Walking downtown recently, I noticed a bumper sticker on a rusted red car that read “Feminism is the radical notion that women are, in fact, people.”
Reading it, my brain went into overdrive.
The idea that women are, in fact, people was solidly established in 1929 when we were ruled “persons” and even more so in the pushes against discrimination of the 1960s and ’70s. Therefore, feminism was the idea that women are people, but later morphed into various militant activist movements promoting sexual rights, rights in the workplace and so on.
And finally, I wondered, is feminism still necessary?
Feminists today argue women haven’t fully achieved equality with men, especially in the workplace. Women are paid less and occupy a very small proportion of the country’s top CEO jobs and political seats. They also assert feminism isn’t the radical, militant body of man-haters as it was once perceived.
Yet, feminism is partly responsible for a contingent of overworked, overburdened and overachieving — and therefore very unhappy — young women today.
With more people in the Canadian workforce, the cost of living increased accordingly, forcing families to rely on two incomes rather than one. So, except for women living in the most affluent classes of society, the role of the housewife has all but dissolved. In fact, the term housewife has taken on a negative connotation.
The issue of workplace equality is quickly becoming a reality.
At the University of Victoria, about 55 per cent of students are women. The trend is similar Canadawide, which will, in turn, translate into even more women in the workplace.
In the coming decade, it would be ignorant to assume those high-level management positions won’t be increasingly occupied by powerful, educated and deserving women.
On the home front, feminism has tipped the scales too far. Think family law: custody rights, divorce proceedings and asset division.
Women’s rights still far outweigh men’s in family law. If we expect men and women to share the burden at home with equal chores, equal duties of picking the kids up from school and taking them to soccer practice, why do men only get sole custody of their children 10 per cent of the time? Why are women more likely to be granted half a man’s future earnings than the other way around?
The women’s rights movement correlated with a higher rate of divorce — almost 40 per cent will split before their 30th anniversary. Women were no longer shunned for escaping a violent or abusive relationship. No doubt, this is one of the most indispensable effects of feminism. Still, we lament the impact divorce has on children, the burden that comes with single-parent families and the gross inequality in family law.
Am I glad for what feminism has achieved in our country? Absolutely. Without it, I might not have the rewarding job I do. I might be stuck in an abusive relationship. I wouldn’t be allowed to vote, or in some cases, have my voice heard.
But as a woman in my 20s, part of an up-and-coming generation of successful, overstretched people trying to find their place in today’s power struggle with men, I notice the aspects of life where feminism has gone too far.
Women should have no more rights than men and vice-versa. We should be allowed to be housewives if we want to, and not have to worry about discrimination. And if the life of a housewife doesn’t appeal, we should expect our boyfriends, husbands or partners to share the load of the new definition of a Canadian family.
The idea that “feminism is the radical notion that women are, in fact, people” is due for retirement. We’re well beyond that now.
As long as feminism is still interested in equality, it has a place in society, but let’s not take women’s rights too far.
—Erin Cardone is a reporter for the Victoria News and Oak Bay News.