Feminists, admen, editors, prime ministers: they’re all fostering the myth that women are an exploited minority. Here’s one woman who argues that they aren’t

SHEILA H. KIERAN August 1 1968


Feminists, admen, editors, prime ministers: they’re all fostering the myth that women are an exploited minority. Here’s one woman who argues that they aren’t

SHEILA H. KIERAN August 1 1968


Feminists, admen, editors, prime ministers: they’re all fostering the myth that women are an exploited minority. Here’s one woman who argues that they aren’t


SOONER OR LATER, somebody in this country

— probably an ex-PTA president or the head of one of the consumer groups — is going to form a National Association for the Advancement of Female People (NAAFP). And then the subtle transformation of the Canadian woman into a full-fledged nigger will be complete.

Nigger is a bigoted, unflattering term for a second-class citizen. But I suggest the word is becoming more and more appropriate — not because women deserve it, but because it’s being forced on them by the admen who speak to women and the clubwomen who profess to speak for them.

The clubwomen — those ladies in flowered hats we've been seeing in TV news items about the Royal Commission on the Status of Women

— demand “equality.” The admen, in their hard-headed way, demand that women be regarded as mere consumption machines. But both groups, in their separate ways, share a common view of women as some kind of mysterious sub-species that is inferior to the rest of mankind.

There are, in all truth, a few injustices to women that could and presumably will be corrected. To cite the most obvious examples, there should be more tax-supported day nurseries and tax relief for mothers who must, or wish to, go out to work, and more realistic equal-pay-for-equal-work laws.

But do these isolated defects justify the coast-to-coast chorus of feminist whining to which we've been subjected in recent months? Do they justify the charge, which is being repeated ad nauseam to the royal commission and in the newspaper women's pages, that Canadian women are victimized and manipulated?

I don't think so. Most women, as far as I know, are mainly interested in men. They don't need spokesmen for their sex, any more than men do. And I'm very sure that the flowered-hat ladies who claim to be my spokesmen toll, all right: spokeswomen) arc representing no one but themselves.

This fact alone — the very unwomanliness of Canada's professional Friedanites — goes a

long way toward explaining why women are now regarded as niggers. For the nigger, almost by definition, is someone who demands — and receives — not equal, but special consideration. A nigger, in the inverted bigotry of modern liberalism, is someone you have to make allowances for.

And Lord knows you have to make extravagant allowances for most of Canada's female politicians. 1 grant that there have been a few of average or better competence. But most of them have been dreadful politicians, though they may have been good women. I he fact that they survived in office as long as they did is a tribute to the force of feminist cultism; for if they'd been men. a lot of them would have been impeached for sheer incompetence.

Ellen Fairclough, who came into John Diefenbaker's cabinet first as Secretary of State and then as Minister of Immigration, is as good a place as any to start. When she was appointed there was loud rejoicing, as though her appointment had somehow’ elevated the quality of Canadian life. (Interestingly, the same kind of approbation greeted the appointment, at about the same time, of an Indian to the Senate. The gesture did nothing to make life more tolerable for our native peoples, of course, but this kind of thinking has nothing to do with logic.)

Mrs. Fairclough turned out to be a mediocre minister whose approach to her department lost the government support inside Canada and abroad. Under her ministry, immigration declined and in 1961 the government set some kind of record when, for the first time since World War II, more people left Canada than entered it. The most damaging episode of Mrs. Fairclough’s career was an order-in-council that had the effect of baldly discriminating against non-British immigrants.

Mrs. Fairclough lost her seat in the 1963 general election, after pleading with her constituents to “prevent this riding from falling into alien hands.” She insisted that by “alien” she meant non-Conservative; with opponents named Chertkoff and Macaluso, the word was, to be charitable, ill-advised.

Mrs. Fairclough’s

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political demise was part of the Conservative loss that year and with the return of the Liberals Judy LaMarsh came to prominence — a cogent illustration of the sub-species philosophy.

