Hey, Wente: Hear Me Roar.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. For most, it’s an opportunity to acknowledge the fight of the women who came before us and the struggle that lies ahead.

For Margaret Wente, it’s an excuse to toll the death knoll for feminism and declare the war won.

[quote]The war for women’s rights is over. And we won.
– Margaret Wente[/quote]

This war is far from over. In fact, it’s only just beginning.

Yes, it’s true that women in the Western world are able to vote, marry freely, own property and be employed.  However, the access to birth control and abortion that Wente considers an “epochal achievement” isn’t exactly something that is set in stone. Yes, it’s true that, as Wente says, “When biology no longer determines destiny, any destiny becomes possible”. However, it remains that every day is a battle for reproductive rights, even in the Western world.

Every day, women across North America fight for their right to safe abortion. Although abortion is legal, access is often an issue. Some women have to travel hours to find a clinic, some are greeted by protesters waving photos of aborted fetuses, some can’t get to the clinic at all and try at-home methods. This is not what I’d consider a concrete right. Just last year, Stephen Harper declared that Canada would not allocate foreign aid for maternal care towards abortions.  His actions sparked a crowd of 15,000 anti-choice demonstrators on Parliament Hill, lauding his decision. All signs point to the abortion still being a contentious issue and not an infallible right. But hey, we’ll always have The Pill (right?)!

Rosie says: We can do it!

Wente’s ignorance about the continuing struggles many Western women face is punctuated by her use of the Judge Robert Dewar case as an example the battle has been won. Dewar is a Manitoba judge best known for giving a rapist probation and ruling that the victim’s attire created “inviting circumstances”. According to Wente, the fact that the “outrage” against Dewar’s actions was “universal” proves that we no longer need to worry about women’s rights or feminism.

Right. Wente believes that since Dewar was immediately barred from hearing subsequent sexual assault cases, everyone agreed that what he did was wrong. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. One need only read the comments on media stories about the case to realize that many agreed with him – had the girl been wearing something else, she probably wouldn’t have been raped. How dare she provoke that innocent deviant! This kind of reasoning is not limited to the Dewar case. Unfortunately, it’s quite prevalent.

When CBS reporter Lara Logan was raped, many said it was her fault. After writing a blog post about an LA Weekly article that all but outright blamed Logan for her own rape, keywords pushing traffic to my post included “Lara Logan slut” and “lara logan – homewrecking slut deserved it”. The comments provide even more indication that society still plays the rape blame game. But Wente’s right, no one blames the victim anymore. We’ve also made great bounds in how we address rape prevention. Women are no longer told to be indoors at a reasonable hour to avoid attracting the attention of a predator. Nope. Instead, they are urged to “not dress like a slut” to avoid rape.

The most striking omissions from Wente’s declaration that the war is over involve women outside the pro-woman Western bubble. However, it’s really important to note that within the Western bubble, women of colour and aboriginal women face a great deal of challenges that they have yet to overcome. Even if we give Wente that there is a lack of “systemic discrimination” against women in our Western society, there are women who continue to struggle and whose identities don’t align with the “free, affluent and educated” woman she describes. Newsflash: There are still struggles.. Also, while Western women may have these rights, however contentious and however many roadblocks, women in developing and less progressive countries do not. Fellow blogger, Sabrina Scott eloquently explains:

[quote]But what will we do to help the generations that come after us? It seems as though we have accomplished a lot in the Western world, but let’s face the facts, women around the world are yet to be equal. We need to keep pushing the status quo for those whose voice does not hold the same power that ours does. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to be the generation that doesn’t leave an impact. [/quote]

Sabrina’s right (read the rest of her post here). Although our own battle is (mostly) over, it’s time to make an impact. Until we have true equality; until all women of all colours, races and socio-economic backgrounds have the same rights; until sex and gender are arbitrary – we need to keep up the fight.

Hey, Margaret Wente: HEAR ME ROAR.

Further reading:
Emma Woolley – Why International Women’s Day matters