Gender Gap Report

by Grace Lore

Annually, since 2006, the World Economic Forum [WEF] has released a report that seeks to quantify persistent gender inequality the world over.  The Report, the WEF says, is aimed at generating awareness about existing gender inequality and facilitating policies to reduce gaps between men and women.

The Report measures gender equality gaps in four key areas – education, health, economics, and politics. Education considers ratios of boys and girls and men and women in primary, secondary, and tertiary education as well as relative literacy rates.  Health gaps compare the sex ratio at birth and life expectancy.

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Woman suffrage, eugenics, and eugenic feminism in Canada

by Cecily Devereux

The relationship of suffragism to the eugenics movement is certainly one of the most complicated and contentious aspects of the achievement of the vote for women in Canada. Many of the principles and people associated with suffragism are also associated with the ideas of the science of “race improvement” that had been named “eugenics” by Francis Galton in 1883. Galton (1822-1911), a half-cousin of Charles Darwin and a British scholar and explorer across a range of areas of study, was also a “proto-geneticist” whose writing on making “better” humans through controlled breeding provided the ground for a movement not only in Britain and the British Empire but, through the first quarter of the twentieth century, in many countries around the world. It is thus possible to make reference to a “eugenics movement” that is both nationally specific in its development and global in its spread.

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Armine Nutting Gosling (1861-1942) and “The Counsel of Responsible Women”: The Suffragists of Newfoundland and Labrador

by Tiffany Johnstone

While most women in Canada won the right to vote at the federal level in 1918 and to run as candidates in federal elections in 1920, the struggle for suffrage was more complicated in the province of Quebec and in what was then the dominion of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL).  Quebec women had to wait 15 years before winning the right to vote provincially in 1940.  Newfoundland and Labrador, which did not join Canada until 1949, granted women the right to vote and run for office in 1925.  Religious conservatism, entrenched class-based social inequalities, and a strong cultural emphasis on traditional gender roles seem to have posed particular obstacles to suffrage in Quebec and NL.  The story in NL is remarkable considering the number of challenges and the public opposition suffragists faced at the time.

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S. 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and The Pursuit of Gender Equality in Canada

by Grace Lore

In 1982, the Canadian Constitution was repatriated and supplemented with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Despite the inclusion of Section 15, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex while allowing affirmative action, and Section 25 that ensures that all rights inherent in the Charter are guaranteed equally to men and women, Second Wave feminism, which had been critical to improving the Charter, remained concerned about legal equality. While many Canadian feminists were ‘charter pragmatists’ (Majury, 2002), they remained aware that the symmetrical, universal, abstract, and individual nature of rights could render power, domination, and disadvantage depoliticized at best and justified at worst, in other words that ‘the ideology of formal equality masks and neutralizes inequality’ (Majury, 2002, 301).

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Women’s Groups and The Repatriation of the Canadian Constitution

by Grace Lore

In the run up to the repatriation of the Canadian constitution, feminist organizations were influential in the mega-constitutional politics that led to the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the most significant constitutional change since 1867.   As Murphy (2004) argues, constitutional rights differ critically from non-constitutional rights – as “supreme law”, they stand above regular law and are generally beyond the reach of elected representatives.  Constitutional debates offer key opportunities to define the political community and for that community to ‘consent’ to being governed and bound by the laws and institutions.  Women’s ability to “achieve space” at such critical moments may well have far-reaching implications (Murphy, 23).

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Pink Pachyderms: the US’s anti-choice women and the politics of fear (and privilege)

by Veronica Strong-Boag and Kelsey Wrightson

While the conservative war against choice is far from new, tactics have evolved. In 2008 Sarah Palin, the vice-presidential candidate for the Republican Party, used the phrase “pink elephants” to describe the newest face of the global war against women, namely female Republicans working within legislative institutions to limit reproductive freedoms. In the United States, conservative campaigners and lawmakers have successfully repealed fertility rights won by champions of women.

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Rights of Woman: Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

by Tiffany Johnstone

“[Wollstonecraft] is alive and active, she argues and experiments, we hear her voice and trace her influence even now among the living.”

-Virginia Woolf, Qtd. in Ryall and Sandbach-Dahlstöm, 1.

Mary Wollstonecraft was a groundbreaking social critic, philosopher, novelist, travel writer, and advocate of women’s rights in Britain at the end of the 18th century. As an highly influential social thinker and figure in the literary movement of romanticism, she was a vocal participant in Enlightenment debates relating to women’s rights, education reform, and the French Revolution. Her insistence on the equality of women and men was perhaps the most controversial and persistent topic of her writing. While her work met with acclaim during her day, Wollstonecraft’s often unconventional lifestyle overshadowed her intellectual legacy until the 19th century when she became an important icon for suffragists.

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