Appointed to the Health and Welfare ministry because she had been a Liberal warhorse — but mostly because she was a woman — Judy LaMarsh kept the government mired down in so much controversy that Ottawa wags dubbed her Judy LaSwamp.

Shortly after taking over her department. for example, and while Canada Pension Phin negotiations were going on, she jumped, mouth first, into the Ontario provincial elections. Among other things, she accused Ontario Premier John Robarts, a Conservative, of going uninvited to a federal - provincial conference on the matter; in disgust, Robarts eventually announced that, in future, he would deal directly with the prime minister. Nor did Miss LaMarsh win friends — or seats — for the Ontario Liberals.

If she had been clumsy in Ontario, Miss LaMarsh at least had the dubious virtue of being impartially so: Quebec's then-premier, Jean Lesage (himself a Liberal), was furious because of a LaMarsh remark that seemed to impute fascist motives to his own pension-fund plans.

“Foot-in-mouth disease”

Perhaps the silliest thing she ever said was during an attack on the Tories in June 1965, when she accused them of being responsible for Canada's thalidomide victims. That was so far off base that she rose in the House a few days later and apologized. She followed that performance by referring in an interview to the activities then under investigation by Justice Dorion as “little-sized scandals, if you can say they were even scandals.”

Eventually demoted to State Secretary. she performed well in Expo year until she quarreled with Northern Development Minister Arthur Laing w'hen he turned down her request for a national park in her riding. She had her House seat changed so that she no longer sat beside him, a move that the Opposition found hilarious.

In 1967 she crowned her reputation for foot-in-mouth disease by referring to “rotten management in the CBC” — hardly an appropriate remark from the minister who was responsible for the CBC and. presumably, for its “rotten management. ”

Finally came the characterization of Pierre Trudeau, made in front of attentive newsmen, at the Liberal convention. Her views were not widely quoted, because some newspapers still balk at using the word “bastard” in their columns.

What w;as saddest about Miss LaMarsh’s time in Ottawa was her style: she hit on a combination of masculine two-fistedness and a shrewd feminine guilelessness, making remarks that would have earned her a sock in the mush if she had been a man. But she seemed unconsciously to understand that she could get away with it — for

niggerism means making allowances for one’s “inferiors.”

But the classic example of the eccentricity we tolerate from our female politicians was Charlotte Whitton. She was one of the most bizzare figures of any sex ever to adorn Canadian public life, and her antics as Mayor of Ottawa are too well known to document here. Instead, let some of the headlines she generated suffice:





Miss Whitton was able to stay in office after such enormities not in spite of being a woman, but because of it. It seems reasonably certain that not even Ottawa’s tolerant voters would have held still for such behavior if it had come from a cigar-chomping male. Indeed, the only male equivalent of Charlotte that I can think of, Ralph Cowan, was expelled from the Liberal parliamentary caucus for comparable eccentricities.

The same curious double standard has been applied by the Toronto electorate to a controller named June Marks. Mrs. Marks was elected controller after sparking an inquiry which, according to municipal - affairs columnist Ron Haggart, was based on “documents containing more unadulterated pap. more vicious innuendo, more useless poppycock, more streetcorner gossip, more baseless slander of public officials, more unbalanced rambling than any other document it has been my displeasure to read . . . ”

Mrs. Marks charged that city inspectors were tough on owner-occupied houses but soft on absentee landlords. that an official of the Welfare Department had been seen drinking with three slum landlords or their agents and that, with the possible cooperation of city employees, absentee landlords were deliberately running down certain areas.

The city launched a public inquiry based on Mrs. Marks’ charges; Haggart, in disgust, referred to it as the

Royal Commission into Cabbagetown Gossip. He was apparently right: the inquiry found that none of the allegations of wrongdoing had any foundation in fact. Nonetheless, the judge who ran the inquiry praised Mrs. Marks for awakening the civic authorities — presumably to the existence of rumors. It’s hard to imagine that the judge would have been so charitable if the gossipmonger had been a man.

Still, Mrs. Marks has one political virtue: she keeps newspaper readers

amused. When last heard of. she was taking up city council’s time by loudly refusing to attend a convention with a bachelor alderman because, she said, he was trying to flirt with her.

If politicians sometimes get the idea that women, in their girlishness, have a careless way with facts, there is considerable evidence to support their claim. Take, for instance, the irresponsible behavior of a consumers group when it testified before the Commons-Senate Committee on Con-

sumer Affairs last year. The London and District Consumer Protest Association suggested the presence of “crime syndicates” in food chains. Cochairman Senator David Croll sharply reprimanded the group and suggested that they delete a proposal that these fictitious syndicates be investigated. The association agreed to the deletion after admitting that it couldn't back up its charges.

Which brings us to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women,

WOMEN coniinued

Why label women Miss or Mrs.? Discrimination! was the cry

whose genesis and some of whose witnesses give ample evidence that Canadian women know how to hex to be treated as an inferior breed.

First, the fact of the commission itself suggests this when there are other, needier groups who could use the attention of a commission — the poor, for example, or Indians and

Eskimos. There arc no federal statutes that discriminate against women, although indisputably there are social practices that do. In fact, in some very tiny ways women have advantages before the law: in Ontario, for example, a woman had the right, even before the divorce reforms, to divorce her husband if he were a homosexual,

a right not given to husbands. Custody is almost always given to women, and while that causes hardship, it does mean that the woman has more of the rewards of bringing up her children. She has certain rights to an interest in her husband’s property and can effectively block its sale, while he has almost none in hers. Furthermore,

if a wife makes a substantial gift to her husband, it is presumed that he holds it in trust and will return it; on the other hand, if he makes a gift to her, it’s considered a gift — no taking back—unless he can prove otherwise.

The results of the status commission won’t be known for some time — it will be about a year before chairman Mrs. John Bird even makes her report — and the terms of reference are so wide that it's impossible to speculate too precisely on what will come of the commission. Its most important effect, probably, will be some reform of the tax laws to benefit working women who hire outside help.

It is easier to speculate, however, on why the commission was formed in the first place, and the reasons do women no credit.

The chief mover of the idea was Mrs. Laura Sabia, of St. Catharines, Ont., who, in late 1966, threatened to march two million women on Ottawa unless a commission was forthcoming. Mrs. Sabia, in the past, has attacked the “biological beat of bed, board and babies” and blames the press for trying to push women into “a concentration-camp comfort” (lovely alliteration but not much meaning).

The government knew a Stokely Carmichael when it saw one and, apparently intimidated by the idea of two million flowered hats, hastily announced the commission.

Whatever its long - range effects, there's no question that the commission has been providing some good laughs for newspaper readers. There is, of course, a certain fumbie-footedness about the girls — like the incident in Calgary in which the commission’s administrative secretary ordered the Queen’s portrait covered during hearings.

While many of the briefs, particularly from organizations, are welldocumented and intelligent, some of them show the intellect of a Blondie Bumstead.

One British Columbia woman was exercised because women are called Miss and Mrs., while men have no marital designation.

In Vancouver, Dr. Norma Ellen Verwey suggested that all young men should be forced to submit to sterilization until they were ready to “shoulder the social responsibilities of fatherhood” — an idea compounded of such racism, sexual savagery and misinformation as to be breathtaking.

And in Alberta the Farm Women’s Union suggested that 65 scats of the House of Commons be reserved for women (an idea fittingly borrowed from South Africa, whose parliament includes several seats set aside for the representatives of colored voters in the Cape Province).

What’s the answer to the problem of the Canadian woman as nigger? There probably isn’t any. As long as women remain apathetic, as long as they confuse temperament, tears and shrillness with femininity, as long as they insist on special pleading, they will be treated with the easy-going contempt they deserve.

In the meantime, why shouldn’t women be considered as niggers? They're good-natured, they're easy to keep happy (although they are a bit shiftless) and. heaven knows, they have rhythm. ★